Sat, Nov 25, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Boxers to star at Asian Cup

AFP , PARIS

Boxing promises to live up to its billing as one of the top sports at next month's Asian Games, given the host of rich talent that will be on display, including many Olympic medalists.

Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and China will all send strong squads to compete at the games from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, where there will be 11 gold medals on offer from the 11 different weight categories.

Teams from the former Soviet Union such as Kazakhstan -- which dominated the Asian Junior Boxing Championships -- and Turkmenistan are also likely to impress.

The Thai amateur boxing association is banking on rejuvenated Thai boxer Manus Boonjumnong, the Olympic light welterweight champion, to lead his country to a sweep of golds.

Having spent the last two months in Cuba to help focus for the Games, Boonjumnong has been fingered by association president Thaweep Jantaroj as likely to increase his medal haul in Doha.

"If he can fight as well as he did in Athens [at the 2004 Olympics] he can still get the gold medal," Thaweep said of the 26 year-old who had previously enjoyed some downtime from the sport.

"He has got stronger and stronger. He's worked very hard, he's confident, and he's serious about winning."

Olympic bantamweight silver medalist Worapoj Petchkoom and Olympic middleweight bronze medalist Suriya Prasathinphimai are among a formidable Thai team of eight boxers expected to feature strongly at the Games.

The team also includes flyweight veteran Somjit Jongjohor, who won Thailand's lone gold medal at the last Asian Games four years ago in Busan.

"In my opinion, if we get a favorable draw, we should reach the finals in six events -- 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 60kg, 64kg and 75kg," Thaweep predicted.

"I'm confident we will win at least three gold medals."

The Philippines squad received a blow before the Games with the news that Harry Tanamor, one of the country's brightest medal hopes, had been axed for disciplinary reasons.

The light-flyweight who won a silver medal at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, was replaced by Godfrey Castro after Tanamor failed to attend training for two weeks.

Although dumped for the Games starting Dec. 1 in Doha, Tanamor would hopefully still take part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Rogelio Fortaleza, secretary-general of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines.

Tanamor has since presented a note to officials saying he skipped training suffering a fever, added Mario Tanchangco, deputy chief of mission to the Asian Games.

A 12-strong Pakistan squad traveled to Moscow to train with Russian boxers ahead of Doha, but their preparations were set back when two of them were banned for six months after testing positive for cannabis.

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