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Kao Roomchang, Van Chanvey in 60kg final

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Kao Roomchang (red) battles a determined Vung Noy on Sunday.

KAO Roomchang and Van Chanvey, two of the most explosive fighters in the 60-kilogram division, will face each other in the lightweight tournament final November 22 at the CTN boxing arena.

Kao Roomchang outpointed Vung Noy in a bloody five-round brawl Sunday in the tournament semifinals to advance; Van Chanvey outpointed Long Sophy.

The eight-man round-robin tournament concluded October 25. The top four finishers, as determined by points and knockouts, fought in Sunday’s semifinal bouts. Kao Roomchang (7-0, 3 KOs) placed first, with Van Chanvey (6-1, 5 KOs), Long Sophy (5-2, 1 KO) and Vung Noy (4-3, 2 KOs) behind him. Naem Chenda, Song Saruth, Nuon Mony and Bheut Bunthoeun failed to advance.

Long Sophy entered the tournament as the No 1-ranked contender. But over the course of the contest, Kao Roomchang has emerged as the division’s undisputed shooting star.

Battambang native Kao Roomchang exploded onto local boxing at the national tournament in 2007, taking first place in the 60-kilogram division.

In the years since, he has improved with every outing, and his march into the lightweight tournament final has been cast against a backdrop of inevitability. But Vung Noy was offering no free passes Sunday. In the most compelling match of the tournament so far, he flirted with derailing Kao Roomchang’s seemingly unstoppable rise.

A tall, lanky 20-year-old from Pailin, Vung Noy pounded Kao Roomchang with knees and elbows for five rounds, cutting him twice, puffing up his left eye and causing severe swelling on his forehead.

“He’s so tall,” Kao Roomchang said afterward. “I would cover up, but he could still get me with elbows to the top of the head.”

The two fighters traded dozens of elbows in a series of brutal, toe-to-toe exchanges in the middle rounds. By the fourth, a huge contusion had bubbled up on the right side of Kao Roomchang’s forehead, and blood poured from a cut on his head.

Referee Meas Sokry stopped to inspect the cut, and the packed house rumbled with expectation.

With victory seemingly in reach, Vung Noy came barrelling forward, blasting with punches and elbows. In the exchange, Kao Roomchang landed an elbow that bent Vung Noy in half. “He was wobbly, but they didn’t count him,” Kao Roomchang said. Vung Noy shook off the blow. The crowd roared for the underdog. And in the moment, an upset seemed possible. But the chance for victory evaporated in the fifth round.

Kao Roomchang landed a kick to the face early, followed by two brutal elbows and two head-snapping right hands. After four punishing rounds, including a brutal knockdown in the second round that was ruled late, Vung Noy had little left.

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