ATHENS, Greece -- The moment was almost too much for Thai
boxer Manus Boonjumnong. He had just won a gold medal, and now his
country's king was on the phone to congratulate him.
Boonjumnong sobbed as he held the cell phone in one hand and a
picture of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the other. He listened for a
few minutes, so emotional that he was able to only give one-word
answers to his king.
"I fought for my king, who urged me to be strong in my final
bout," Boonjumnong said. "I dedicate the gold medal to my family
and to all the people of Thailand. And, of course, to the king of
Boonjumnong pulled the biggest upset of Saturday's five gold
medal bouts, using ring movement and speed to beat Yudel Johnson of
Cuba 17-11 in a light welterweight bout. Two other Cubans,
heavyweight Odlanier Solis and flyweight Yuriokis Gamboa, both won
their gold medal bouts.
Four more Cubans fight for gold medals Sunday when the final six
weight classes are contested. Among them is the light heavyweight
final, where American Andre Ward faces Magomed Aripgadjiev of
Boonjumnong made sure the powerful Cuban team wouldn't tie its
record of seven gold medals in Barcelona by beating Johnson in a
tactical bout that had the Cuban team and its fans upset.
The Cubans booed Boonjumnong when he took the podium to accept
his gold medal, still upset over the bout's scoring.
"The referees were not adequate," Johnson said. "They didn't
take into account many things I did, and the other fighter should
have been penalized for things he did. I believe the gold medal
should be mine."
Boonjumnong, who had urged fans back home to watch him fight on
television at his family's home to encourage the spirits of the
house to help him win, built up a lead in the early rounds and
protected it in the fourth round.
About two dozen of his countrymen cheered nearby, dressed in
costumes with their faces painted. They held pictures of the king
and tried to drown out the boos from the crowd.
"It may have looked like I was more defensive than offensive in
this fight, but that was my coach's strategy," Boonjumnong said.
"When you have a lead, you have to protect it. Some people in the
audience didn't understand the way I fought, but (the judges)
His win marked the third straight Olympics in which Thais have
Cuba came into the finals with seven boxers remaining, and
Gamboa promptly won the first Cuban gold of the games against
Jerome Thomas of France. Thomas, who captured a bronze medal in
Sydney, was aggressive but Gamboa was too fast for him inside in
Gamboa's father once tried to make the Cuban national team, and
was his son's first trainer.
"His dream was to become a member of the national boxing
team," Gamboa said. "I promised him once that I would be here and
I'm very happy I was able to keep that promise."
Solis, who replaced retired three-time Olympic champion Felix
Savon as the Cuban heavyweight, beat Viktar Zuyev of Belarus in a
lackluster 22-13 bout.
Gaydarbekov said he would likely retire after winning his gold.
"I don't like to use words like 'dreams,' because I believe
there's a destiny that awaits everybody," he said. "At the same
time, you have to seize it. Winning in the Olympic Games is a