Cambodia’s Pich Seiha took part in an eight-man Toyota Marathon 67-kilogram tournament in Thailand yesterday and did the Kingdom proud, defeating opponents from Canada and Iran before eventually losing a decision in the final.
It is the second consecutive occasion that a Kun Khmer fighter has reached the final of such a competition across the border, only to fall short at the final hurdle, with Sen Bunthen doing the same thing last month in a Toyota Marathon 70kg event.
Yesterday’s tournament was held in Chonburi and televised live by Channel 3 in Thailand.
It featured fighters from Canada, Iran, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil, Spain, Cambodia and Thailand, with 300,000 baht (US$9,430), as well as the belt, on offer to the winner.
Seiha, a 23-year-old Takeo native and a veteran of 60 fights on home soil, found himself up against Canadian Chris Moir in the opening round and put on a dominant display, repeatedly catching his opponent’s kicks and bundling him to the ground.
By the third and final round, Moir’s left-hand side was bright red after receiving multiple body kicks and, although he kept coming forward looking for the knockout, Seiha was able to see out the fight to win a unanimous decision.
In the semifinals, the Cambodian took on Masood Izadi from Iran, a technical fighter who had defeated Spain’s Arturo Lin in his opening match.
The Iranian was very defensive and looked to counter, but Seiha seized the initiative and kept charging forward, throwing body punches throughout the fight to win another clear-cut decision.
This set up a final against Sittichai Sitsongpeenong, the tournament favourite, who is ranked one of the top fighters at his weight in Thailand.
There are very few foreign fighters good enough to beat the Thais at their own game, and Seiha seemed to run out of steam after putting on two very aggressive displays in his opening two fights.
Sittichai was able to control the action from start to finish, repeatedly landing punches and push kicks that prevented his opponent from ever finding his rhythm. It was a one-sided affair, but afterwards the Cambodian claimed there were mitigating circumstances for the loss.
“I hurt my hand a week ago fighting [Lao Sinath] at the TV3 arena in Phnom Penh. I think it is broken,” Pich Seiha said. “I was happy to get to the final, but disappointed I could not win the whole tournament and I hope I will be invited back to Thailand to fight again soon.”
Andy Thrasher, who shocked the kickboxing world by beating two Thai fighters en route to winning a Toyota Marathon 70kg tourney last year, was scheduled to fight at TV3 arena tomorrow against Sen Bunthen.
However, Bunthen has been forced to withdraw after suffering a leg injury in training and Thrasher will now face Cambodia’s Prum Samnang.
Fights begin at 3:30pm.
To contact the reporter on this story: James Goyder at [email protected]