Marcial and Paalam shoot for spots in gold medal matches

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FILIPINO boxers Eumir Felix D. Marcial and Carlo Paalam shoot for spots in Tokyo Games gold medal matches in their respective divisions at the Kokugikan Arena on Thursday.

Middleweight Mr. Marcial, 25, will take on familiar foe Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine in the semifinal round set for 2:03 p.m. (Manila time) while flyweight Mr. Paalam, 23, collides with hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m.

Zamboanga native Mr. Marcial has been on a roll in his Olympic debut outing, making short work of his opponents so far and winning in the opening round.

He defeated Algerian Younes Nemouchi in the Round of 16 via a Referee Stopped Contest due to Injury then knocked out Armenian Arman Darchinyan in the quarterfinals to assure the country of another medal.

It is the same form he is looking to sustain when he collides with Mr. Khyzhniak for a spot in the gold medal match.

“I’m ready for this fight. When we first fought, I got injured which was why I lost. Right now, I’m confident of my conditioning and I’m ready heading into the fight,” Mr. Marcial communicated in Filipino to local sports media from Japan.

The Filipino bet lost to Mr. Khyzhniak back in 2018 at the Strandja Memorial in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Mr. Paalam also has his sights on a shot at a gold medal and has made a strong case for himself.

Mr. Paalam has hurdled every challenge put in front of him in the ongoing tournament, the latest of which was world number one and erstwhile defending Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals of the flyweight division on Tuesday.

He punched his way into the semifinals by winning on points by split decision in the second round.

Mr. Paalam came out aggressive in his last fight and took it to his opponent right at the opening bell, connecting with solid blows to the head and body en route to claiming the opening round.

In the second, action continued to be frenetic with both fighters tagging one another with clear shots.

Unfortunately, midway into the round both absorbed cuts after a head collision.

Ukrainian referee Pablo Vasylynchuk called for a halt to the 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 Mr. 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.

“We really wanted to take the opening round to put pressure on my opponent. Thankfully, we were able to do that and it affected how the fight went,” Mr. Paalam said in Filipino after his win.

He now channels his focus on Japanese Mr. Tanaka, who Mr. Paalam said he is not taking lightly

Messrs. Marcial and Paalam are looking to follow teammate Nesthy A. Petecio who made it to the gold medal match of the women’s featherweight division, but had to settle for silver. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo