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Champ seeks to end losing run

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ISKA world lightweight champion Meas Chanta will try to halt two-fight losing streak when he enters the ring Sunday at TV5 against Voy Sothun

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ROBERT STARKWEATHER

Meas Chanta poses after training Tuesday at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces club ahead of his fight with Voy Sothun Sunday at TV5.

THE world champion is not supposed to be the underdog.

Yet that is exactly what ISKA world lightweight titleholder Meas Chanta will be when he steps into the ring Sunday at TV5 arena in a non-title fight against Banteay Meanchey veteran Voy Sothun.

Voy Sothun is favoured ahead of the fight, something that is less to do with anything he has done, but with what Meas Chanta has not.

Since beating Frankie Hudders of Britain in August to claim the ISKA world lightweight title, Meas Chanta has fought only twice, losing both times.

In September he faced Andrew "KO" Keogh in Mackay, Australia, for the vacant ISKA world "oriental rules" title. With 40 seconds left in the first round the Australian landed a left-right combination that put Meas Chanta to sleep.

"No good," he says about that fight, and little else.

In January, the champion climbed into the ring at TV5 to face local welterweight titleholder May Sopheap. After two and a half rounds, a spent Meas Chanta could do little except cover up and play the part of punching bag.

He lasted five rounds only by the grace of his opponent. Instead of taking a gift-wrapped knockout, out of respect for his opponent May Sopheap backed off, then coasted through the later rounds to earn the easy decision.

Despite the quality, Voy Sothun continues on a downward trajectory. But he could still prove to be the wrong opponent for Meas Chanta on what ould be an easy payday before Khmer New Year.

Voy Sothun has been the busier fighter of late, with recent outings against high-quality opponents. He fought Sen Bunthen three weeks ago and, although he lost on points, looked sharp and fought hard until the final bell.

Meas Chanta arrived at training from his home in Kandal province just last week. With memories of the May Sopheap fight still fresh, the shortened training schedule does little to inspire confidence in the champ's fitness level.

Still, it would be foolish to underestimate the lightweight champion of the world.

On Tuesday Meas Chanta, 26, looked strong during an afternoon workout session. He went a few rounds on the focus pads with Thun Sophea and trainer Tuk Ly and grappled a few with teammates Sang Sitha and Khun Makara. He then sparred a couple more, bloodying Sang Sitha's nose.

"I can go five rounds," he said. "No problem."

Meas Chanta and Voy Sothun have met several times previously. Meas Chanta has always dominated. In one 2005 bout, Meas Chanta dropped Voy Sothun four times on his way to winning by fourth round knock out.

Such defeats are not easily forgotten. And unlike top-ranked May Sopheap, Voy Sothun is not the type of fighter prone to protecting weaker opponents.

Their bout Sunday could prove Voy Sothun's best chance to finally score a win against his familiar rival, although few doubt the Banteay Meanchey veteran will be ready when the bell rings.

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