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Boxing unites war-ravaged Iraq

Jul 16, 2008 10:19 PM IST India India

Baghdad: The Olympics are the ideal platform for countries ravaged by war to find some reason for cheer. In Iraq, the country is now looking at their boxers, as a symbol for national reconciliation.

Ali Abdul Hassan is Iraq's welterweight champion and Farouq Chanchoun is the country's national boxing coach. Chanchoun, 53, is a former Olympic athlete and bronze medal winner at the 1981 World Cup.

For years the legendary Adamiyah Boxing Gym was shut as violence raged in the streets of Baghdad.

But now the club is back in business.

Farouq says though the neighborhood is almost 100 per cent Sunni, his doors are open to anyone who's serious about boxing.

"We have Sunni and Shia here. It doesn't matter where they are from," he says.

Chanchoun believes this is where Iraqi national reconciliation happens and where kids learn to respect each other to fight with their fists - not with guns and - to pursue their dreams.

"Someday," Ali says, "I hope I can fight in world championships and win gold and silver medals."

So the kids are not just fighting the punching bag. They're fighting for their country's future.