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Victory escapes Bheut Kam


Referee Chey Bunchoeu stops the fight between Ma Chaimov and Bheut Kam in the third round at TV5 boxing arena Sunday, citing a lack of aggression

THE same fate has befallen dozens of other fighters.
With Bheut Kam’s punches coming hard and fast, Ma Chaimov could do little but cover up and hope the end came quick.

But where the crowd at TV5 saw a knockout Sunday, referee Chey Bunchoeu saw a ruse. He called off the fight in the third round, citing lack of aggression. Officially, the match ended in a no decision. With that declaration came the most painful shot of the night.

“They don’t want to pay us,” said Ma Chaimov, standing in a puddle of sweat in the TV5 dressing room afterward, his ribs red from the beating.

The news wiped the near permanent smile from the face of the 26-year-old Battambang native, who said Sunday’s fight would have brought a welcome payday.

Bheut Kam was originally scheduled to fight 68-kilogram titleholder May Sopheap. But May Sopheap dropped out of the fight citing unspecified injuries, and Ma Chaimov (44-15-1) got the call unexpectedly.

It was a journeyman’s assignment by all accounts.

“He has a 90 percent chance to lose,” joked Ma Chaimov’s friend, Yoeung Sokun, ahead of Sunday’s match.

Bookmakers offered similarly long odds, for good reason. No one ever really expects to beat Bheut Kam, the 22-year-old Battambang prodigy with a career record of 185 wins, five losses and 85 knockouts.

Certainly Ma Chaimov didn’t. Since winning first place in his weight division at the national championships in October, he has devoted his attention to his future wife and their upcoming wedding.

“Don’t listen to all that,” implored Ma Chaimov’s brother and cornerman Ma Chaimuet. “You can beat him. He hasn’t fought in a long time.”
Ma Chaimov wasted no time when opening bell rang, foregoing the traditional boxer’s handshake and instead landing a low kick.

He appeared competitive through the first two rounds, sweeping Bheut Kam to the canvas early in round one and catching him with a clean elbow and several flush punches in the second.

But as Bheut Kam began pushing the pace late in round two, Ma Chaimov wilted.

In the clinch, Bheut Kam dominated, landing hard knees repeatedly and dumping Ma Chaimov to the canvas half a dozen times. Ma Chaimov returned to his feet slower and slower each time.

A flurry of unanswered punches midway through the third round prompted Chey Bunchoeu, the eldest of the sport’s elder statesmen, to halt the action and warn Ma Chaimov to get on the stick.

But a tired Ma Chaimov appeared to have little left. And Bheut Kam continued to unleash a flurry of knocks, including a brutal left hook to the body that crumpled his tired opponent.

As Ma Chaimov slumped hurt and helpless against the ropes, Bheut Kam unloaded with a vicious right hand to the body, a hard left-right to the head and devastating left hook to the ribs.

Chey Bunchoeu stepped in to count eight.

Ma Chaimov turned his back and sagged on the ropes.

When Ma Chaimov did not answer the count, Chey Bunchoeu tapped him on the shoulder and, with the polite gesture of an usher in a movie theater, directed him to the stairs. Bheut Kam stepped to center ring for the hand-raising, but Chey Bunchoeu offered him the same curt nod.
No decision. No winners, no losers. No paycheck.

“I told to you that you had to work harder,” railed Ma Chaimuet in the dressing room afterward, his brother slumped in a red plastic chair. “Why didn’t you listen?”

Ma Chaimov, a vivacious and well-spoken 26-year-old outside the ring and a respectable force inside it, offered no answers.
He got dressed and milled around the sweaty arena hallway, then watched as two youngsters slugged it out wildly in the ring.

“You get paid yet?” shot Long Sophy, who cornered for Bheut Kam, his teammate at Club Salavorn.
Staring out at the judges table from a sidestage door, Ma Chaimov shook his head and said nothing.

“It’s very difficult,” Yoeung Sokun said. “He is about to get married.”

Then he asked, “Do you think he is a fraud?”

An official at the judge’s table stubbed out a cigarette and walked over. “Come here,” he said to Ma Chaimuet, without breaking his stride.
Ma Chaimuet left his brother and his friend standing in the hallway and followed the man outside, where the official handed over the prize money, about $80, and a few stern words.

Ma Chaimov lost to Bheut Kam, after all. That’s not fraudulent, just human.

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