Former scavenger from Cagayan de Oro City, Carlo Paalam, is now on the cusp of an Olympic medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
The 23-year-old boxer will return to the Kokugikan Arena on Tuesday, August 3, to face Uzbek Shakobhidin Zoirov in the quarterfinals and a chance in the medal round.
Paalam, born in the province of Bukidnon, told reporters he felt the jitters, especially after his command performance in a 5-0 round-of-16 win over Algerian veteran Mohamed Flissi. But his belief in himself and his coaches maintained his confidence to fight.
Elmer Pamisa, a former national boxer turned coach, expressed how happy he is to see Paalam’s career growth and achievements. Pamisa first saw the youngster, who is also the son of a bakery helper, going around the city to look for discarded items that would be worth a few pesos.
“Nakita ko ‘yan, nangangalakal, namumulot ng basura sa amin, binebenta,” said Pamisa, who won a pair of silvers from the Southeast Asian Games during his time. “Sabi ko, ‘Mag-boksing ka na lang, baka dito ka pa aasenso.”
(I saw him scavenging, picking up our discarded items, and selling them. I said, ‘join boxing, and who knows you might find your wealth here.’)
Scavenger to boxing
It wasn’t a smooth sailing start for him, but Paalam quickly climbed ranks, from winning gold in the Batang Pinoy and the Philippine National Games (PNG), all thanks to his diligence and ability to learn quickly. After winning the PNG, the Bukidnon-born boxer earned his spot in the Alliance of Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABap).
Since joining the national team in 2013, Paalam brought home bronze medals in the 2016 AIBA Youth Asian and World Championships and at the 2018 Asian Games. He also won gold at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which the country hosted.
The promising young athlete still has a long way to go in his career, but there is no doubt that he will continue beating expectations from the people around him.
“Makikita mo talaga bata pa lang, matapang at madiskarte na,” Pamisa said. “At tahimik lang, mabait na bata, di tulad ng iba. Wala kang masasabi.”
(Even at a young age, he already possesses bravery and resourcefulness. He’s quiet and good too, unlike the others. You can’t find any bad bone on him.)