Redemption for Paalam
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — For Bukidnon-born boxer Carlo Paalam, it’s time for redemption when he battles Indonesia’s Kornelis Kwangu Langu in the lightflyweight final at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the PICC Forum today.

Two years ago, Paalam made his SEA Games debut and was the only casualty of six Filipinos to return home without a medal. Paalam’s farewell in Kuala Lumpur was bitter because it appeared that he deserved to win over Muhammad Fuad Bin Mohamed Redzuan but the judges surprisingly awarded a 5-0 unanimous verdict to the Malaysian. Redzuan went on to bag the gold medal while Paalam was left out of the podium. Paalam never conceded defeat and to this day, insists he was robbed. The consensus was Paalam was victimized by a hometown decision.

The other night, Paalam faced Redzuan in the semifinals of this year’s SEA Games. The pain that Paalam nursed in his heart for two years found a way to vent as he unleashed a furious assault right at the opening bell. Within the first minute, Redzuan was rocked and took a standing eight-count. Paalam was on his way to a resounding victory. When the smoke cleared, Paalam got his revenge. The five judges saw it a shutout. Redzuan, 28, settled for a bronze in his sixth SEA Games.

Redzuan, a soldier, suffered a fractured cheekbone last year but recovered to top the Malaysian National Golden Gloves Tournament and Malaysian National Cup. He never expected to be blown away by Paalam in such a decisive fashion. Paalam, 21, waited two years to get back at Redzuan and prepared hard for his retribution, claiming a bronze at the Asian Games and gold at the Thai Open last year and reaching the quarterfinals at the World Championships this year.

Langu, 29, stands in Paalam’s way to the throne. He’s in his fourth SEA Games after taking a silver in 2013 and gold in 2015 and losing in the quarterfinals in 2017. This year, the Bali fighter kept busy with a silver at the Lviv Cup in Ukraine and bronze at the Belt and Road Tournament in China. 

To reach the final, Paalam turned back Khamsathone Khamphouvanh of Laos and Redzuan while Langu beat Bui Cong Danhloi of Vietnam and Sao Rangsey of Cambodia. Langu’s win over Danhloi was close as the Indonesian eked out a 3-2 split decision.

At least four other Filipinos will go for gold today. Josie Gabuco, 32, shoots for her fifth SEA Games gold medal in the women’s lightflyweight final against Indonesia’s Endang Endang who is in her first SEA Games. Eumir Marcial, 24, takes on Vietnam’s Nguyen Manh Cuong in the men’s middleweight final and is in line for a third gold medal after 2015 and 2017. 

Marjon Pianar and Nesthy Petecio will make their first appearance in the SEA Games with a gold as their reward if they win. There were only three contenders in the men’s welterweight division and Pianar, 20, drew a bye while Thailand’s Masuk Wuttichai ousted Indonesia’s Simangusong Grace Savon in the lone semifinal. Wuttichai, 29, is a three-time SEA Games gold medalist and a four-time campaigner. Pianar is a SEA Games rookie and his lack of experience will be a liability against the Thai grizzled veteran who struck gold at the 2014 Asian Games.

Petecio, 27, is the reigning world women’s featherweight champion and scared away contenders except for Myanmar’s Oo Nwe Ni. Only two fighters signed up for the women’s featherweight division and they were automatically finalists.

In yesterday’s boxing sessions, five Filipinos saw action in the semifinals. In the men’s division were flyweight Rogen Ladon, lightweight Charly Suarez and lightwelterweight James Palicte. Flyweight Irish Magno and lightweight Riza Pasuit were in the women’s division. Results were not known at presstime but winners will battle for gold today.

Previously eliminated were the Philippines’ men’s lightheavyweight John Marvin, women’s bantamweight Aira Villegas and men’s bantamweight Ian Clark Bautista. Only Marvin missed out on a medal as Villegas and Bautista took a bronze apiece.

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