Hour of truth for Thai boxers

Hour of truth for Thai boxers

Chatchai-decha, Jutamas bid to win Olympic medals, cash rewards

Going Strong: Chatchai-decha Butdee celebrates a win at the Tokyo Games. (Reuters photo)
Going Strong: Chatchai-decha Butdee celebrates a win at the Tokyo Games. (Reuters photo)

Thai boxers Chatchai-decha Butdee and Jutamas Jitpong face make-or-break quarter-final bouts at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.

With wins, they will earn national hero status and huge financial rewards by the country's standards.

They both need a win on Sunday to be assured of at least bronze medals.

Under the National Sports Development's bonus scheme, an Olympic champion will get 12 million baht, a silver winner 7.2 million baht and a bronze medallist 4.8 million baht.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the medallists also stand to get financial rewards or gifts from private companies as well as lucrative sponsorship deals.

Thailand Boxing Association (TBA) president Pichai Chunhavajira announced on Saturday Bangchak Corporation and its allies will give bonus to medal winning Thai boxers -- 10 million baht for gold, three million baht for silver and two million baht for bronze.

But Chatchai-decha and Jutamas face tough assignments in their bid for the semi-final spots which will assure them of at least bronze medals.

Chatchai-decha, 36, faces three-time world champion Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the men's featherweight (57kg) division, while Jutamas, 23, fights Turkey's Buse Naz Cakiroglu, the 2019 world championships silver medallist and 2019 European championships winner, in women's flyweight (51kg).

A quarter-final appearance is already Chatchai-decha's best ever Olympic result, having suffered two early exits at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

"The Cuban boxer is a southpaw and skilful. It should be an exciting bout," said Chatchai-decha. "I hope I get a medal. I can tell you that I am 36 but still going strong."

The Sa Kaeo fighter, formerly known as Chatchai, aims to end his career with an Olympic medal. He has said that he wants to win a medal to make Thais and his family happy.

Jutamas, of Nakhon Si Thammarat, is bidding to become the country's first Olympic medallist in women's boxing.

In her first Olympics, Jutamas said she and other boxers were a bit rusty because they barely had warm-up tournaments ahead of the Games due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, she now feels she can throw punches freely. Jutamas will be out for revenge against Cakiroglu, who won their only previous encounter.

"I lost to her in a close fight. I think she was more dangerous back then. Now, I'm quite confident and I will try my best to get an Olympic medal," she said.

Jutamas was Thailand's last boxer to qualify for Tokyo.

Her place in the Olympics was confirmed just weeks before the event began as she replaced a North Korean boxer whose country is not taking part in Tokyo 2020.

Sudaporn Seesondee, the other Thai boxer remaining in Tokyo, will fight in the women's 60kg quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Baison Maneekon made an early exit at Tokyo, while Thitisan Panmod was forced to pull out before the Games due to a knee injury.

The TBA is seeking redemption after its athletes failed to win a single medal at Rio 2016.

"I am confident that we will win at least a medal,'' said TBA technical chief Somchai Poonsawat.

"Our boxers trained very hard and they are close to fulfilling their dreams."

So far taekwondo champion Panipak Wongpattanakit is Thailand's only medallist at Tokyo 2020.

Apart from the boxers, Thailand are also pinning their medal hopes on golfers with Patty Tavatanakit and Ariya Jutanugarn among contenders in the women's event which begins on Thursday.

The kingdom won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals at Rio 2016. Both golds were won by weightlifters but Thais were banned from taking part in the sport in the Tokyo Games due to doping.

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