Vol. VIII No. 36 - Tuesday
September 8 - September 14, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Pongsaklek stops Masuda in sixth round to retain WBC title

Prayad nominated for Asian team’s defense of Royal Trophy

Ex-champ Safin bows out of last US Open in round 1

Pongsaklek stops Masuda in sixth round to retain WBC title

Supoj Thiamyoj
The Toyota Muay Thai Marathon and a WBC title fight took place a week last Friday, Aug. 28, on a temporary stage at Kad Cherng Doi in front of an audience of approximately 10,000 boxing fans and millions more watching on national TV.
The event’s most important fight was between Pongsaklek Kratingdaeng Gym, the interim WBC flyweight champion from Thailand, and Takahisa Masuda, the challenger from Japan.
Despite being the shorter man, the 32-year-old Ponsaklek used his extensive experience, strength, energy and speed to give the tall Japanese challenger a tough lesson in what was, for the fans at least, a rather disappointingly one-sided contest.
The fight very nearly came to a premature end in the second round when the Japanese boxer was knocked down by a strong right hand from the man who hails from Buayai district in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Pongsaklek Kratingdaeng Gym (white shorts) takes on Japanese challenger Takahisa Masuda in front of a packed crowd at Kad Cherng Doi, Chiang Mai, August 28.

Matsuda beat the count but only lasted until the sixth round when he was subjected to a further flurry of punches from the Thai champ and Australian referee Brad Vocale stepped in to stop the fight after 1.06 second of the round for a TKO decision.
This was Pongsaklek‘s first defence of the interim belt since winning the title in April of this year against Mexico’s Julio Cesar Miranda.
Ponsaklek’s promoter, Wirat Wachirarattanawong, said that the current WBC flyweight champion Naito Daisuke of Japan is due to fight with another challenger before making a rematch between him and Pongsaklek at the beginning of 2010. In the meantime Pongsaklek will be matched with another opponent to keep him ring sharp for another crack at the world title.
The Muay Thai Marathon, which ran around the Ponsaklek fight, featured 8 Thai boxers and offered a much more competitive edge to the event. Each contest was fought out over three 3 minute rounds with the winners going through to the semi-finals and then the final, with a first prize of 300,000 baht being provided by sponsors Toyota.
Among the eight contenders were two orthodox professional boxers, Wanheng Menayothin and Pornsawan Por Pramook who were both drawn to meet each other in the first quarter-final. Wanheng, took that one with a points win in what was a good contest and then went on to win his semi-final.
In the other half of the draw, traditional Muay Thai fighter Petchsurat Sor Yupinda won both his bouts to set up an intriguing final with Wanheng. The Muay Thai fighters then took a break while the Ponsaklek fight took place and when that concluded, Wanheng and Petchsurat came out to do battle with Wanheng triumphing with a well-earned points victory to pocket the 300,000 baht. Petchsurat meanwhile picked up 200,000 baht as consolation.
All in all the boxing contest was a great success and provided a real shot in the arm to Chiang Mai’s embattled tourism industry. Although the main fight was a little one-sided, the format for the Muay Thai competition was a novel way to keep the fans interested and there was little in the way of overly long sponsors’ messages to disrupt the action.
The boxing fans in attendance will be hoping for more top class boxing events to be featured in Chiang Mai in the future.

Prayad nominated for Asian team’s defense of Royal Trophy

Thai golfing hero Prayad Marksaeng is the first player selected by Asian Team Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki for the fourth edition of the Royal Trophy to take place on January 8-10, 2010 at the exclusive Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand. Ozaki’s selection of the forty-three year old Thai is the first step in the Japanese golfing giant’s construction of an Asian Team which will defend the Royal Trophy against what is certain to be a determined European challenge.

Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng is the first golfer to be named in the Asian Team for the defence of the Royal Trophy in 2010. (AP Photo/file)

The appointment is surely very well deserved as Marksaeng registered his best career season in 2008 with three Japan Tour victories including the prestigious Dunlop Phoenix Tournament and was arguably the best performer for the Asian Team at the Royal Trophy 2009, delivering a ‘perfect record’ of three victories out of three matches against the Europeans.
“I am delighted to be selected by Captain Ozaki to represent Asia at the fourth edition of the Royal Trophy. Defeating the Europeans on Thai soil and securing the Royal Trophy for Asia for the first time ever was extremely special. It was definitely one of the greatest achievements of my career,” said Marksaeng, the winner of over ten professional career titles.
The 2007 Asian Masters winner added, “The atmosphere at the Royal Trophy was fantastic. Thongchai (Jaidee) and I were followed by huge galleries of Thai and Asian fans throughout the matches and we really appreciated their support. It was a fantastic feeling to be cheered on by such huge numbers of fans, to win both the foursomes and four-ball matches and then to play some of my best golf to beat Pablo (Larrazabal) on the final day of singles.”
Ozaki, the mastermind of the Asian Team said, “Prayed is my first nomination for our team and I am committed to continue to work diligently in bringing together a formidable Asian team. The Europeans will certainly be very determined to defeat us next time but we will be ready for the challenge. We are looking forward to battling it out with them in Thailand.”

