Told by the coaching staff to put the pressure on the Uzbek early, Paalam obliged, catching the Rio Olympics champion with several combinations, before darting away to safety.
“Pilit po niya akong kinukuha sa first round, pero sabi po ni Coach Ronald (Chavez), dapat makuha mo ‘yung first round para sila ang ma-pressure sa’yo. ‘Yun nga po, nakuha ko ang first round, tapos pine-pressure niya talaga ako. Sabi ng mga coaches ko, ilabas ko lang daw ‘yung laro ko,” said the 23-year-old Paalam.
The result was an emphatic first-round score of 5-0, which Paalam may have maintained in the second round before a nasty clash of heads with 1:44 left forced Ukrainian referee Pablo Vasylynchuk to halt play to have the two fighters checked by the ring physician.
With both fighters deemed unfit to continue because of the slight gash in their heads, the fight was halted and awarded to Paalam, who was ahead on points at the time of stoppage, 20-19 on four judges and a tied 19-19 score in the fifth official for a 4-0 win.
“Unang una po sa lahat, nagpapasalamat po ako sa Panginoon sa pagbibigay ng lakas sa akin para maipanalo ko ang laban na ito. Maraming salamat din sa tiwala ng mga coaches ko, sa ABAP at sa PSC. Salamat din po sa mga sumusuporta po sa akin at sa aming lahat na mga atletang Pilipino. Sabi nga po ng Panginoon, ‘Makakaya mo, basta kasama mo ako,” Paalam said.
The road to the gold, however, becomes narrower from here, as Paalam takes on hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka, who 15 minutes earlier, won what looked like a lost bout against Rivas Martinez of Colombia. Tanaka was transferred out of the arena on a wheelchair because of exhaustion.
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