MIXED DAY FOR HOSTS
Amnaj and Somjit light up the day
The Thai boxing squad had mixed fortunes on the opening day of the King's Cup international amateur tournament at the Mall's Ngamwongwan branch yesterday.
In the opening fight in the 48kg light-flyweight division, Amnaj Ruenreong of Thailand A squad, who was promoted from the B team after Suban Pannon withdrew due to injury, helped the hosts get off to a winning start with a points victory over Hector Bubler of South Africa.
The 26-year-old Amnaj rarely showed signs of nervousness against the South African and showed his promising talent with a series of precise left jabs to claim a 25-15 win.
"It's my first time fighting a foreign opponent. So, I'm quite excited," said Amnaj who won the National Championship in January.
Flyweight Somjit Jongjorhor maintained the momentum Amnaj had built by registering a second victory for Thailand with an RSC outscore win over Indonesia's Bonyx Saweho.
On paper it was a big mismatch between the two fighters in terms of achievement and experience. The way in which the Doha Asian Games silver medallist Somjit boxed reflected how much confidence he had, as at times he kept his guard low. Even then, the 32-year-old, who has had experience of many major international tournaments, including the Olympics, never found himself in trouble before the referee stopped the fight in the third round when the score stood at 23-3.
"I knew I would win, because I have seen him fight in many tournaments. It was a relatively easy fight as I knew how to beat him. The bout was like a warm-up, and a confidence-building match," said Somjit who revealed that the next Olympics in China would be his last tournament.
Thailand's fortunes changed drastically when they suffered three straight defeats.
In another flyweight division bout, Thailand B's Naratip Juntraporn, whose outstanding performance at the youth level earned him a call-up to the national team, was handed a boxing lesson by India's Jitender Kumar.
The pressure of his first fight on the bigger stage seemed to get the better of Naratip, who failed to maintain his challenge down to the distance. Despite a sluggish start, Naratip edged ahead at 4-3 when the bell sounded at the end of the first round. The bout was still very close in the next round, and Naratip managed to hold on the lead at 11-10.
A point deduction to Naratip, due to low bow helped the Indian turn the corner in the third round.
Knowing he was behind on points, Naratip had no choice but to move forward in the final round. That left him vulnerable to the counter-punches, which enabled Kumar to seal the 23-16 win.
"I should have won this but the point deduction cost me a victory. It forced me to attack, which seemed to go the Indian's way. I'm disappointed with the result but I believe it will make me stronger," said Naratip.
Bantamweight Issarayut Juntraporn of Thailand A, deputising for Athens Olympic silver medallist Worapoj Petchkum, suffered the same fate as his cousin Naratip with a hammering defeat at the hands of Uzbekistan's Orzubek Shayimov.
Despite Issarayut's corner continually urging the Thai to move forward, the home boxer rarely threatened Shayimov.
In 57kg featherweight class, Thailand A's Sarawut Prapaipetch had a painful debut on the international stage when he went down 27-20 to Almas Kuatbekov of Kazakhstan in a thrilling fight.
It appeared Kuatbekov would easily clinch the win when he jumped to a 7-1 lead in the opening round. However, Sarawut raised his game to keep in touch with the Kazak.
Despite bringing the crowd to their feet with a couple of bursts of points in the third and final rounds, Sarawut simply had no answer to Almas' superior capacity.
Rising star Sailom Ar-dee restored Thai pride in the lightweight division after notching up a technical knockout over unfancied Al Zahm of the United Arab Emirates.
Three other Thai fighters, including 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Suriya Prasarthinpimia, were due to compete in late bouts yesterday.