Boxing: Olympic dream uncertain for Thai boxer after virus knocks out plans

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Five days a week for four hours a day, Thai boxer Chatchai-decha Butdee continues to train as best he can for the Tokyo Olympics, now postponed until at least 2021 because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

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Chatchai-decha, a four-time Southeast Asia Games champion, hopes his third Olympic Games can bring a career-capping medal in the featherweight division, after he was defeated in early rounds in 2012 and 2016.

But at age 35, he is afraid the delayed Tokyo Olympics may mean he could pass his prime fighting days before the Games can be held.

“I originally planned to end my career after this year’s Olympic Games as I’m getting older,” Chatchai-decha told Reuters.

“If the Olympics have to be postponed for another two to three years, I would just give up my place in the Games.”

For now, he remains on a strict training schedule with the 2021 event in sight.

With Bangkok’s boxing gyms closed for safety reasons, he has to make do with what he has. He runs 5 kilometres, swings weights in a narrow alley near his home and shadow boxes in car parks.

“I was a bit frustrated, because according to the plan laid out by the Thai Boxing Federation, I am supposed to be in France right now, gathering (boxing) experience and studying my opponents. But now that things have changed, we’re back to square one,” said Chatchai-decha.

Chatchai-decha began boxing at the age of 8, his professional years since 2000. He won bronze in the flyweight division at the 2013 world championships in Almaty.

The Olympic Games, originally set to start in July this year, have been rescheduled for 2021, to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8.

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said in an interview published on Tuesday that the Games would be “scrapped” if they could not take place in the next year.

Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Christian Radnedge