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Nongmai goes down fighting : On November 8, 2005

Nongmai Sor Siriporn lost her bid to become the first prison inmate to win a world boxing title yesterday _ but she's determined to continue her ring career.

Nongmai, whose real name is Wannee Chaisena, lost an action-packed bout against Nanako Kikuchi of Japan for the World Boxing Council strawweight crown at Klong Luang prison in Pathum Thani.

The referee stopped the contest in the seventh round because the Thai was defenceless after absorbing a barrage of punches from the Japanese contender.

It is the first time a world boxing championship has been decided in a prison. The fight drew scores of foreign journalists and tourists, particularly Japanese.

"I will keep on fighting if I get proper support. I want another shot at the world title. I want a rematch," said Nongmai, 27. "I did not expect to win the fight but I gave my all and did the best I could.

"She was better and stronger. Her right was hard. This was only my first professional fight. I need more experience to become a better boxer."

Nongmai, ranked third by the WBC, has 14 months left of her four-year jail term for drug offences. She had previously fought in only five three-round amateur bouts, with a 4-1 record, although she did have 15 Muay Thai fights, winning 10.

Yesterday was her first 10-round match.

Kikuchi, known as "Little Big Girl", was drafted in to replace American Carina Moreno who withdrew last week for medical reasons. Although ranked eighth in the 105-pound division, the 30-year-old Japanese was superior from the start.

Kikuchi, who is now 6-1-1, was faster, more skilful and more aggressive, punishing Nongmai with accurate, hard punches.

At times, Nongmai, who is dubbed "Genius Girl", managed to trouble Kikuchi with her left. But she appeared exhausted after just a few rounds.

Kikuchi, an amateur photographer before turning professional boxer, almost knocked out Nongmai in the fourth round. She was saved by the bell.

The end came in the seventh when Kikuchi came out with guns blazing, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

For Nongmai it was still the biggest pay-day of her life, receiving 20,000 baht.

Corrections Department chief Nathee Chitsawang was full of praise. "Well done. We will continue to give you support," he told Nongmai after the fight.

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