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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Long Sophy sets up Pom Saray final

Long Sophy sets up Pom Saray final

Long Sophy sets up Pom Saray final

Long Sophy outfights Kao Roomchang to score a surprising decision victory in their 63.5-kilogram tournament semifinal Sunday and set up a Pom Saray final

KAO Roomchang stood no further than five rounds from a title shot Sunday. All he had to do was best Long Sophy, whom he stopped in the third round when the two met in October.

With a place in the light-middleweight tournament finals at stake, the pair turned in a furiously paced fight-of-the-year contender at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao. And behind a relentless barrage of knees, Long Sophy derailed Kao Roomchang’s title hopes with a stunning upset decision.

“That’s twice now,” said a frustrated Kao Roomchang, blood seeping from a swollen mass of scar tissue above his left eye. “I will quit fighting.”

In December, Kao Roomchang dropped a razor-thin decision to Van Chanvey in the finals of a lightweight tournament held at the CTN boxing arena. Kao Roomchang had beaten Van Chanvey once earlier in the tournament, and few expected the outcome of the pair’s second meeting to be any different.

But Van Chanvey squeaked past Kao Roomchang with an evasive tactical strategy, going on to lose badly to 60-kilogram title holder Lao Sinath, whom Kao Roomchang had also previously beaten.

On Sunday, with the October stoppage of Long Sophy still fresh in memory, Kao Roomchang’s shot at a title yet again seemed assured.

“They are all here to see Kao Roomchang,” said Long Sophy, shadow boxing before the fight, with a big smile. “They want to know what round he is going to knock me out.”

Long Sophy made losers of them all.

In the second round, he grabbed Kao Roomchang around the chest and never let go, scoring with knees to the body.

Kao Roomchang answered with spinning backs, heavy overhand rights and hard elbows in a high-wattage finish to a furious round.

Keeping up the pace, the pair brawled frenetically through rounds three and four. Kao Roomchang landed elbows and head-snapping overhand rights. Long Sophy countered with knees.

Heading into the final round, the outcome still far from decided, Long Sophy hammered away at the body with knees, and Kao Roomchang finally began to slow. “I knew I had him in the fifth,” Long Sophy said.

In the second semifinal match Sunday, Pom Saray cut Kao Bunheng in the third round with a flying elbow on his way toward earning a victory decision.

After a subdued opening round, Kao Bunheng appeared to take control of the fight in the second. He stalked Pom Saray around the ring, walking through his punches and scoring with kicks to the body.

But the cut in the third, a long, deep gash down the middle of Kao Bunheng’s forehead quickly changed the momentum of the fight, and Kao Bunheng struggled to retake the lead.

Pom Saray stayed evasive, circling and countering with left hooks and low kicks as Kao Bunheng charged headlong forward.

When the final bell rang, Kao Bunheng dropped to his knees and banged the canvas with his glove.

“It’s bad luck,” he said. “It’s just bad luck.”

Long Sophy will face Pom Saray in the tournament final March 21. Kao Bunheng will meet Kao Roomchang in the match for third place.

Pom Saray enters the final with an undefeated tournament record, including inflicting Long Sophy’s only loss.

The earlier win offers little comfort to Pom Saray. As Kao Roomchang discovered, previous victories mean nothing when the opponent is Long Sophy.

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