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Boxing | Amateur

Manus Boonjumnong © Gallo Images

Reformed Manus to turn pro



Former Olympic Games champion Manus Boonjumnong won’t be competing in London this year.

Instead, he wants to clean up his bad-boy image, turn professional and fight Manny Pacquiao.

The Thai fighter, known for his party lifestyle and love of gambling and girls, says he has lost sight of his Olympic dream after bitter rows with his coaches, as well as media reports about his antics.

"I'm sorry for all Thais who want me to fight but I can't go to the Olympics and fight without spirit," Manus said in Bangkok this week.

"It's regrettable, but sometimes, when an athlete does not have the heart, he'll be depressed and there will be no success. So I've decided to quit amateur boxing with honour. Whether right or wrong, it's my decision."

Manus, 31, shot to fame in 2004 when he won the light-welterweight gold medal in Athens. He broke down in tears when he received a congratulatory phone call from Thailand's king Bhumibol Adulyadej.

However, after lavish celebrations, he gained a reputation for being an ill-disciplined playboy, squandering much of the $600 000 (about R4.56 million) his gold medal had earned him on drinking, betting on soccer, and entertaining women.

Boxing officials worked hard to straighten Manus out by sending him to train at a boot camp in Cuba without money or credit cards, then persuading him to become a Buddhist monk for a few weeks.

SPECTACULAR REBIRTH

Manus enjoyed a spectacular rebirth, at least for a while. He won gold at the 2006 Asian Games and followed up with a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he lost to Dominican Felix Diaz after breezing through earlier rounds.

Now, he says his delinquent days are over.

He no longer drinks alcohol, plans to marry his long-time girlfriend and open a humble grocery business in northern Thailand.

He wants to invest his earnings from his Olympic medal. These are paid to him in monthly instalments to stop him from going off the rails.

"I've quit everything," said Manus, accompanied by his bespectacled girlfriend. He wears a polo shirt with a bunny logo on the chest and the word "Playboy" across the back.

"I just want a normal life."

But the former kickboxer, whose speed, agility and showman antics have won him many admirers, will delay his retirement from the ring a little longer to pursue a new dream.

He plans to turn professional in the United States and has his sights set on a date with Pacquiao, who is widely regarded as the world's best boxer and has won titles in eight weight divisions.

"Just wait and see, in the next few months, you'll see me turn pro," said Manus, who will have to shed some of his 75kg to compete in his preferred super-welterweight (66.7 to 69.9 kg) division.

"My target is Pacquiao, and I want someone to set that up for me," he said.



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