Galal Yafai postponed plans to join his brothers in the pro ranks in order to realize his dream of winning an Olympic Gold medal.
Mission accomplished the second time around.
The two-time flyweight representative for Great Britain took home the highest honor in amateur boxing, outboxing Philippines’ Carlo Paalam in their Tokyo Olympics men’s flyweight final Saturday afternoon at Kokugikan Arena. Yafai won by scores of 29-28 on four cards to win Olympic Gold, the first British flyweight in 55 years to accomplish the feat.
Paalam claimed a 29-28 score in his favor as he adds a Silver medal to Philippines’ impressive run in Tokyo.
Yafai set an aggressive pace, not allowing Paalam to box and move in forcing his Filipino foe to expend a lot of energy early. A knockdown came midway through round one, setting the tone for the rest of the fight.
Heavy pressure continued to be applied by Yafai in round two. Paalam showed signs of improvement, though only enough to win on one of the four scorecards, with Yafai all but assured a medal as long as he avoided any dramatic mistakes in the third and final round.
Paalam closed the fight strong, enough to sweep the final round but in a fight where he needed a knockout or at least to have Yafai draw a point deduction in order to pull off the feat.
Yafai also becomes the first Brit since 2008 to win five fights in a single Olympics competition. James DeGale had to go as deep in order to claim Gold in the Beijing Olympics, before moving onto become the first Gold medalist from Great Britain to win a world title in the pro ranks, serving as a two-time IBF super middleweight titlist.
The youngest brother of the fighting Yafai family (Kal Yafai is a former junior bantamweight champion; Gamal Yafai a bantamweight contender) opened his Tokyo run with a stoppage win over Koryan Soghomonyan (Armenia) in the Round of 32. A win over Patrick Chinyemba (Zambia) advanced Yafai deeper than was the case in his second round exit in Rio. Subsequent wins over Yosbany Veitia (Cuba) and Saken Bibossinov (Kazakhstan) put Yafai within reach of Olympic Gold.
A terrific performance sealed the deal.
Paalam entered the fight with hopes of becoming the first ever boxer from Philippines to win a Gold medal. The well-schooled flyweight advanced the hard way, unseating 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov (Uzbekistan) in the quarterfinal round and then eliminating local favorite Ryomei Tanaka (Japan) to advance the final.
Despite coming up short in the end, Paalam still anchors a Philippines boxing team that takes home three medals, its best haul ever. Eumir Marcial took home Bronze at middleweight, while Nesthy Petecio claimed Silver at women’s featherweight.
Yafai and Paalam are joined on the medal podium by Bibossinov and Tanaka who claim Bronze for their nations.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox