Atkinson remembers good times
Coach looks back at past glories
Whenthe late Sahasombhop Srisomvongse decided to engage England’s Charles Atkinson as a boxing expert and coach for his fighters at the Chitalada Gymnasium many boxing experts in the country — obviously jealous that a foreigner was being employed — spread all sorts of canards.
They induced fighters to rebel against the British coach and tried their best to oppose the move. This scribe was present when a senior promoter, who is no more with us, ridiculed the late Sahasombhop claiming that he was building castles in the air.
But Sahasombhop had implicit faith in Atkinson and entrusted him with the task of transforming his boxers into champions.
Thailand had no world champions then. The last two title-holders, Saensak Muangsurin and the late Netrnoi Sor Vorasing were beaten and there were none on the horizon who were capable of winning titles. Atkinson began scouting for talent. Meanwhile Sahasombhop, along with this scribe, invited WBC president Dr. Jose Sulaiman to to Thailand to open the doors for Thai boxers to earn world rankings and to bid for titles.
That’s how the Kingdom was able to create 10 world champions and 10 holders of the international bauble.
Atkinson sacrificed a lot. He received little for his services to boxing and the country but did his best for the Kingdom.
He loved his work and was happy with his charges despite the fact that he was being pin-pricked at every turn by jealous local coaches.
Like American coach Joe Clough, who transformed sluggers into boxers and boxerpunchers, he taught that boxing was a noble art of self-defence. That is how the Kingdom was able to produce some outstanding boxers, notable among them was Sot Chitalada, who was known as the Muhammad Ali of the East, Samart Payakarun who Charles still claimed could have beaten Hector Camacho at his best. He knocked out Lupe Pintor to win the super-bantamweight title.
The Japanese laughed at Napa Kiatwanchai when he went to the Land of the Rising Sun to challenge a well-trained Hiroki Ioka for the world strawweight title. The titlefight was held three times to ensure that the Thai was indeed the winner.
Charles believes Sirimongkol Singmanassuk is easily one of the best fighters the country has produced, but has not been managed properly.
He was sad to hear that Sirimongkol had to reduce many pounds in order to fight an opponent at super-featherweight for a few thousand baht and then go into K1-fighting in order to earn money.
These are unhappy issues which could have been easily avoided if the late Sahasombhop was alive. Atkinson said he would have never allowed such abuses to take place.
Charles is today a boxing consultant and is training young coaches in England. The World Boxing Council is planning to start an office in England and he plans, along with manager-promoter Gus Robinson, to help build the sport in Britain.
His advice to Thailand, a country which he loves, is to stop boxers from canning their weights and reducing extra pounds and ounces drastically.
There are many abuses they go through in order to make weight as a result they cause tremendous damage to their bodies. Many of them will look old long before their age and don’t enter the ring for fights with their full strength. This is the biggest problem facing Thailand.
Promoters should allow their fighters to go up in weight, instead of canning their fighters and making them defend titles in the same weight. This is the biggest problem which hurts boxing in the Kingdom, he added.
England's Charles Atkinson and Sot Chitalada.