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Iraq's Boxing Team Begins Training for 2004 Olympics


Hilla, Babil Province, Iraq.  The Iraqi Boxing Team arrived in Hilla on Friday, 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 will fight for love of the sport. 


The Iraqi Boxing Team includes 22 fighters and 4 Iraqi coaches.  The boxers are divided into eleven weight divisions.  The Iraqi Boxing Federation chose the best fighters and coaches from all over Iraq.  The team will train 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.


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.    Therkum Niye, one of the boxers, explained:


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


The Iraqi Boxing Team will have their first opportunity to qualify for the 2004 Olympics when they travel to Manila in January.  Subsequent qualifying matches will be held during March in China and during April in Pakistan. 


The Coalition Provisional Authority is providing equipment and other resources for the boxing team.  Local Iraqi women will assist 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 forward toward democracy and a sovereign government.



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