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Bheut Kam eyes Nuon Soriya


Formidable 22-year-old Bheut Kam steps into the ring with veteran Nuon Soriya Sunday in a highly anticipated bout at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
Battambang southpaw Bheut Kam faces his childhood hero Nuon Soriya Sunday at TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

Photo by: Virginie Noel
29-year-old Nuon Soriya is wary of Bheut Kam’s stamina and strength in the clinch.

AS a teenager, Bheut Kam terrorised the local boxing scene. When he stepped up to the 67-kilogram weight class earlier this month, now aged 22, the move sent shudders through the lightweight division. The sport's most dominant little man had grown up.

While the move likely crushed the dreams of many lightweight hopefuls, it delighted fans, who pined to see the Battambang southpaw take on a new division of champions.

The first will be Nuon Soriya, who faces Bheut Kam in a highly anticipated bout Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.
Bheut Kam enters the ring Sunday with a record of 171-4-1. Nuon Soriya, who began fighting 18 years ago at the age of 11, lost track of wins and losses long ago.

"When I was young, he was already famous," Bheut Kam said after a recent afternoon workout. "I would watch him fight against foreigners. He was always very good."

A graceful, fleet-footed technician, Bheut Kam dominated boxing's lower weight divisions since first putting on gloves six years ago at the tender age of 17. He holds five titles in three weight classes, including three at 60 kilograms, a division he owned for many years.

Bheut Kam yet to lose in 2009
After a largely inactive year in 2008, Bheut Kam has fought five times in 2009, winning three times in France and twice at home. For the bouts in France earlier this year, he weighed in at 66 kilograms. In his most recent outing, a July 5 dismantling of Pao Puot at TV5, Bheut Kam fought at the announced weight of 67 kilograms, the heaviest of his career.

His move up to the 67-kilogram weight class set off waves of expectation in the boxing world, as fight fans anticipated a new round of matches with champions from the heavier divisions, among them Nuon Soriya.

At 29 years old, Nuon Soriya is admittedly no longer in the prime of his career. He still remains among the very best fighters active today, but holds no illusions about the challenge that Bheut Kam presents.

"He is very good," said Nuon Soriya, sitting ringside at the Angkor Youth Boxing Club, where he works as a trainer. "He will be tough to beat."
Age, he predicted, not ability, will likely be the decider in Sunday's bout.

"We are of comparable skill," he said, the grunts of sparring fighters lending a gritty authenticity to the dim club atmosphere. "But I am older, and my stamina is not as good as his."

"I think my hands are better, but in the clinch he is stronger," he added.

Fighting with Christian faith
Bheut Kam, a Christian who brings a mouth guard, hand wraps and a Khmer-language Bible to every fight, refrained from speculating on the outcome of Sunday's contest.

"I don't dare make predictions," he said. "I just put my trust in Jesus."
Sunday's fight schedule begins at 3:30pm.

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