Published on February 2, 2008
Three Thai fighters led by Athens Olympics gold medallist Manus Boonjumnong secured qualification for the Beijing Olympics by storming into the finals of the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament at Dhurakij Pundit University yesterday.
Manus, Athens silver medallist Worapoj Petchkum and Angkarn Chomphu-phoung helped the Thai team claim three more spots, that took their Olympic tally to a remarkable eight.
Thailand claimed five tickets at the World Champion-ships, which were held in Chicago last year.
Worapoj Petchkum set the ball rolling for the hosts by defeating Joan Tipon of the Philippines in a pulsating bantamweight bout.
A close duel was expected, with the home fighter holding a 2-1 advantage over the Filipino.
The first round was a drab affair, with both fighters trying to size up their opponent.
However, the Thai closed the round with a 1-0 lead.
The fight picked up pace in the next two rounds, in which Worapoj had the better of things for a four-point 6-2 advantage.
Tipon, though, was not yet in a mood to give up and staged a furious rally in the final round.
The Filipino set up a nervy closing after managing to close the gap to two points, at 8-6.
With the crowd almost holding its breath in the dying seconds, Worapoj held his nerve to land a telling blow that earned him a nail-biting 9-6 victory. "I'm glad to see him off. He seemed hesitant to throw his straight punches because he knew I would catch him with my counters," Worapoj said.
"I still have much room for improvement before the Olympics. I have to train intensively, even harder than the last time in Greece.
"I will not put myself under extra pressure in Beijing and try to be relaxed. I hope to claim a medal of any hue. However, the gold is my ultimate target," Worapoj said.
Another testing challenge lies ahead of Worapoj in the final where he would face off with India's Akhil Kumar, who secured a 24-4 victory over Ryom Chol-jin of North Korea.
Having an embarrassing World Championships, where he made a first-round exit, light welterweight Manus, who also won gold in the Doha Asian Games two years ago, announced his return to form with a convincing 18-6 win over Tubshinbat Byamba of Mongolia.
Given his physical disadvantage, the visitor needed to cut the distance and drew Manus into the close fight.
However, it looked as though the more Byamba came forward the more he got hurt as the Thai picked him out at will with straight rights.
Manus capped his sterling performance by whitewashing his opponent in the final round with a 3-0 run.
"I'm delighted with the outcome as I have eventually booked my place in Beijing," Manus said.
"I have also proved that I am still a capable boxer. I'm really determined to win gold for the second successive time," he added.
Manus' potential will put to another tough examination in the final as the 27-year-old was lined up to face China's Qiong Maimaitituersun, who condemned his opponent Akmatali Madaminov Shukuralievich of Kyrgyzstan to a count-out loss in the third round.
Middleweight Angkarn, filling in for injured Athens bronze medallist Suriya Prasarthinpimai, rounded off a memorable night for the hosts by clinching a comfortable victory over South Korea's Cho Deok-jin, whose coach threw in the towel in the final round of the bout.
Angkarn, however, is aware that he needs to be at his very best in the final where he will square up with Doha champion Rasullov Elshod of Uzbekistan.