Sudaporn faces high-stakes battle

Thai boxer Sudaporn Seesondee (left) and Great Britain’s Caroline Dubois will meet in the women’s 60kg quarter-finals on Tuesday. (Reuters photo)

Thai boxer Sudaporn Seesondee faces the fight of her life against Great Britain’s Caroline Dubois in the women’s lightweight (60kg) quarter-finals at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The Udon Thani native is Thailand’s last hope to win a medal in boxing at Tokyo 2020.

The winner in today’s bout will be assured of a podium finish and get at least a bronze medal.

Chatchai-decha Butdee and Jutamas Jitpong both lost in the quarter-finals on Sunday while Baison Maneekon suffered an early exit.

Thitisan Panmod, the other Thai boxer who qualified for Tokyo, was forced to pull out of the 2020 Olympics due to a knee injury.

Sudaporn, a silver medallist at the 2018 world championships, comfortably beat Simranjit Kaur of India 5-0 in the round of 16.

Against Dubois, it is not only the bout of Sudaporn’s career but also her life.

The 29-year-old will earn millions of baht in reward from the government and sponsors.

Under the National Sports Development’s bonus scheme, an Olympic champion will get 12 million baht, a silver winner 7.2 million baht and a bronze medallist 4.8 million baht.

Bangchak and its allies will give cash to a medal winning Thai boxer — 10 million baht for gold, three million baht for silver and two million baht for bronze.

Moreover, a semi-final spot in the Olympics will also earn her a position as a civil servant in the Royal Thai Navy.

“The stakes are high for me in the next match. A win will earn me not only a bronze but also the job in the Royal Thai Navy for which I have been waiting for 12 years,” said Sudaporn.

“I will do everything I can to make my dream come true and I hope to get support from the Thai people,” she added.

Sudaporn will also fight to save the face of the Thailand Boxing Association (TBA) which saw its athletes return home empty-handed from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Thailand have so far won only one medal by taekwondo champion Panipak Wongpattanakit.

Dubois, 20, upset 2019 world championships bronze medallist Ellis Rashida of the US with three judges seeing Dubois win and the other two scoring it a draw.

“It’s good that I don’t have to fight the American boxer. As for the British boxer, she has good straight punches. I need to be prepared for that and take the initiative,” Sudaporn said.

Dubois, the 2018 Youth Olympic and world youth champion, said she wanted an Olympic medal “more than anything I have ever wanted in my life”.

Meanwhile, Chatchai-decha said farewell to his boxing career on Monday.

Chatchai-decha, 36, narrowly lost 3-2 to Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the last eight of the men’s 57kg quarter-finals on Sunday.

The Thai announced his retirement after the defeat and reiterated that Sunday’s fight was his last in a social media post.

“My journey has reached an end,” he wrote.

“For 16 years, I was always proud to represent Thailand to fight opponents from other countries. I hope the past 16 years I made you happy more or less.”

He also apologised to his supporters for his failure to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo.