MANILA, January 8, 2004  (STAR) Kazakhstan, a world boxing power, Korea, Sri Lanka and Qatar arrived recently to compete for slots in the 22nd Asian Olympic Boxing qualifying on Jan. 10-18 at the Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

"The arrival of the Kazakhs means one thing: the qualifying is going to be a world-class event," said ABAP president Manny Lopez.

"I’m sure Kazakhstan is fielding a very tough team in the tournament."

Twenty-four slots to the Athens Olympics are up for grabs in the Puerto Princesa event. Thirty-eight more slots will be contested in two more qualifiers slated later this year in China and Pakistan.

Iraq, which is rebuilding after a devastating war, was the first to arrive last Jan. 2. The Iraqis, who will be coached by American Maurice Watkins, are carrying the slogan "Iraq is Back."

The tournament, easily the country’s biggest, is sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, Accel, Revicon and Pacific Heights. It will be televised over NBN 4.

Palawan, known for its unspoiled natural beauty, and the progressive city of Puerto Princesa City are hosting the event.

Kazakhstan became the toast of the boxing world when it won two gold and two silver medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Palawan Gov Joel T. Reyes and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, who are joining forces to make the event a success, expressed elation on the arrival of the Kazakhs.

"Our local bets will have a very stern test," said the political leaders." The tournament is truly going to be very memorable."

Another group of Kazakh fighters will arrive on Jan. 10 along with the teams from Japan, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Turkmenistan. A second group of Korean bets will also come.

In the initial lineup submitted to the ABAP, the Kazakhstan team includes: Zhumabekov Zhandoz, Abutalipov Kanat, Serikbayev Berik, Behafarov Galib, Brakbayev Kanat, Artayev Bakhthar, Golovkin Gennadi, Shumenov Beibut, Storozhuk Pavel and Dildabekov Mahktarkhan.

Coaching the team is Ibraimov Yermakhan and Alexander Apachinski. Light-middleweight Yermakhov Ibraimov and featherweight Bekzat Sattarkharov became modern-day heroes for Kazakhstan when they won the golds in their respective divisions in Sydney. Both also pocketed won $100,000 each as government incentives.

Dildadekov lost to Britain’s Audley Harrison in their superheavyweight class and settled for the silver, same with flyweight Bulat Jumailov. Ibraimov beat Romanian favorite Marin Simion, 25-23, while Sattarkharov frustrated US bid for its lone Olympic gold when he whipped world champion Ricardo Suarez, 22-14, a decision loudly protested by the American camp.

"No doubt about it, Kazakhstan should rank among the favorites in the event," said Lopez."Fans will have the time of their lives watching the Kazakhs."

The Koreans are composed of Gu Seung-Heok, Kim Ki-Suk, Kim Won-Il, Jo Seok-Hwan, Baik Jong-Su, Cha Jae-Kwang, Kim Jung-Jo, Cho Duk- Jin, Song Hak-Sung, Park Sung-Kung and Lee Tae-Tyung.

Coaching the team is Oh in-Suk.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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