Tokyo Olympics: Galal Yafai wins men’s flyweight boxing gold with victory over Carlo Paalam

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Britain’s Galal Yafai is Olympic flyweight champion after an impressive victory over Carlo Paalam of the Philippines in Tokyo.

Yafai, 28, gained a 4-1 points decision at the Kokugikan Arena to secure Britain’s 19th gold medal of the Games.

In a thrilling start, the Briton knocked his opponent down after only 90 seconds of a dominant first round.

Britain have won 59 medals – 19 gold, 20 silver, 20 bronze – compared with 65 at London 2012 and 67 at Rio 2016.

“It’s absolutely something I’ve always wanted to do,” Yafai, the younger brother of professional boxers Kal and Gamal, told BBC Sport. “I’m Olympic champion and I’m over the moon.

“I’ve worked hard – six years ago I took up boxing and thank God it worked out for me and shows if you work hard you can reap the rewards.

“Everyone back in Britain and Birmingham, the support I’ve received has been ridiculous and amazing. I’m just overwhelmed and so grateful for everyone who has shown me love.”

Paalam, 23, was aiming to become the first Filipino to win Olympic boxing gold, but was outclassed early on and was caught by two lefts in the opening round to send him down.

All five judges gave the opening round to Yafai and four of the five also gave him the second as he impressed with his speed and movement and also landed superb uppercuts and left hooks, as well as shots to the body.

Paalam won the third round on all five judges’ cards, but it was not enough as Yafai gained a 29-28 victory on four of the cards, with the other one in favour of the Filipino by the same margin.

A proud boxing family

Birmingham fighter Yafai comes from a boxing family, with older brothers Kal and Gamal having great success in the professional ranks after beginning as amateurs.

Former WBA world super-flyweight Kal, 32, represented Britain at the 2008 Olympics, losing in the last 16, and won a European silver medal in 2010 before turning professional, where he has won 26 of 27 bouts.

Gamal, 30, won a European bronze medal in 2010 and turned professional four years later. As a pro, he has held Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight titles.

Before the final, Galal had reflected on their upbringing and how he and his brothers were continually being told off by their mother for fighting in the house.

“My mum was always going mad – ‘take your gloves off, stop hitting your little brother’,” he said. “We were fighting every day in the sitting room with gloves on – those two started me off.”

But Galal’s road to the Olympics was not a smooth one and six years ago he was working in a car factory.

“I was grafting, picking up boxes, dreaming of being at an Olympic Games. I was doing the rubbish, delivering parts, just a skivvy job really,” he said.

He gave up that job to follow his Olympic dream and qualified for Rio 2016, where he lost in the last 16, before winning a European silver at super-flyweight in 2017 and then Commonwealth gold in the same category at the 2018 Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“If it was not for Kal and Gamal I wouldn’t have started boxing,” added Galal. “They’ve been there for me and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.”

After he collected his gold medal, he spoke with Kal live on BBC TV, with his older brother saying: “I’m so proud of you – it’s unreal, it was brilliant and you did what you needed to do.”

And Kal added: “When he landed that punch in the first round I was going nuts and I knew he would win the gold.”

Galal (left), Gamal (centre) and Kal Yafai threw their collective weight behind Birmingham's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games
Galal (left), Gamal (centre) and Kal Yafai threw their collective weight behind Birmingham’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games

More British glory in the ring

Yafai’s gold is the 19th won by British boxers in Olympic history and he becomes the 17th British fighter to win gold.

He has also become Britain’s first male Olympic flyweight champion in 65 years – since Terry Spinks won gold in Melbourne 1956. Nicola Adams won women’s flyweight gold at London 2012 and again in Rio four years later.

Team GB sent 11 boxers to Japan and are guaranteed six medals, their most at a Games since Antwerp in 1920, although they did win three golds at London 2012.

Yafai is the first British boxing gold medal winner at Tokyo 2020 after Pat McCormack (welterweight) and Ben Whittaker (light-heavyweight) won silvers and Frazer Clarke (super-heavyweight) and Kariss Artingstall (women’s featherweight) collected bronze medals.

Britain have now won at least one gold medal in boxing in each of the four most recent Olympics and five of the past six Games after failing to win a gold in seven consecutive events – between 1972 and 1996.

Lauren Price has a chance to win another British gold when she fights on Sunday against Li Qian of China in the women’s middleweight final.

‘Beautiful to watch’ – Analysis

Nicola Adams, two-time Olympic gold medal boxer on BBC TV

Left-hand straight through the middle, down he went. That’s the kind of shot you want on your highlights reel. Punches in bunches.

His punch variety was exceptional. It was beautiful to watch. Dare I say, he’s the best boxer [out of the three brothers].

He kept the work-rate up and capitalised on the counter-punches.

Galal Yafai
Britain’s Galal Yafai knocked down Carlo Paalam in the first round

BBC

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