The boxing competition at the biggest ever Arafura Games in Darwin, in the Northern territory of Australia, started yesterday, with most of the Oceanian nations and the Southeast Asian countries plus India taking part.
The Arafura Games is a multiple sport event held every two years in Darwin since 1991 and next to boxing 18 other sports are included on the program. The Games take their name from the Arafura Sea and are billed as a "Meeting of Sporting Neighbours". The men's and women's boxing event of the Arafura Games will be held at the Marrara Sports Complex from May 9.
Women's boxing is also very popular in this region and altogether 49 women fighters will be competing in nine weight divisions from 48 up to 81kg in Darwin. Most of these boxers' main target is to reach the 2012 London Olympic Games where three athletes will be able to represent the Oceanian Boxing Confederation.
Local boxers from each region of Australia including Tasmania and the Northern Territory will be taking part with the biggest delegation at the Arafura Games. Queensland-based Youth Olympic Games winner Damien Hooper is also part of the strong male team while the best Australian female athletes, excluding Turkish Prime Ministry Tournament winner Claire Ghabrial, will face their powerful Oceanian and Indian opponents at the Games.
New Zealand's big gun in the team will be Youth Olympic Games silver medalist 19-year-old Joseph Parker who also took a silver at the Commonwealth Championships last year. Next to the giant Kiwi boxer, talented young heavyweight boxer Tino Honey and the strong women's team will be participating in Darwin.
India missed the last edition of the Games but has now entered its Haryana region's men and women boxers in the competition. Olympic Games bronze medalist and Asian Games winner Vijender Singh and Beijing Olympics quarterfinalist Akhil Kumar will be competing in the men's competition, while newly crowned Indian National Games winners Pinki Jangra and Meena Rani are gold medal contenders in the women's competition.
Papua New Guinea has a great tradition at the Arafura Games boxing tournament and before the final deadline they confirmed their participation with a huge team in Darwin. After 2007 and 2009, strong female fighters have been selected by PNG's National Team Coach John Avira for the event.
Indonesia have been preparing with full speed for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games because the huge country will be the host of the next edition in December and its main goal is to surpass its gold medal tally from previous years. They are sending strong men's and women's boxers from Maluku Island and the Western Papua region, including National Women Champions such as Selly Wanimbo and 20-year-old Welmi Pariama.
Malaysia's best men's boxers also have great expectations at the Games, including light flyweight titleholder 20-year-old Mohamed Fuad Mohamed Redzuan, Asian Junior Championships bronze medalist Mohamed Farkhan Bin Haron and National Games winner Mohamed Fairus Azwan Bin Abdullah.
For the very first time in the Games' history the former Portuguese territory Macau will be competing with its small boxing team with two female competitors and one male athlete who will be Chong Chi Veng in the light flyweight class, who is preparing for the upcoming Asian Youth Championships.
French Polynesia's team includes Pacific Games winner 25-year-old Emilton Manahora, who will be boxing at heavyweight in Darwin from May 9 while Singapore, American Samoa, Nauru and New Caledonia are also there.
The Arafura Games will be a good preparation for the organizers because the Oceanian Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament is scheduled to be staged in Darwin next year and this will be the first event where athletes will be able to take Olympic quotas in the Northern Territory of Australia.
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