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Nuon Soriya alive and kicking

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Few expected Nuon Soriya (right, red shorts) to get past young Battambang sensation Bheut Kam, who entered the ring Friday night with just four losses in six years, for a record of 171-4-1.

In a Friday night clash of superstars, 29-year-old veteran Nuon Soriya outlasts a younger Bheut Kam to score a surprising come-from-behind victory at TV5

BHEUT Kam is mortal after all. On Friday night, the young Battambang superstar fell to Nuon Soriya, the crafty, 29-year-old veteran from the Ministry of Interior boxing club.

With smart ring generalship, merciless kicks, and a sneaky left hook, Nuon Soriya fended off an early knockdown to come back and score a huge upset decision, handing Bheut Kam just the fifth loss of his six-year professional career.

An 18-year fight veteran, Nuon Soriya appeared to have the young sensation figured out by the end of the second round. He countered kicks with lead hooks and kept the Battambang fighter busy with combinations. By the third round he was out-manoeuvring the 22-year-old in the clinch. Down the stretch he simply fought harder.

The outcome surprised everyone, including Nuon Soriya.
"I didn't think I could beat him," he said afterwards.

He almost didn't.
Early in round two it looked as if Nuon Soriya would be just another victim when twenty seconds into the round Bheut Kam smashed him in the face with a hard right-left.

The veteran staggered and nearly fell forward before catching himself, then stretched his arms outward and smiled.

The gesture said "no, that was nothing", but referee Chhit Sarim stepped in to count anyway. Nuon Soriya stood akimbo and rolled his eyes, smiling in apparent disbelief as the referee unfolded his fingers.

"I was not hurt," he said afterwards, shrugging his shoulders. "No problem."

Bheut Kam failed to capitalize on the knockdown, and a minute later Nuon Soriya rocked him with a left hook and a hard knee to the body.
And then Bheut Kam was flat on his back.

Clinch up at center ring, Nuon Soriya spun the Battambang fighter hard to his left. As Bheut Kam slipped to the canvass, Nuon Soriya fired off two knees. The first one caught Bheut Kam in the ribs, the second one in the temple.

The crowd exploded. Nuon Soriya raised a fist. Bheut Kam slept.

Motionless until the count of six, Bheut Kam somehow managed to get upright by eight. Still dazed, he clung to the top rope. Unsure if the fight was over, he focused hard on Chhit Sarim.

The referee ruled the second knee late, and he took a point from Nuon Soriya.
The bell rang seconds later, and Bheut Kam escaped.

Frustration began to surface in the third round. After a series of intense flurries, Bheut Kam wrestled Nuon Soriya to the ground. As Nuon Soriya sat on the canvass with his back turned, Bheut Kam tried to kick his head off, just barely missing.

For dramatic effect, Nuon Soriya sat motionless for several long seconds, the expression on his face approaching something like mock outrage.

"Did you see that?" he seemed to say.
Chhit Sarim did. He scolded Bheut Kam and took away a point.

The deduction itself probably made little difference, but the exchange appeared to mark a shift in the momentum of the fight.
With a roll of the eyes here, and a hard left hook there, the veteran was frustrating the young superstar. And through the later rounds, Nuon Soriya, fighting from the red corner, appeared largely in control.

When the final bell rang, few in the TV5 boxing arena doubted which way the decision would fall.
Nuon Soriya circled the ring with a fist raised high.

"Red, red, red," the crowd chanted.
And they were right.

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