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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - TKO'd by the referee's decision

TKO'd by the referee's decision

"YOU have completely and exactly won," Cambodian boxer Va Dararith's Korean coach told him before the last round, "don't attack so hard or you'll fall down or have an accident."

Dararith, 23 (pictured right), says he felt strong, traded a couple of punches with his Malaysian opponent - then listened with amazement as the final verdict went in a one-point decision against him.

Dararith won the bronze medal that was guaranteed him before the competition, but the crowd bayed it's disapproval at the result.

The Malaysian boxer's coach - who had already congratulated Dararith's coach as being the victor before the final round - was bewildered, Cambodian mission chief So Samuth said.

The Cambodian team protested the decision, which cost them $100, but the result was not changed.

The Indonesian boxing coach told Samuth that at the next SEA Games in Indonesia "we will get back at the Thais" for making bad judgments. Samuth said that many countries, especially in the boxing competition, were angered at what they considered were bad calls.

One Indonesian boxer punched a referee after a fight, Samuth said. Dararith was told before he fought "not to do anything bad" should he lose, but the boxer was annoyed nonetheless.

Dararith began training for the SEA games in 1990, spending 18 month in North Korea. In 40 competition fights with Vietnamese, Laotian and Thai opponents he won 30 times, lost five and drew five.

His parents earlier did not want him to become a boxer and he had to train in secret. Growing up in a very poor family, he had little to eat and could not travel anywhere to train.

He said his parents changed their mind after he became successful. "Let it be what it will be," his parents told each other. Dararith has beaten all his opponents in Cambodia.

During competition in Chiang Mai he said he was not scared or nervous but kept thinking "I have to knock out my competitor". He did not see any Cambodian judge at ringside so believed that he would find it difficult to win on points.

He did not fight for First Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh's money, "but what I want is to see the Cambodian flag being flown at the event My effort was for my nation's reputation," he said.

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