29-year-old scheduled to continue comeback this weekend in fight against youngster Pao Puot,a prelude to what he hopes will be a big-name rematch
Nuon Soriya kicks a training bag held by Sen Bunthen in preparation for his Sunday fight against Pao Puot.
After 18 months of relative inactivity, Kampong Cham native Nuon Soriya, once one of Khmer boxing's most dominant light-welterweight fighters, is making a comeback.
After losing to current 67-kilogram title-holder May Sopheap on points three weeks ago, Nuon Soriya will attempt to return to winning ways on Sunday afternoon when he faces hard-kicking Battambang youngster Pao Puot at TV5.
If everything goes according to plan, the comeback will continue with Nuon Soriya avenging a loss to one of the sport's greatest all-time fighters.
"I want a rematch with Outh Phouthang," Nuon Soriya said.
Nuon Soriya fought Outh Phouthang - arguably the second-most dominant fighter in the history of the sport after older brother Ei Phouthang - in July 2007 for the light-welterweight championship.
After rocking Outh Phouthang early in the second round with a series of punches, Nuon Soriya ran out of steam and eventually lost on points. In the months following that decision, Nuon Soriya entered the ring only four times, facing unheralded foreign opponents on each occasion.
"I had some nagging injures, so I took some time off," explained Nuon Soriya, the seasoned 29-year-old fighter from the Ministry of Interior Boxing Club. "I'm healthy again now. I'm back."
His next test comes in the form of Pao Puot.
On paper, everything lines up in favour of Nuon Soriya. "I'll win," he said. "I'll play with him, fake him out, catch him with fists and kicks."
Pao Puot, 21, is no journeyman. He has fought many of the sport's best and beaten most of them, most memorably knocking out former-welterweight champion Ven Sovann with a spinning back elbow in their 2007 matchup at CTN.
Going into Sunday's 67-kilogram fight, however, there is doubt surrounding the Battambang fighter's level of fitness.
Pao Puot recently returned from working in Thailand, said Meas Sokry, and reports from Battambang voice concerns about his stamina, a factor that could come into play in a five-round fight.
A Pao Puot strategy to end things quickly could lead to explosive early rounds. That might make for a more interesting fight, but it seems unlikely it could alter the outcome of what should be a tune-up fight for Nuon Soriya.
Meas Sokry, head coach at the Ministry of Interior Boxing Club and Nuon Soriya's long-time trainer, said: "We're going in with hands. That's our strategy."
Looking past Pao Puot, as perilous as doing so may be, Nuon Soriya puts one more fighter on his shortlist of rematches.
Nuon Soriya fought and lost twice to Royal Gendarmerie fighter May Sopheap, their most recent bout unfolding three weeks ago at TV5. For Nuon Soriya, who came in two kilograms underweight, it was a tough assignment after a long layoff.
Considering the time off, Nuon Soriya fought exceptionally well. He landed some clean elbows early in the match and in the later rounds gave the welterweight champion trouble with combinations. Many who saw the fight thought Nuon Soriya did enough to earn the victory, but referees at ringside didn't see it that way, and the decision went to May Sopheap. It was a disappointing loss.
"I want to fight him again," said Nuon Soriya. "Next time, I'll be in better shape. Next time, I plan to knock him out."
First, he'll have to get past Pao Puot.
Fights are slated to begin at 3:30pm at TV5 studio on Sunday, with Nuon Soriya's fight against Pao Puot likely to start around 5:00pm. Admission is 3,000 (US$0.72 riels per person.