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Manon shapes as Thailand's next Olympic boxing hero

Manon Boonjumnong, who clubbed his way to a rapid victory in his Asian Games debut, is already being hailed by Thai boxing officials as their third Olympic champion.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2002 10:57 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Manon Boonjumnong, who clubbed his way to a rapid victory in his Asian Games debut, is already being hailed by Thai boxing officials as their third Olympic champion.

He is being spoken of in the same terms as great 1996 Olympic gold medallist Somluck Kamsing and Wijan Ponrid who won in Sydney four years later.

The 20-year-old Manon is "an almost complete boxer", said the Thai team's Cuban trainer Ismael Antonio Salas Sebasco.

"Some boxers can fight only short. Some boxers can fight only long, but he can fight long and short," Sebasco said.

The tall, deceptively languid right-hander with doe eyes booked a quarter-final berth in the welterweight division here on Thursday with supreme economy of effort.

He landed eight blows while taking none, made shell-shocked Cambodian Samreth Ath kiss the canvas three times, and was off whistling to the showers in less than two minutes.

"He is very skilful and shows a lot of promise... we're looking at the Olympics," said Sebasco.

He readily draws a comparison between Manon and the willowy featherweight Somluck, arguably the most stylish boxer to have graced the Asiad ring in the past decade, and who has now retired to try his luck as a movie star.

"To compare the featherweight with the welterweight, it's so different. But for talent we can say yes. He's got big potential."

Asked if he seems himself as Thailand's next Somluck, the shy Manon told AFP: "I'm giving myself two shots at it," eyeing both the Athens Olympics in 2004 and Beijing four years later.

Sebasco, who once worked with the coaching staff of the powerful Cuban Olympic team, said Manon will face more pressure than Somluck.

"One of the strongest divisions in the world is welterweight. You have so many good fighters from Cuba, from Russia, from the United States.

"But he is a very promising one. So we train to develop him."

Manon rose to international fame in June when he won gold at the Asian championships in Kuala Lumpur, a month before his 20th birthday.

He is the younger of the boxing Boonjumnong brothers of Ratchaburi province -- with Manus flying the Asian flag here as a light-welterweight.

Manus, two years his senior, won the light-welterweight crown at the Asian championships, starting a sibling gold rush that may last through the next two Olympics.

But the immediate hurle for Manon is the Asiad title where Kazakh fighter Sergey Rychko, 23, and the 22-year-old Uzbek Sherzod Husanov shape as his main rivals.

They also won their opening bouts by the short route with Husanov finishing off Qatar's Noor Nawaf Mohamed inside two rounds, and Rychko disposed of Afghan Mohammad Sadeq Naqshbande a minute into the third.

"It's between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. But to me, the Kazakh will be in the final," Sebasco said, confidently adding that Manon beat Rychko on points in the Asian championships final.

Of the nine Thai boxers in Busan, team captain Thong Thaweekoon has marked down Manon and Suban Pannon as two who "will get the golds for sure".

Thailand won five boxing gold medals at the previous Asian Games held in 1998 in Bangkok.

First Published: Oct 04, 2002 10:57 IST