GALAL YAFAI is the Olympic flyweight champion. At the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on Saturday (August 7) he took a split points decision over the Philippines’ Carlo Paalam in their 52kgs final.
Yafai started with intensity. The Birmingham southpaw closed in on Paalam, who cracked heavy counter-punches across. But Galal was too much, he exerted too much pressure, clattering in combinations of punches and working his lead right into the body. In the first round he forced Paalam to the ropes and hammered a heavy straight one-two through. The left cross connected and dropped the Filipino to the canvas. It was the perfect start.
Paalam changed his approach in the second round, knowing he had dropped the first stance. He held his ground and flung punches back, meeting Yafai on his own terms now. But the Briton found the target with quality shots, fine lead uppercuts hitting home and he fired his left through to the head.
Ahead on the cards, Yafai had to manage the final round. Calmer and more mobile, now Yafai moved off with his gloves up. Paalam, increasingly anxious, tried to smash his hardest punches through. But any errors from Yafai were only minor. He hit, he moved and he saw out the round. The decision was a 4-1 split from the five judges to Galal Yafai. This unheralded star is now the Olympic gold medallist.
“I’m just so determined to win,” Galal said. “I’ve got that heart and desire to win and it’s worked out.”
“I don’t know if, at every moment, I knew or believed that I was going to be Olympic champion,” he continued. “Being Olympic champion is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m Olympic champion now and I’m over the moon.
“I’ve worked hard, I took up boxing and thank God it worked out for me… I trained hard, gave it everything, and it just shows that if you work hard, you can get the rewards.”
GB’s boxing team have a total of six medals at these Games, the largest medal haul for a British Olympic boxing team since 1920. Today Yafai became their first gold medallist in Tokyo.
In the men’s middleweight final Brazil’s Hebert Sousa pulled off an astonishing upset. He had lost the first two rounds for every judge to Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak, who had been in such marauding form both at these Olympics and in the years leading up to the Games. But in the third and last round, with his Olympic dream all but extinguished, Sousa uncorked a stunning left hook that dropped Khyzhniak heavily. The Ukrainian rose on unsteady legs and he had to be stopped at once. Sousa bellowed in triumph, a remarkable 75kgs gold medallist.
In the women’s flyweight division, Bulgaria’s Stoyka Krasteva became the first person who wasn’t Nicola Adams to win Olympic gold in this category. She unanimously outpointed Turkey’s Buse Naz Cakiroglu.
Turkey did have a champion at welterweight. Busenaz Surmeneli outpointed China’s Hong Gu to become the first women’s welterweight Olympic gold medallist.