Carlo Paalam: From Scavenger to Olympic Medalist

Carlo Paalam’s journey from a young garbage scavenger in Cagayan de Oro to an Olympic silver medalist is nothing short of inspirational. Born on July 16, 1998, in Talakag, Bukidnon, Paalam faced numerous challenges from a young age. After his parents’ separation, he moved with his father and siblings to Cagayan de Oro in search of better opportunities. To help his family, Paalam worked as a scavenger at a local landfill, collecting metal scraps to sell.

Paalam’s life took a significant turn when a neighbor noticed his potential in backyard boxing matches and encouraged him to join a local tournament called “Boxing at the Park.” At just seven years old, Paalam won his first match and used his prize money to buy rice for his family. His talent did not go unnoticed, and in 2009, local officials scouted him and placed him under Cagayan de Oro’s boxing training program.

In 2013, Paalam joined the Philippine national boxing team, marking the beginning of his international career. He quickly made a name for himself, winning bronze medals at the AIBA Youth Asian and World Championships in 2016 and at the Asian Games in 2018. Paalam also secured gold medals in various international tournaments, including the ASTANA/President’s Cup in Kazakhstan and the 10th AIBA International Boxing Tournament.

Paalam’s most significant achievement came at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where he competed in the men’s flyweight division. Despite being an underdog, he defeated seasoned opponents, including the reigning Olympic gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, to reach the finals. Although he lost to British boxer Galal Yafai in the gold medal match, Paalam’s silver medal win was a historic moment for the Philippines.

In addition to his Olympic success, Paalam has continued to excel in his boxing career. He recently secured a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning all his bouts in the second World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok, Thailand. His determination and resilience have made him a role model for many aspiring athletes.

Carlo Paalam’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and hard work. From humble beginnings as a garbage scavenger, he has risen to become one of the Philippines’ most celebrated boxers, inspiring countless individuals with his remarkable journey.


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