BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand are optimistic of collecting at least two Asian Games boxing gold medals next month and believe the decision by the sport's governing body to ditch headguards will give them an edge in South Korea.
The International Amateur Boxing Association opted to remove headgear in men's bouts last year with many fighters getting their first chance to box without them at the Sept 19-Oct. 4 Games in Incehon.
Thailand Boxing Association head Pichai Chunhavajira said the move will aid his team of seven male fighters in South Korea, with all having grown up practicing other combat sports, like Muay Thai, without using headgear.
"The lack of headguards gives us the edge," Pichai told the Nation newspaper on Saturday.
A change in scoring will also favor the Thais, Pichai said, adding he thought bouts would be more exciting.
"In the past we have rarely seen knockouts but with the new rules there will likely be KO's after a few rounds," he added.
"If they can make it clear they are better right from start, then it's very unlikely that the judging will go against them. But at the end of the day, you have to be really good to win."
Pichai has high hopes for light welterweight Wuttichai Masuk, flyweight Chatchai Butdee, light heavyweight Anawat Thongkratok and welterweight Sailom Adi.
Wuttichai looks most likely to deliver having beaten Cuban world number one Luis Oliva in the final of the AIBA's President's Cup in June. The 64 kilogram fighter also beat home favorite Almasbek Alibekov en route to victory in Almaty.
"Judging from recent results, we have boxers who are potential Asian Games gold medalists," Pichai said.
"Wuttichai in particular won the President's Cup. It's not easy to beat a home fighter in a boxing powerhouse like Kazakhstan.
"We also have Sailom, Anawat and Chatchai, who have Olympic experience. These boxers have been in good form and have a good draw. They are capable of producing gold-medal-winning performances."
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty