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Sunday, December 28, 2003
Hilary White (781-276-9631)



Iraq's Boxing Departs for Olympic Qualifiers


Hilla, Babil Province, IraqThe Iraqi Boxing Team held their last day of training on Sunday, December 28, before departing for the Philippines to participate in the first round of Olympic qualifiers.  


On the way to the Philippines, the Iraqi Boxing Team will stop in Kuwait for a Boxing Exhibition.  Subsequent Olympic qualifying matches will be held during March in China and during April in Pakistan. 


The Iraqi Boxing Team arrived in Hilla on November 7, 2003, to begin training to qualify for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.  Under the former regime, the Iraqi Boxing Team fought out of fear…now they fight for love of the sport.  The Iraqi Boxing Team includes more than 20 fighters and 4 Iraqi coaches.  The Iraqi Boxing Federation chose the best fighters and coaches from all over Iraq.  The team trains with former American fighter, Termite Watkins, who also qualified for the 1976 Olympics.  When asked about their chances, Termite, a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority, answered:


"What they need most is someone who believes in them.  I believe in them, and this country believes in them.  I'm chasing a dream, they're chasing a dream, and this country is chasing a dream."


"I believe in my guys, their dreams are my dreams."


The Iraqi Boxing Team adopted Iraq is Back as its motivational theme that will carry them from hard work and perseverance to the 2004 Olympics.  Though the team has a short time to prepare for the qualifiers, they remain enthusiastically determined to represent a free Iraq in the next Olympics.  One of the boxers, explained:


"The most important thing is to raise the Iraqi flag and put the name of Iraq
 on the board."


Using seized funds from the former regime, the Coalition Provisional Authority has provided equipment and other resources for the boxing team.  The boxing team now has two boxing rings, and the players have shoes, head gear, gloves, and other essential clothing.  Local Iraqi women are assisting as well.  The Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights signed its very first catering contract – providing healthy food for the boxers daily.


Iraqis can take pride in their boxing team.  The Iraqi Boxing Team represents a people proud of their national identity and a country returning to normal as it moves toward democracy and a sovereign government.



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