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Stage set for 'Fight of the Year'


In one of the most heavily anticipated bouts of the year, Kao Roomchang will meet Van Chanvey in the lightweight tournament final Sunday at CTN arena

THE eight-man lightweight tournament comes to a close Sunday at CTN with what many observers expect to be a contender for ‘Fight of the Year’.

Kao Roomchang, who remains undefeated in eight tournament fights, faces knockout specialist Van Chanvey, who enters the ring with a single tournament loss and a field-leading five KOs.

The round-robin tournament began in late July with a field of eight. The victor Sunday will win 1.5 million riels (US$362), a 2009 Suzuki Viva, and the most coveted prize of all, a title shot against current lightweight champion Lao Sinath.

Kao Roomchang, 21, outpointed Vung Noy in the semifinals to advance. Van Chanvey, 23, outpointed Long Sophy in his semifinal.

Arguably the most destructive fighter in the 60-kilogram division, Van Chanvey’s only tournament loss came at the fists of the fighter he will face on Sunday. That first bout produced arguably the most vicious round of kickboxing in 2009, and the prospect of a rematch weighs uneasily on both fighters.

“I’d prefer to fight Long Sophy,” Kao Roomchang said after beating Vung Noi in the semifinals. “That would be an easier fight [than Van Chanvey].”
Of Van Chanvey’s six victories, only Long Sophy, who was the top-ranked contender heading into the tournament, lasted more than a few rounds. Everyone else was shattered by the third.

Bheut Bunthoen’s corner threw in the towel after Van Chanvey nearly cut his face in half with an elbow.

He stopped Vung Noi in the second with a knee, and Song Saruth in the same round with low kicks.

His roundhouse sent Nuon Mony to the hospital for X-rays, so bad was the damage to his left arm from blocking kicks.

Naem Chenda, the clever but insufficiently battle-hardened Kampong Cham entry, lasted about a minute before a glancing elbow turned his lights out.

Kao Roomchang is perhaps the only one better. He scored three knockouts during the tournament, including a rare third-round stoppage of Long Sophy. And his rise to the top of the rankings has been marked with a large degree of inevitability.

“That’s going to be a great fight to watch,” says Troueng Sossay, Van Chanvey’s trainer at Club Preah Khan Reach, who refrains from making any predictions.

Both fighters are widely feared for devastating elbows and a relentless, hard-charging style.

In their first and only clash, the two fighters showed immense respect for one another.

The first significant exchange did not occur until the final seconds of round two, when Van Chanvey tore open a long gash above Kao Roomchang’s left eye with an elbow.

The pair stood toe-to-toe in round three and traded only power shots, including easily 50 elbows between them, for three solid minutes. Both fighters buckled at times, both bled, but neither went down.

It was an enthralling display of savagery that reverberated through the local fight scene long after the bloodletting had stopped.

Much more will be on the line Sunday.

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