Marcial, Paalam fight for shot at Olympic gold

Joaquin Henson - Philstar.com
Marcial, Paalam fight for shot at Olympic gold
Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial

TOKYO – Two more wins then it’s Olympic gold for middleweight Eumir Marcial and flyweight Carlo Paalam with their stint in the final depending on the outcome of their semifinal bouts at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Arena today.

The road to the top isn’t paved with roses for either fighter. Marcial is up against Ukrainian Oleksandr Khyzhniak who hasn’t lost in his last 61 contests since 2016. When they faced off at the Strandja International in Bulgaria in 2019, Khyzhniak dominated Marcial who quit with an injured hand at 0:02 of the third round. Khyzhniak led in the five judges’ scorecards by a shutout, 20-17 thrice and 20-18 twice, at the time of the stoppage. It was ruled a disqualification under amateur rules. If that’s an indication of how tough Khyzhniak is, Marcial has his work cut out for him.

TRACKER: Team Philippines at the Tokyo Olympics

In two Olympic fights so far, Marcial has been a demolition man, stopping Algeria’s Younes Nemouchi and knocking out Armenia’s Arman Darchinyan, both in the first round. Khyzhniak outpointed Japan’s Yuto Moriwaki, 5-0 and the Dominican Republic’s Euri Cedeno, 4-1, to advance to the semis. 

Philippine coach Don Abnett said Marcial may not be as aggressive as he was in bowling over Nemouchi and Darchinyan. “Khyzhniak is a fighting machine,” said Abnett. “I don’t think the way to beat him is to engage him frontally. You’ll see a lot more movement from Eumir. But if he spots an opening for a KO, he’s going for it.” If Marcial went on a rampage in his first two fights, he’ll be tactical against the Ukrainian who won the AIBA world title in 2017. Khyzhniak is 2 1/2 inches taller but Marcial doesn’t consider it an advantage for the Ukrainian.

ABAP secretary-general Ed Picson said Marcial never forgets a loss. “I remember Eumir suffered a hairline fracture in his face caused by a butt and elbow from a previous fight and he carried the pain to his next fight which he lost by RSC to a Singaporean,” he said. “Eumir’s face swelled and he had to undergo surgery. He told me the pain was unbearable and took six to seven months to recover. When he came back, Eumir hoped to someday meet the Singaporean again. He did and knocked out the guy. I think he’ll be more motivated to beat Khyzhniak because he lost to him once.”

Picson said Marcial’s journey to Tokyo had its ups and downs. He made his pro debut in Los Angeles last year then came home for three weeks before setting up camp at the US training center in Colorado Springs with coach Gerson Nietes later to be joined by coach Ronald Chavez. “It’s been a learning experience for Eumir and now he realizes what it takes to win in the Olympics,” said Picson. “He’s in the best shape of his life.”

ABAP president Ricky Vargas said Paalam is the biggest surprise and the favorite of everyone in the boxing team. “He’s only 23 and he could go up to three Olympics,” said Vargas. “Carlo has the right frame of mind, he’s coachable, he listens. I don’t know much about boxing technique and form but I can tell you Carlo’s a winner.” In the quarterfinals, Paalam pulled the upset of the Olympics by scoring a split technical decision over defending gold medalist and world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan. To reach the finals, Paalam has to hurdle Japan’s Ryomei Tanaka. Last Tuesday, Tanaka booked an appointment with Paalam by outpointing Colombia’s Yuberjen Martinez, 4-1, in what looked like a hometown decision. Tanaka left the arena in a wheelchair and it’s not certain in what condition he’ll be in against Paalam today.





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