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Unstoppable Kao Roomchang

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Kao Roomchang (right, red shorts) gets awarded the points decision over Van Chanvey Sunday at CTN to move a step closer to the lightweight title.

Bloodletting begins early Sunday at CTN as Kao Roomchang scores an upset decision victory over Van Chanvey in their first lightweight tournament bout

KAO Roomchang survived an early cut and a brutal third round to score an upset decision victory over Van Chanvey Sunday at the CTN boxing arena.

With Kao Roomchang against the ropes late in the second round, Van Chanvey landed a right elbow that opened a thick cut over Kao Roomchang's left eye.

Kao Roomchang came exploding back in the third round, igniting one of the most vicious rounds of boxing in recent memory, and the two fighters stood toe-to-toe, trading elbows nearly every second of the round.

The match came as part of an eight-man tournament to determine a challenger for the 60-kilogram title. Among the toughest men on the roster, Kao Roomchang and Van Chanvey had never before faced each other, and their meeting was one of the most heavily anticipated bouts of the competition.

Fight fans turned out in record numbers, and CTN took the rare move of opening the station's second parking lot, which was packed long before opening bell.

A slight favorite heading into the bout, 23-year-old Van Chanvey held the rare possibility of beating Kao Roomchang, 21. Or so it seemed.

Yet now, with Van Chanvey and Vung Noy defeated, the only real challenge left to Kao Roomchang's first-place finish is Long Sophy, currently the top-ranked contender, with the two set to meet October 11 on the final day of round-robin competition.

Kao Roomchang has beaten Long Sophy before, a fact of which he is well aware. Barring anything extraordinary, Kao Roomchang stated, nothing should prevent him from claiming first prize.

The winner of the tournament will face current 60-kilogram champion Lao Sinath for a shot at the lightweight title. Kao Roomchang has also beaten Lao Sinath before, in May, when the two met in a non-title bout.

A native of Battambang, Kao Roomchang trains in Anlong Veng, where he serves as a soldier with Brigade 43. Heading into Sunday's match, he knew well the danger that Van Chanvey posed. Before the fight, Kao Roomchang stood at center ring and whispered a very long prayer.

As the bout began, both fighters worked patiently, seemingly aware of the incredible violence to come, and in no rush to speed its arrival.

Kao Roomchang and Van Chanvey, also from Battambang, have known each other for years, and the pair smiled warmly and touched gloves several times during the first round.

Combinations came more frequently in the second round, and kicks landed with more force, but both fighters stayed disciplined until just seconds before the end of the round, when a flurry of punches and elbows left Kao Roomchang bleeding from a gash above his left eye.

Referee Sok Vichay, his jawline decorated with the tattoos of a soldier, mopped up the blood.

When the bell rang to open the third round, Kao Roomchang exploded with a three-punch combination and at least as many elbows, driving Van Chanvey backward into the ropes.

In a furious exchange in the corner, Kao Roomchang landed another elbow that split Van Chanvey's right eyebrow and buckled his knees, as Van Chanvey answered back with elbows from every direction.

The two did not stop until the bell rang. Van Chanvey looked the better of the pair afterwards, but down the stretch, Kao Roomchang kept busier and continued to press the action.

Using his height and reach advantage, Kao Roomchang kept Van Chanvey on the outside and scored with punches, with neither fighter showing much appetite to revisit the bruising battles of the inside.

Van Chanvey looked disappointed in the outcome, but to his brother and cornerman, Van Chanvait, the decision came as little surprise.
"We lost," he said.

In the second of two lightweight tournament fights Sunday, Vung Noy scored a TKO victory over Bheut Bunthoeun with a knee in the fourth round.
Van Chanvey and Kao Roomchang return to the ring August 16, when Van Chanvey faces Vung Noy and Kao Roomchang faces Bheut Bunthoeun.

The lightweight tournament continues until November.

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