Carlo Paalam outpoints Ryomei Tanaka, books ticket to gold medal bout

TOKYO - Carlo Paalam will be fighting for gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The 23-year-old Cagayan De Oro native defeated Ryomei Tanaka of Japan via unanimous decision, 30-27 four times and 29-28 once.

Paalam was the aggressor in the first round as he banked on his one-twos in the opening round. Tanaka tried to counter from the outside but he was struggling with the speed of the Filipino slugger.

The Japanese fighter also did a little bit of roughhousing in the opened as he threw a punch behind Paalam's head as the two got entangled.

All judges scored the first round for Paalam, 10-9.

Tanaka started aggressively in the second round knowing that he was down by a round but Paalam landed the cleaner blows once again. The Filipino landed a crisp lead right midway through the round, which was the best punch of the second. The Japanese fighter pushed forward but Paalam was able to avoid taking any damage by bobbing and weaving on the ropes.

Once again, the judges scored the round for Paalam.

Heading into the third, all the Filipino needed to do was stay away from trouble in the third as only a knockdown or a point deduction could allow the Japanese fighter to get back into the match while being behind 20-18 in all cards.

However, Paalam wanted no questions about the result as he continued his outstanding boxing, almost scoring a knockdown midway through the third. Tanaka was reduced to wrestling while Paalam peppered him with punches from the outside.

Paalam said he had to fight smart as it was obvious Tanaka was going for a stoppage. "He really wanted to drop me and knock me out," the 23-year-old told ESPN5's Paolo Del Rosario in Filipino.

Paalam battled from the Round of 32 where he started with a 4-1 victory over Brendan Irvine or Ireland. He continued his strong performance with another, 4-1, win against Mohamed Flissi of Algeria. Then, Paalam scored arguably the biggest win of his boxing career when he defeated the reigning Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, 4-0, to book a ticket into the semifinals.

Galal Yafai of Great Britain, who edged out Saken Bibbossinov of Kazakhstan via a 3-2 split decision, will be Paalam's opponent for the gold medal on Saturday.