Cambodia’s four-member Bokator team met with mixed fortunes on Sunday at their first overseas odyssey as the Angkorian- era combat discipline made its debut at Mayhem 2, a mixed martial-arts tournament in the western Mal-aysian state of Selangor.
The high point of this historic trip was undoubtedly Tun Serey’s gallant performance in the welterweight div-ision, where he finished second, going down in the title fight to Turkmenistan powerhouse Ahumarat.
“Tun Serey is like a piece of iron,” Ahmurat said of his Cambodian opponent.
Antonio Graceffo, a member of the Cambodian team and the first foreigner to fight for the Kingdom in an international event, told the Post yesterday Tun Serey had already become “a hero to the Khmers on the internet”.
“To Tun Serey’s credit, the fight lasted much longer than I expected.
“He stood toe-to-toe with Ahmurat in the stand-up – Ahmurat took him down and got dominant position for most of the fight.
“Eventually, however, Ahmurat won,” Graceffo wrote on his blog, brooklynmonk.wordpress.com.
On the way to the final round, Tun Serey expertly choked his Malaysian opponent in the semifinals, forcing him out of the contest. In the first round, the Cambodian roughed up a Malaysian Muay Thai exponent.
For 44-year-old Graceffo, who holds a black karma in Bokator, it was an unforgettable trip.
The heavyweight had it all his way in the first-round bout against Aaron Lim, performing a perfect ground-and-pound technique.
In the next round, he met with a tartar in Malaysia’s Abdul Haidi and was forced out due to injury.
“I didn’t get hit at all in the first fight, which went off like clockwork, but I can’t take any credits – I had a really soft opponent,” Graceffo said.
“I got a kick to the head in the second, but injured my elbow in a submission.
“The first fight was a dream, the culmination of all my training. The second taught me a lot of lessons about mental preparedness.”
Cambodia’s third fighter, Kong Ravy had the misfortune of having been paired with Raymond Tien, the Malaysian San Da champion.
The Bokator expert was beaten fair and square, but it was no cakewalk and he was in the fight the whole time.
It was no different for Say Tevin, who was up against a tough rival from Kazakhstan.
The Cambodian, who was the only one of his compatriots to last three full rounds against French fighters at a tournament in the Angkor temples complex on July 16, fought extremely hard but was sadly outmatched.
Away from the fights, many back home had tried to undermine Grand Master San Kim Sean’s efforts, arguing that it would embarrass the Kingdom if his boys lost.
However, the Cambodian Bokator Federation founder maintained it was an honour just to participate.
The most notable aspect of San Kim Sean’s presence in Malaysia was his meeting with Malaysian Grand Master Guru Mazlan Man.
The two immediately struck a rapport and vowed to arrange future martial-arts exhibitions between Cambodia and Malaysia.
Bokator could not have bargained for a more exciting international debut.
Tun Serey had his day in the sun but, more significantly, Cambodia now has many new friends and followers.