Thai pugs out to upset hosts
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — WBO Asia Pacific women’s superflyweight champion Jutamas Jitpong is conspicuously in the roster of Thai fighters looking to retain the overall title in boxing at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and it will be a challenge for the Philippines to sweep the 13 divisions in the competition which begins at the PICC Forum 2 tomorrow.

Thailand has six men and four women in its boxing lineup coached by Cuban Juan Fontanills. Of six events in the 2017 SEA Games, Thailand took two golds, three silvers and a bronze to capture top honors. The Philippines was second with two golds, one silver and two bronzes.

Jitpong, 21, totes a 5-2 record as a pro with two KOs. In December last year, she outpointed Fil-Am Casey Morton to claim the vacant WBO Asia Pacific women’s superflyweight crown in Yubei, China. Like Filipino Charly Suarez, Jitpong is stepping out of the pro ranks temporarily to try her luck in the SEA Games this year.

It’s not clear which division Jitpong will fight in. Thailand has two female fighters listed in the 51 kg category, Jitpong and Raksat Chuthamat. The technical meeting and draw will be held from 3 to 5 this afternoon to determine final pairings. Wayne Rose of Australia has been appointed technical delegate supervising the tournament with Karina Picson of the Philippines as competition manager designated by ABAP. Marina Ni of Kazakhstan was initially named technical delegate but begged off due to a death in the family.

Thailand’s cast is star-studded. Aside from Jitpong, Fontanills will rely on three-time SEA Games gold medalists Chatchai Butdee and Masuk Wittichai to hit paydirt. Butdee, 34, is a 2012 London Olympian and won the gold medal at the 2015 Asian Championships. Wittichai, 29, took the gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games and has swept the lightwelterweight division in the last three SEA Games. Butdee will fight in the 56 kg category and Wittichai in the 69 kg, both in the men’s class.

Others in the Thai men’s roster are flyweight Ammarit Yaodam, 27, lightweight Khunatip Pidnuch, 19, lightwelterweight Atichai Phoemsap, 19 and lightheavyweight Anavat Thongkrathok, 37. The women boxers are Jitpong, flyweight Chuthamat, 26, featherweight Techasuep Nilawan, 26 and lightweight Seesondee Sudaporn, 28. The Thais went to Kienbaum, Germany, for two training camps to prepare for the SEA Games.

Phoemsap is one of Thailand’s rising boxing stars. He was a Youth Olympic gold medalist in the 60 kg class in Buenos Aires last year. Phoemsap was named Best Boxer in the recent Thailand Open and beat hometown favorite Enrico La Cruz for the gold medal at the Eindhoven Box Cup in the Netherlands last October. Another prospect is Pidnuch, a former muay fighter who was also impressive at the Eindhoven Box Cup.

Grizzled veteran Thongkrathok lost to the Philippines’ John Marvin in the semifinals of the 81 kg division in the last SEA Games and settled for the bronze. Marvin went on to strike gold. They may wind up in a rematch in this year’s edition.

Thailand will not enter three events in boxing. It has no fighters in the 46-49 kg and 75 kg classes in men and the 48 kg class in women. That will leave the door open for Filipino fighters to take advantage. The Philippine bets who stand to gain from the Thais’ absence are lightflyweight Carlo Paalam, middleweight Eumir Marcial and women’s lightflyweight Josie Gabuco. Paalam, 21, is out for redemption as in 2017, he was the only Filipino who didn’t bag a medal.

There are 51 men and 25 women from 10 countries participating in boxing with only Brunei skipping. The Philippines is the only country fielding entries in all 13 divisions, including five women. Thailand and Vietnam will be represented by six men and four women each. Indonesia has six men and three women while Cambodia’s lineup lists six men and two women. Malaysia has five men with no woman and Timor Leste, four men with no woman.

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