Ex-champ Safin bows out of last US Open in round 1

Howard Fendrich
New York (AP) - Marat Safin strutted off the Grand Slam stage with little of the sound or fury that accompanied so much of his combustible career.
No post-match pomp-and-circumstance for the two-time major champion and former No. 1-ranked player. No on-court interview. No bow to the crowd. And for the record: No broken rackets.

Marat Safin of Russia waves to the crowd after his loss to Jurgen Meltzer of Austria during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

When Safin finished losing meekly to Jurgen Melzer of Austria in a fairly uneventful 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 first-round exit at the U.S. Open last week, the big Russian simply collected his things and strode away with a quick wave.
Looking for some sentimentality? Not even a trace.
“It’s OK. It’s the end. So, just, it’s the last one. Could have been better ending, but still OK,” Safin said. “I don’t care about losses anymore.”
The 29-year-old Safin is retiring at the end of the season, so this trip to Flushing Meadows marked his last Grand Slam tournament. It’s a fitting site for his finale: Safin burst onto the scene by upsetting Pete Sampras to win the 2000 U.S. Open.
He called that victory “just a miracle for me.”
“I really didn’t believe I could get anywhere closer to the final of a Grand Slam. And then, after beating Sampras, I never really understood what happened,” Safin said. “It was difficult, because I was 20 years old. I wasn’t ready for this, so it’s really difficult to understand it. ... I wasn’t prepared.”
Safin certainly gained a reputation for enjoying his status as a well-paid and popular sports star. Some say he frittered away the talent for powerful serves and ground strokes, the tremendous court coverage.
He reached No. 1 in November 2000, before injuries and other issues dropped him from the top rather swiftly. Safin lost two major finals before adding a second Grand Slam title at the 2005 Australian Open.
But that would be it. He would never win another title of any sort, major or otherwise.
“To win two Grand Slams - you have to really appreciate that and give him credit for that. Of course, he had the talent to probably win five or six. ... I guess he’s happy - I would be happy if I had a career like that,” said Melzer, a 28-year-old who has never passed the third round at a major.
Apparently, Safin is, too, noting more than once last Wednesday that he has no regrets.
His career is fizzling out, with a 12-18 win-loss record in 2009, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon in June.
And his departure deprives tennis of one its more outlandish and outspoken stars.
As Melzer put it: “I don’t watch a lot of tennis; I have a lot of tennis in my life. But when Marat played, I sat down and watched, because it was something you don’t see from the other players.”
That’s for sure. This is a guy, after all, who once celebrated a great shot at the French Open by grabbing his white shorts and tugging them down to his thighs.
Safin was penalized a point for that - he was also docked $500 for throwing a racket in the same match - then later ranted: “All of the people who run the sport, they have no clue. It’s a pity that the tennis is really going down the drain. ... They do everything possible to, you know, just to take away the entertainment - ‘You’re not allowed to do that. You’re not allowed to do this.’”
He’s complained about the high price and low quality of the food in the players’ restaurant at Wimbledon. And the list goes on and on and on.
As much of a talker as he is, Safin grew weary this year of speaking about his retirement. Not exactly the type for a farewell tour.
“It’s too many questions about what I’m going to do, why I’m retiring, and this and that. So I answer the same question, I don’t know, a thousand times. Just go on Google, and you have the same answer,” he said last Wednesday. “But it’s OK. Few tournaments to go, so I can manage.”
The plan is to wrap things up at the Paris Masters in November. As for what comes after that, Safin won’t say - other than that he wants to get away from the world of tennis.
No TV job for him.
“I’m different than another person who wants to lay back and do nothing for the rest of the life and talk nonsense on ESPN, talk about my match against Sampras,” Safin said. “I will not do that. I want to achieve something else.”
When asked about being the opponent in Safin’s Grand Slam goodbye, Melzer used the phrase, “if he really retires.”
Why the word “if”?
“With Marat,” Melzer said, “you never know.”

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