CARLO PAALAM is faced with a major hump ahead as he journeys back to the Olympics in Paris to win the gold medal that eluded him two years ago in Tokyo.
A silver medalist at Tokyo 2020, Paalam has to go through a box off to earn a spot on the national boxing team that would be sent to Olympic qualifiers next year.
Worse, he has to fight as a featherweight (57 kgs) because his body wouldn’t tolerate a return to the flyweight (54 kgs) division where he clinched his Olympic silver and the next division—bantamweight (54 kgs)—is not on the Paris program.
“My body has become naturally heavier so I have no choice but to fight in a heavier division and in a box off,” Paalam, 28, told BusinessMirror on Thursday, at times holding on to his left shoulder that has yet to totally heal from an injury he sustained almost two years ago. “It’s up to the coaches to decide.”
“But my dream of making it to the Olympics is still my priority that’s why I have to fight for it all cost,” he said.
Standing on his way in the box off are two equally-worthy opponents—Ian Clark Bautista and Junmilardo Ogayre.
Bautista has three Southeast Asian Games gold medals to Paalam’s two while Ogayre is virtually new in the trade with 18 fights across his name having won 10 of them.
“If can’t make it, I will lend a hand to the boxer who will be chosen, that’s our life as boxers,” Paalam said.
The country rejoiced when Paalam and Nesthy Petecio’s silver in women’s featherweight and Eumir Felix Marcial’s bronze in men’s middleweight complimented Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo’s victory in weightlifting—the country’s first Olympic gold medal—in Tokyo.
They became instant millionaires because of their exploits but for Paalam, and Petecio, it’s back to square one for both of them as they resume their Olympic gold medal dream.
Only Marcial has qualified for Paris so far with his silver medal in last month’s 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, where Paalam and Petecio couldn’t reach the gold medal round that offered tickets to the Olympics.
Coaches of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines set the box off in a two-week period at the federation’s gym inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in January.
The other box off will be in men’s flyweight, lightweight, welterweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight and women’s flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight.
Petecio has no rival at featherweight and is a shoo-in for the qualifiers.
The first Olympic qualifier is set February 29 to March 12 in Busto Arsizio in Italy and the final chance for Paalam and co. is from May 23 to June 3 in Bangkok.