Two Thai boxers make gold medal fights

Aug. 22, 2008, 6:02 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Two veteran boxers from Thailand with entirely different Olympic experiences made the gold medal round Friday.

Manus Boonjumnong, the Athens champion who then went into debt because of reported drinking and gambling problems, beat Cuba's Roniel Iglesias in 10-5 in a light welterweight semifinal. Boonjumnong is the first Thai athlete to win medals in consecutive Olympics.

"My body is still in good condition, so I have no problems," Manus said.

Flyweight Somjit Jongjohor outpointed Vicenzo Picardi of Italy 7-1 to earn his spot in the final. Somjit is 33, five years older than Manus, and also was in Athens, where he blew a three-point lead in the final round of a preliminary bout against Cuba's Yuriorkis Gamboa and lost.

"Obviously, I got older, but I have gained more experience, technically and strategically in fighting against U.S., Russian and Cuban boxers," Somjit said.

He will face another Cuban, Andres Laffita, for the gold medal. Laffita edged Russia's Georgy Balakshin 9-8 with a last-second punch.

"The Cuban will be more difficult to beat than Picardi," Somjit said. "The thing that I will worry about the most is his counterpunch. I will have to adjust my style by not moving too fast."

Moving too fast was one of Manus' downfalls away from the ring. After winning in 2004, he received a call from the King of Thailand on a mobile phone, then received a $600,000 bonus for his victory. But Manus dived too heavily into the nightlife and only began his comeback after asking his nation's first Olympic boxing champion, Somluck Kamsing, to become his trainer.

His unorthodox style befuddled Iglesias, who complained vigorously about the loss - and about the Thai's showboating.

"He is experienced but not good," Iglesias said. "He doesn't know anything about fair play. The spectators saw that, but not the judges and that's the only thing that matters."

Iglesias delivered a severe head butt midway through the third round and was penalized a point. By then, Manus was well ahead.

"Clearly, it was very ugly behavior," Manus said. "It was very dangerous and it could have ended the fight."

It didn't, and he moved on to a shot for a second straight gold.

"I will fight to the death," he said. "I will give my life in the ring. I will try to get another medal for the king."