MANILA, Philippines—Their gold medal match on Saturday is the first time that Filipino boxer Carlo Paalam and Great Britain’s Galal Yafai will be crossing paths in their careers.
And there’s no better setting than going for Olympic glory.
Yafai, who holds a three-inch height advantage over Paalam, finished ninth in the light flyweight division in the 2016 Rio Games and moved to flyweight for Tokyo to remain on the national boxing team.
This switch proved relatively successful as Yafai, who came from a family of boxers, placed fifth in the 2019 AIBA World Championships and won a bronze medal in that year’s European Championships.
In Tokyo, Yafai dispatched Armenia’s Koryun Soghomonyan, Zambia’s Patrick Chinyemba, Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia, and Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibbosinov.
He is the youngest brother of pugilists Kal and Gamal, who once held the WBA World junior bantamweight and WBC International super bantamweight titles, respectively.
Paalam, meanwhile, has continued to defy expectations en route to what could be the Philippines’ second Olympic gold in history.
The last Philippine boxer left standing, Paalam scavenged and scrapped his way to the national team in a journey that started in the amateur circuit of Cagayan de Oro.
His Olympic journey, however, is not scrappy by any means.
While Galal narrowly advanced to the finals, Paalam methodically dominated Tanaka Ryomei in his own semifinal.
Tanaka, the older brother of three-division World champion Kosei, was thoroughly outclassed in the semifinal with Paalam’s darting movements and stinging counters proving too much for the hometown bet.
Paalam entered the final with dominant wins over Ireland’s Brendan Irvine, Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi, and Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov before putting on a masterclass against Tanaka in the semifinals.
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