Cambodian kickboxers Mey Sopheap, left, and Lao Sinath, right, both returned victorious from matches in South Korea.
In a major boon to the homegrown, cash-strapped world of Cambodian kickboxing, fighters Mey Sopheap and Lao Sinath recently triumphed over international competition at South Korea’s One Match Winner’s Cup, an amateur tournament held in the city of Nanchu.
Sopheap, 70 kg, outscored his Korean opponent in a three-round bout, while Sinath’s Korean rival conceded midway through a bruising second round in the 60kg weight division.
Oum Yourann, president of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation (CABF), said June 4 that top local boxers hope to participate in more invitational tournaments abroad.
“Cambodian boxers could earn more money, experience and recognition for their country by competing in the international friendship tournaments,” Yourann said.
Sopheap and Sinath’s South Korean victories on May 31 earned them $200 each, rich spoils compared to the 350,000 riels (about $87) they fight for here.
Local paydays are also increasingly rare for Cambodia’s best boxers, as they lack viable competition. Yourann said at least 10 fighters in the CABF stable are waiting for international invitations, having vanquished the field of domestic challengers.
But the usual obstacle remains.
“The CAFB lacks funding to travel to international competitions, therefore we are looking for invitations with sponsors,” Yourann said.
Challenges occur inside the ring too, when fighting abroad. Sopheap and Sinath both suffered penalties for employing knees and elbows in clinches, acceptable blows here at home, which the Koreans deem too rough.
“There were some problems with rule violations when we hugged up during the fights. I used my elbows and knees, which were not allowed,” Sopheap said.
At present, boxers Chey Kosal and Birth Samkhan, 73kg and 65kg, respectively, are in France preparing for a tournament on June 22. If the CAFB’s application to the World Traditional Boxing Federation is approved, Cambodia may host its own international friendship tournament later in 2008. (Vong Sokheng)