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Carlo Paalam bids farewell to Ireland captain Brendan Irvine, barges into round of 16

TOKYO - Filipino boxer Carlo Paalam is through to the Round of 16 in the men's flyweight of the Tokyo Olympics after scoring a split decision against Brendan Irvine of Ireland, Monday at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

Paalam used his superior speed in the match to overcome the height and reach advantage of his opponent en route to a 4-1 nod, (30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29).

Denied a direct ticket to Tokyo after a quarterfinal exit in the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Paalam actually had to go through a box-off against 2016 Rio Olympian Rogen Ladon to determine who will represent the Philippines in the qualifiers.

That event, however, was cancelled and the final spot was given to whoever was higher in the IOC Boxing Task Force rankings, sending Paalam to his first Games.

"I'm so happy with the split decision," Paalam told ESPN5. "My opponent was tough because he's tall, but I'm happy we were able to adjust."

The Filipino boxer swarmed Irvine in the first round and landed combinations to the head and body, with the jab-straight-hook proving to be an important weapon as his speed was too much for the Irish captain's defense. All five judges scored Round 1, 10-9 in favor of the Philippines.

The second round proved a little trickier for the Filipino bet as Irvine changed strategies, engaging Paalam on the inside as the two exchanged combinations in close contact. The Philippine boxer still landed the better blows according to three judges who scored it 10-9 for him, while the other two judges gave the nod to the Irish fighter.

The third round played out similar to the second, with the two exchanging combinations and staying in the pocket. Perhaps sensing that he was ahead in the scorecards, Paalam was more measured in his attacks and avoided taking unnecessary chances that might leave an opening for Irvine to land something big. Still, three judges scored Round 3 for the Filipino.

Paalam now moves forward to the Round of 16 to battle Mohamed Flissi of Algeria.