Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Asian Games: Reformed playboy boxer prepares to enter monastery

AFP , DOHA

Thailand's reformed playboy Manus Boonjumnong has vowed to shave his head and enter a Buddhist monastery after winning an Asian Games boxing gold medal here.

Manus said he will don the saffron robes as soon as he returns to Bangkok and will avoid making the same mistake he made two years ago after he won the Olympic gold medal.

The handsome Thai fighter became a household name in his country following the 2002 Athens Olympic win in the light-welterweight division.

But he soon abandoned boxing to embark on a celebrity career of partying and gambling, frittering away hundreds of thousand of dollars in prize money.

His taste for the high life made him a staple of the gossip columns, damaging his reputation and straining his marriage.

"That is all in the past now," said Manus, after the 26-year-old clinched a 22-11 points win over South Korea's Shin Myung-Hoon in the final to win the Asian Games 64kg light-welterweight final on Tuesday.

"You will see a new me," he said. "I am going to concentrate on being a good father to my three children."

Thai males are required by tradition to spend a short period of time in a Buddhist monastery, normally around two weeks, and Manus said he would respect the custom.

"I will spend about 14 days in the monastery and then I will resume training. There will be no mistakes this time," he said.

The Thai boxer rose to prominence after winning a bronze medal at the world championships in 2003 and then scoring an upset victory at the Olympics the following year.

He outpointed Cuban favorite Yudel Johnson in the 64kg final to become only the third Thai to win an Olympic gold medal.

But he turned his back on the sport for two years after his Olympic triumph, running through a reported US$600,000 in prize money and forcing his wife to leave him.

He made his return to the ring at the Asian Games in Doha following a two-month training stint in Cuba.

"I would like to thank my coach Juan Fontanills, who trained me hard during my two months in Cuba. There, I could not go anywhere -- no drinking, no gambling. Just training, sleeping and sparring," he said.

He also thanked the Thai boxing federation for giving him a second chance to revive his career and said that from now on, he would focus on boxing.

"When I come out of the monastery, boxing will be my priority and I will return immediately to the Thai training camp," he said.

His next major international event will be the Southeast Asian Games one year from now, a stepping stone towards the longer-term target of retaining his title at the Beijing Olympics.

"I am devoting myself to that goal," he said.

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