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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kickboxing battered by bribery and fight fixing

Kickboxing battered by bribery and fight fixing

Coaches and kickboxing federation officials are concerned that this week's National

Kickboxing Championships will be marred by betting, bribery and fight-fixing, and

that corruption will destroy the reputation of Cambodia's most popular sport.

Mel Kado, secretary general of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation, said about

850 boxers across the country will participate in the 2006 National Boxing Championships

from October 20 to November 1.

Chhit Sarim, manager of Royal Armed Forces, Phnom Penh's most popular boxing club,

said it is hard to control the boxers from his club when they compete in big events

because gamblers pay them to lose on purpose or to pretend to faint during the fight.

"The money they can earn from bribes can help them survive for a short time,

but they will lose their reputation and will not get support from the spectators

any more," Sarim said. "Poor living conditions encourage the boxers to

break the boxing regulations."

Troeung Sosay, master of Military Police Club, acknowledged that during the tournament

there will be plenty of wagering, but said fighters would not allow corruption to

influence important matches because it would jeopardize their careers.

"I realized that there is corruption in the boxing but it is not as big as the

corruption in the courts," said Meas Sokry, master of Interior Ministry Club.

"The corruption in boxing is just [to fill one's] stomach, but corruption in

court is for becoming rich."

Sokry, who is also chief of the referee committee and an executive member of the

federation, said most spectators bet money during the fights and some even gamble

on kickboxing as a career. These professional gamblers, he said, are the people who

bribe and conspire with the boxers to throw fights.

"I support the spectators who give some money to the boxers for incentive, but

I'm not happy with spectators who bribe boxers to pretend to fight and lose,"

Sokry said. "This kind of involvement will not help to develop boxing, and it

will destroy the boxers."

Sokry admitted that several of his students previously received money from spectators

to lose fights on purpose. But after he realized what was happening, he began punishing

fighters with suspensions ranging from three to six months, depending on the severity

of their involvement.

"Not only my club, but others also have had the same scandal," Sokry said.

"The boxers will lose their reputations if the viewers continue betting during

boxing matches."

Chey Kosal, 25, a boxer at Military Police Club, has competed on the national stage

more than 200 times. He told the Post that in the past he had been promised as much

as $1,000 if he pretended to faint in the ring.

"I refused to receive the money because I like my honor," Kosal said at

his training club in National Military Police Headquarters.

Two television stations, TV5 and Cambodian Television Network (CTN), organize boxing

programs for two days every weekend. Roughly 60 boxers are chosen to appear on the

program each week and thousands of fans watch at the station's arenas.

Seng Kadeka, TV5 boxing organizer and promoter, said he has warned fighters many

times not to become involved with gamblers or violate boxing regulations.

"Many boxers were stopped from fighting in our program because of the bribery,"

Kadeka said. "I think we pay the boxers appropriately, but they continue to

get bribes from outside sources because it's double the amount they get from the

organizers. It depends on the boxers themselves."

Kado said the purpose of the federation's televised boxing is not for betting, but

for the development of the Khmer traditional martial art. He said it is aimed at

preservation and entertainment."

"We organize boxing programs not to encourage the viewers to bet but to promote

and preserve our boxing tradition," Kado said. "We have internal regulations

in the federation so we don't care about betting outside the ring."

Kado said there are more than 1,000 competitors in Khmer traditional kickboxing and

nearly a hundred boxing clubs. According to Kado, the number of boxers and clubs

is increasing every year, especially in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey

and Kandal provinces.

He said Khmer traditional kickboxing is carved on the wall of the Angkor temples,

proving that it has ancient beginnings. But, he added, the sport disappeared during

the Khmer Rouge period and was only reborn after 1979. It gained popularity among

viewers in the mid-1990s. If other television stations set up boxing programs it

will provide more opportunities for boxers to showcase their fighting skills.

Koy Kam, 28, who bets on boxing every week at the café shop in Muk Kampol

district of Kandal province, said most of the viewers come to watch boxing not only

for entertainment, but also for gambling.

"Just watching without betting money is not as much fun. If your fighter is

beating his opponent, you're going to cheer harder," Kam said. "Sometimes

I win and sometimes I lose. From my observation, I think bribery is very rare at

the moment."

Bun Sok, secretary of state at Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, said the ministry

has advised the federation and kickboxing masters many times to strengthen their

guidelines so boxers won't commit corruption and diminish the development of the

sport.

"We don't want to hear about this kind of problem happening," Sok said.

"We never see them [boxers] get bribes directly. It is the responsibility of

the federation to inspect this matter."

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