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Long Sophy, Pom Saray win

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Long Sophy (right) beat two-time champion Nuon Phireak for a second time Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena. He now faces Pom Saray on January 31.

Long Sophy edged past Nuon Phireak, and Pom Saray outpointed Les Tuk in group B bouts of the light-middleweight tournament at TV5 boxing arena Sunday

LONG Sophy and Pom Saray moved to the top of the Group B leader board Sunday with decision victories in the tournament to crown a light-middleweight champion at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

Long Sophy outworked two-time champion Nuon Phireak, who fought a smart, defensive fight but failed to match Long Sophy’s offensive output.
Pom Saray overpowered Les Tuk with bruising low kicks and powerful leading right hooks.

The eight-man tournament began January 10 at the TV5 boxing arena. Group A includes Kao Roomchang, Kao Bunheng, Luk Vibol and Sarim Vonthom.

In the group stages, contenders fight everyone in the group. Fighters earn three points for a victory and one point for a loss. Only the top two scorers advance, with the ultimate winner laying claim to the light-middleweight title.

Long Sophy and Nuon Phireak first met in February 2009 when the two collided in the finals of a similar tournament held at the CTN boxing arena. Sunday’s contest at 63.5 kilograms unfolded along similar lines.

As in their previous contest, 21-year-old Long Sophy was the aggressor through all five rounds. He stalked Nuon Phireak around the ring and forced him to fight going backwards.

Nuon Phireak, 25, claimed light-middleweight titles in 2004 and 2007. Known for heavy hands and harder kicks, he caught Long Sophy charging in on several occasions, knocking the sweat from his face with thunderous straight rights.

But while Nuon Phireak never appeared in any trouble, neither did he appear sufficiently aggressive. The stronger fighter, he easily landed the harder shots – brutal low kicks from the left and dizzying punches – but for every blow Nuon Phireak landed, Long Sophy answered with two.

Ultimately, the fight became a contest between Nuon Phireak’s power and Long Sophy’s work rate, which for Long Sophy, at least, was far too close.

“I knew I won, but I was afraid the judges might not see it that way,” said Long Sophy, who waited with obvious unease for the decision. “When it’s close like that, it can go either way. It’s better to get the knockout.”

Long Sophy pointed to insufficient training for the performance.

“Our club is small, so there’s not a lot of room to move around, and at the moment we have no real training pads,” he said. “The pads we have we made ourselves from bed pillows. You can’t punch or kick them with all your power, so recently I have been unable to train at 100 percent.”

In the co-feature, 33-year-old Pom Saray easily outpointed Les Tuk to earn a decision victory. A short, stocky and fiery fighter, Pom Saray punished Les Tuk, 20, with brutal low kicks and frustrated him with superior defence.

Les Tuk struggled to land anything of significance in the first three rounds. He came out furiously in the fourth, cutting Pom Saray with an elbow, but the cut never became a factor, and Pom Saray continued to rack up points with harder shots.

“He got me with an elbow on top of my head,” Pom Saray remarked after the fight. “He’s a lot taller than I am, and much bigger. I usually fight at 60 kilograms, so this is a step up for me. He typically fights at 65 or 66, so for him it’s a step down.”

Group A returns to the ring next Sunday when Kao Roomchang goes against Kao Bunheng and Sarim Vonthon faces Luk Vibol. Group B fights again January 31, with Pom Saray meeting Long Sophy and Nuon Phireak stepping in against Les Tuk.

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