French amateur kick boxer Isabelle Samedy fronts up to her male opponent in Phnom Penh.
Don King wasn't there, but his presence could be felt at Cambodia's first Las Vegas
style "boxing dinner" held on March 31 at the Hotel Cambodiana.
While spectators dined on pepper steak fillets, three gold lame-clad singers warmed
up the 120 strong crowd with renditions of "Eye of the Tiger" and a locally
adapted version of the Eagles' "Hotel Cambo-jana".
Then, in that old Vegas essential, flag-waving dancing girls took to the ring to
herald the start of the action.
And it was action that even Don King would have been proud of when the Cambodiana
hosted a first for this boxing-mad country - a bout of female kick boxing.
Long established in Thailand, female kick boxing has yet to take off in Cambodia
where it is considered unlucky for women to enter the ring.
Female boxers are so rare that when French amateur fighter Isabelle Samedy stepped
into the ring for a demonstration bout she was forced to fight her male trainer and
former Cambodian boxing champ "Minea".
The muscular mother may be a mild mannered office worker by day, but in the ring
she delighted the crowd with a style that mixed flurries of pirouette kicks with
volleys of aggressive punches.
Isabelle got her introduction to the sport early in life.
"I was young and one day my father told me 'You're too nervous, you're impossible,
you have too much energy, if you continue that way I'll send you to the French boxing
club' and I said 'OK, let's go'."
It was the beginning of a love affair with Savat - French style kick boxing - that
took her to at shopping centers, discotheques and schools around France doing demonstrations.
But Isabelle rapidly ran out of female partners. "Usually when I fight with
women they say 'Oh I have bruises now. You are impossible', so I stopped fighting
with women and fought only men."
When she arrived in Cambodia three years ago on holiday, she had no intention
of breaking new ground in Cambodian sports pantheon. But after meeting and marrying
former European judo and karate champion Samedy Sivathana, her life changed, she
stayed in Cambodia, and, due to a lack of suitable training facilities, gave up boxing.
But all boxers dream of a comeback, and the demonstration bout gave her a chance
to step back into the ring. She hopes that one day female kick boxing will be popular
in Cambodia, and she wants to inspire at least one young Cambodian girl - her 18-month-old
'Sure I would like her to fight one day," she said.
With a pedigree like hers she is a boxing promoter's dream.
Somebody oughta tell Don King.