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Bheut Kam packs best punch

Bheut Kam packs best punch


In his first local ring appearance since January, Bheut Kam topples fellow Battambang native Pao Puot in the fourth round Sunday at TV5 boxing arena

Photo by: ROBERT STARKWEATHER
Pao Puot (left) takes one of many punishing left hands from Bheut Kam during the third round of their fight at TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao Sunday.

Photo by: ROBERT STARKWEATHER
Bheut Kam (right) works the body of Pao Puot with a right hook in the third round of their bout Sunday.

WORKING patiently behind a pile-driver left hand, Bheut Kam, as expected, dismantled a game but overmatched Pao Puot on Sunday at TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

Ringside physician Dr Chhoeong Yav Yen halted the fight out of concern for Pao Puot's safety with just over a minute gone in the fourth round.

Since his first professional fight in 2004 at the age of 17 - a rural match in Kampong Speu for the prize of 5,000 riel (US$1.20) - Bheut Kam has lost only four times. The win Sunday improved his professional record to 171-4-1.

From Banan district in Battambang, Bheut Kam is a former champion in three weight divisions. He won his first belt at 48 kilograms in his debut year. Since then, has collected four more titles, one at 57 kilograms and three at 60 kilograms.

Taking a significant step up in weight, Bheut Kam entered the ring Sunday the heaviest of his career, 67 kilograms, where he plans to stay, he said.

Although he arguably got off to a slow start, Bheut Kam commanded the fight from the opening bell. Grinning and playful in the early rounds, he often appeared to be toying with Pao Puot, who spent much of the night either picking himself up off the canvass or covering up on the ropes.

In the opening seconds of round one, Bheut Kam landed a theatrical spinning back kick, drawing raucous applause from a crowd that spilled from the TV5 arena into the narrow dirt road outside.

He feinted by throwing his hands in the air and pushing his chin forward, then effortlessly sweeping Pao Puot to the ground. As Pao Puot dusted his gloves off, Bheut Kam acknowledged the ensuing applause with a thousand-watt smile and humble bow.

Not everyone, however, was smitten with the five-time champion's performance.

As the two fighters touched gloves to open the second round, referee Chaum Chaury warned them both for a lack of action. He warned them both again a minute later, and in the third round took a point from both sides.

In the break after the round, Bheut Kam got an earful from his trainer, Long Salavorn. Perhaps spurred by the chastising, he made quick work of Pao Puot in the fourth.

After a furious exchange at center ring to open the round, southpaw Bheut Kam caught Pao Puot with a clean, straight left hand that buckled the 23-year-old Battambang fighter and nearly sent him crumbling to the canvass.

Bheut Kam, 22, followed with a knee to the body and then seconds later a hard, inside low kick.
Pao Puot, waning but unbowed, answered with a left elbow to the chin, to little effect.

Bheut Kam continued to steamroll forward, scoring with an elbow, another head-snapping left hand to the jaw, and then a leg sweep that put Pao Puot on the canvass.

Chhoeong Yav Yen had seen enough and ordered the stoppage.

"I didn't fight very well," said Pao Puot afterwards, his cheeks puffy and lips swollen. Against Bheut Kam, not many fighters do.

Bheut Kam's most recent matches have come in France, where he spent three months training and fighting earlier in the year. He went 3-0 with two knockouts during his visit.

Philippe Sebire, his trainer in Paris, was on hand in an unofficial capacity Sunday, taking pictures of the fight and offering words of encouragement between rounds.

In the dressing room after the fight, talk immediately turned to bigger fights in the future.
"The belt," said Bheut Kam, spreading his hands across his waist. "Paris!"

Sebire said he plans to take Bheut Kam back to France later this year, probably in November. He remains confident that Bheut Kam can beat his country's top fighter at 67 kilograms.

"In France, all they know is Muay Thai," Sebire said with a hint of frustration in his voice. "I want to make a Kun Khmer champion."

He is not alone.

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