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01 Oct 2000
Sydney 2000

Thai hero Ponlid makes surprise run to flyweight title

The flyweight gold seemed destined for Kazakhstan's Bulat Jumadilov. A silver medallist four years earlier in Atlanta, Jumadilov had taken bronze at the 1997 World Championships and then won the world title two years later. He was consistent, experienced, skilled and tough – a winning formula. In Sydney, he enjoyed a good run to the final, with his closest bout coming against France's Jérôme Thomas in the semi-final. Thomas had a left arm that was 7cm shorter than his right, a mismatch that often troubled opponents. Jumadilov, though, came through 22-16.

However, his opponent in the final, Thailand's Wijan Ponlid, was an unknown quantity. The southpaw had caused a few surprises when he won his opening bout, against Germany's Vardan Zakarjan. Yet that was followed by another victory and then with a well-deserved, points win over the former world champion Manuel Mantilla of Cuba, in the quarter-finals.

His success in Sydney caused massive waves back in Thailand. An important political debate was even suspended so senators could watch his next fight and their support was rewarded with a 14-11 victory. A procession went from his home village to a shrine to seek a blessing for him while Thais waited for every bit of news about his fitness. Jumadilov was the overwhelming favourite, but few could argue that Ponlid didn't have momentum on his side.

The Thai boxer took an early 4-1 lead from the first round, resisted a fight-back from Jumadilov and finished the contest with an emphatic 19-12 victory. He celebrated by holding up a photograph of the King of Thailand and returned home a national hero.

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