Big decision confronts Thai boxing

Over the years, the Thai amateur boxing team has often made their compatriots proud with gold medals in major international competitions.

Pichai Chunhavajira is among the candidates to succeed Gen Boonlert.

They won gold at every Olympics from 1996 when Somluck Kamsing become the country's first Olympic champion to 2008 when Somjit Jongjohor was a gold medallist.

The boxing team has also took home several other Olympic medals since Payao Poontarat become Thailand's first ever medallist when he won bronze at the 1976 Montreal Games.

For every medal won, the country's amateur boxing chief at that time fully deserved credit for his dedication, hard work and good management.

After all, without the effort and commitment of the amateur boxing association's president and executives, we might not have won so many Olympic medals.

Although the boxing squad did not win a single gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, we all know the reason. In the eyes of most fans and pundits, Kaew Pongprayoon apparently beat Chinese Zou Shiming in the 49kg final.

Unfortunately, the judging at the London Games was below standard. It was so poor that several results, including that of Kaew fight, were booed by the spectators and heavily criticised by the media around the world. Although Kaew got only silver, he returned home to a warm welcome and was treated as if he was a gold medallist.

It was the first time the Thai boxing team failed to win an Olympic gold since 1996 but there was reason behind the unsuccessful run.

Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, president of the Thailand Boxing Association (TBA) which replaces the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand (Abat), was in office for less than a year until the London Olympics. As a newcomer in the sport, Gen Boonlert had to build connections with those in power in international amateur boxing unlike Gen Taweep Jantararoj, who was Abat president for years and a well-known figure in the international amateur boxing circle. Gen Boonlert is also naive in boxing politics.

With all these factors, he deserved credit for what he did in just a few months after taking office. He might be able to bring glory to Thailand in the next Olympics. Unfortunately, Gen Boonlert is quitting as TBA president.

He promised before the 2012 Olympics that he would resign as TBA president if his team failed to win gold in London.

A man of honour, he promptly announced his resignation after Kaew's controversial loss and his stint as TBA president will officially end when a new chief is elected.

He is unlike many Thai sports bosses who are approaching their 80s but still cling to power.

Finding Gen Boonlert's replacement will not be easy. According to press reports, several people are candidates to succeed him, including Pichai Chunhavajira.

In his early 60s, Pichai seems to have what it takes to lead the TBA with his management skill, transparency and experience.

In his successful career, he has held top positions in several big companies including chief financial officer of PTT and a director at Thai Airways and Siam Commercial Bank, to name but a few.

Today he is still an active director at several major corporations. Also Pichai was manager of Thailand's 2012 Olympic boxing team.

The leader of a major sport association like the TBA must have the right attitude. It is not a position to seek fame or publicity but for one who is willing to work hard.

The TBA seems to be at crossroads and its future _ and Thailand's chances of winning Olympic gold medals _ will be in the hands of member clubs which are eligible to elect a new president.

Hopefully, they make the right decision in choosing a new TBA boss as a wrong choice could cost Thailand in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Pimol Srivikorn is president of the Taekwondo Association of Thailand.

About the author

Writer: Pimol Srivikorn