By The Nation
The Thai boxing team has failed to deliver goods of late, with light welterweight Wuttichai Masuk the sole fighter to claim a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and the 28th SEA Games in Singapore last year.
The Kingdom’s failure to win any medal at the Rio Olympic Games earlier this year further emphasised the conviction that the team was unlikely to emerge from its long slump any time soon. Stung by the setbacks, the association again turned to Cuba, a country widely regarded as the sport’s powerhouse, for a coach who can reverse the team’s fortunes.
Experienced Julian Gonzalez, who is no stranger to Asian boxing after his previous two stints with Pakistan, arrived in the capital yesterday along with his two assistants and was welcomed by TBA president Pichai Chunhavajira at the Suvarnabhumi airport.
The Cuban coach, however, has big shoes to fill. The country has enjoyed remarkable success under his compatriot Juan Fontanils, who helped Somluck Kamsing win the country’s maiden Olympic gold medal at Atlanta in 1996.
“This time we scoured all over the world for a good coach to develop our youngsters. We need to have a good coach to produce good fighters. The job not only entails looking after our athletes but also leading us to a bright future.
“He will also help us produce good coaches by holding coaching clinics. We’ve prepared a detailed plan and discuss with him later.
“We initially gave him a one-year contract and he doesn’t mind to sign a contract extension on a yearly basis. If it works out well, we hope to continue working with him,” Pichai said.
Gonzalez said he looked forward to smoothening the rough edges of the Thai boxers rather than changing the way they box.
“No change would be made in the way the athletes box because it’s the identity of Thai fighters. We look to make them stronger physically. I don’t have any concern to work here.
“Actually, there were many countries that wanted me. However, I came here because of our good relationship. I’m confident that I could help the country achieve better results in future, especially at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo,” said the Cuba