Thailand's boxers raring to step into the Incheon ring

Thailand's boxers raring to step into the Incheon ring
Wuthichai Masuk (left), in training with Donchai Mamee.

THAILAND - Since the last Asiad four years ago in Guangzhou, China, much has changed in the sport - most notably the founding of the country's new boxing body after the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand was disbanded in 2011.

Just over a year later, the newly founded Thailand Boxing Association needed to find a new head following the resignation of General Boonlert Kaewprasit, who stepped down after Thailand's boxers failed to win a single gold medal at the Olympics, in London, for the first time since 1996.

It was only when Boonlert's successor, Pichai Chunhavajira, took the helm last April that Thai fighters could finally get back to work in a normal environment. Yet it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to regain Thai pride at the Games in Incheon, South Korea, between September 19 and October 4.

One man who harbours no doubts is the boxing chief himself, who predicts that the Thai team of seven men and two women will achieve better results than in the previous two Games by claiming two gold medals.

"You might say that boxing is in the blood of Thais. It's a sport we always have high hopes for in every tournament, regionally or internationally.

"Look back at the last two Games and you see we managed to claim the same number of medals - a gold, a silver and a bronze apiece in both Doha (2006) and Guangzhou (2010).

"In the men's competition, we are fielding boxers from the lightest division [49kg] to the 81kg category but we opted to skip the 75kg class this time. In the women's contest, we have boxers in the 51kg and 60kg divisions.

"To win a gold medal, a boxer needs to win five fights, or four with a bye in the first round. If you want to know the prospects of Thai boxers at the Games, just take a look at our results on the international stage lately.

"At the Presidents Cup in Kazakhstan recently - an event we thought was really tough - our fighter Wuthichai [Masuk] claimed the gold after beating the world No 1.

"Overall, we expect two gold medals because we think four or five of our fighters can get to the latter rounds. To be more specific, four in men's event and one in the women's competition," said Pichai.

The team is looking to take advantage of a change in the rules that has banned headgear in the men's competition,

"With no head guards, the fighting becomes tougher but I don't think it puts our boxers at a disadvantage. Our fighters are currently sparring twice a week with pro boxers. It seems to be working well.

"In previous years, we've rarely seen knockouts in amateur boxing, but now they are occurring more often as the blows are more severe. But boxers in Thailand have grown up used to fighting without headgear, so we won't be at a disadvantage."

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