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Modest hopes for Thai boxers
Agence France-Presse, PTI
Bangkok, September 26, 2002
First Published: 12:07 IST(25/9/2002)
Last Updated: 16:46 IST(26/9/2002)

Thailand expects its boxers to win a modest two gold medals at the upcoming Asian Games in Busan, with the squad's coach voicing concern that biased referees could tilt the outcome in favour of the hosts.

Captain Thong Thaweekoon, a Thai Amateur Boxing Association trainer and lead coach for Asiad, predicted his pugilists would face stiff competition from the Koreans in the nine weight classes being contested at the games which run from September 29 to October 15.

"If the Games were held in other countries I would predict we could earn four or more gold medals," Thong told AFP by telephone from the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai where his boxers are in training.

But Korea's previous controversy-riddled sporting performances on its home turf have brought suspicion, Thong said.

"If they were held somewhere else such as Indonesia or the Philippines, then boxers from Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan would be Thailand's strongest opposition, but as the Games are held in South Korea then the South Koreans are strongest."

He pointed to Korea's surprisingly strong performance in this year's World Cup, the football tournament it co-hosted with Japan.

"Take a look at the World Cup and how the Korean team could make it to the semi-final," he said.

He also recalled Korea's tumultuous boxing record in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where light middleweight Park Si-Hun was awarded a highly controversial gold medal over Roy Jones Jr. of the United States.

Thailand's Asiad team includes light flyweight Suban Pannon, flyweight Somjit Jongjohor, bantamweight Chotipat Wongprathet, featherweight Suthisak Samaksamarn and lightweight Pichai Sayotha.

Also in the team are super lightweight Manas Boonchamnong, his brother Manon Boonchamnong as welterweight, light middleweight Suriya Prasarthinpimai, and middleweight Somchai Chimram.

"The association hopes two of them -- Suban Pannon and Manon Boonchamnong -- will get the golds for sure," said Thong, an army captain.

The pair are coming off gold-medal performances in last June's Asian boxing championships held in Malaysia.

Thailand's 1996 Olympic gold medallist, featherweight Somluck Kamsing, withdrew from the team in July, citing a lack of fitness, while flyweight Wijan Polrid, who earned gold at the Sydney 2000 Games, has retired from international competition.

Thai boxers reaped five gold medals in 1998 at the previous Asian Games, held in 1998 in Bangkok.   


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