Two World title fights at Olympic Stadium on Friday were marred by controversy as Cambodia surrendered one belt while retaining the other.
Former ISKA Kun Khmer Welterweight champion Meas Chantha shed tears after his fifth round knockout defeat at the hands of England’s Tim Thomas. Meas Chantha, who trained out of the Sunrise Bradal Serey Club in Australia in preparation for his title defence, was dropped three times late in the last round for the referee to end the contest.
Meas Chantha regarded the bout as “unreasonable” after being duped into agreeing to fight despite Tim Thomas failing to make the 67-kilogram weight limit.
“I am very disappointed with the result. My weight is nearly 67 kilograms, but Tim Thomas is 68.8 kilograms,” said the Cambodian. “But some officials force me to agree to fight by not telling me about the weight difference. I don’t understand this. Everyone seemed not to want me to win this fight.
“I think I lost the advantage to him in round four, but he was also hurt by my kicking on his left ribs. Everyone shouted at me ‘Attack! Attack!’ Then [the knock down] happened.”
Meas Chatha’s trainer Chea Sarun accepted the outcome as a result of his boxer’s mistake.
“Meas Chantha lost this time by just a small mistake when trying to attack his opponent without caution. Also, the temperature of the stadium was a factor. In Australia [where we now train] it is colder. He was too hot [on Friday].
“However, we will ask for a rematch and I will train [Meas Chantha] more and I hope he can reclaim the title.”
While support from his compatriots was questionable in Meas Chantha’s title defence, the controversy behind the second title fight of the night was centered instead on suspected bias in favour of home-favourite and ISKA Kun Khmer World Middleweight champion Vorn Viva.
The four ringside judges, all of whom were Cambodian, submitted a combined scored of 30-27, 27-30, 27-30, 29-30, 30-27 in favour of the Cambodian to keep the belt in his possession.
Vorn Viva stated that he was very happy with his victory but admitted afterwards that he found it “difficult to win.”
A distraught Ben Barwise on the other hand made his feelings at the decision clear in a post-fight interview with The Post.
“I thought it was wrong ... I don’t get it, I just don’t get it,” he said.
“I dropped him, the judges scored it a 10-9. It should have been a 10-8. That couldn’t have been the only round I won. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Asked whether he would agree to fight in Cambodia again after this decision, Barwise was adamant in his ability to come back to the Kingdom and set the record straight.
“Yes, I want to fight him again, absolutely. I think he knows that if that fight were anywhere else, I would have won it. He knows.”
General Secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, Vath Chamroeun, questioned the authenticity of the match.
“We are so happy with this competition but according to the technical terms, it is not right that we use the words “international boxing” because it must be officiated by foreign judges and referees,” he said.
The two non-title international fights earlier on Friday saw Thun Sophea, who rarely attacked his opponent, lose to Brazilian boxer Thaigo Teixeira, while Bheut Kham defeated Simon Janjam in an entertaining bout punctuated with apparent low blows.
On the undercard featuring local fighting celebrities, Cheam Adam neat Nun Chumnith on points, Morn Kimlong cut the head of Pich Arun to force retirement at the end of the first round, and Chey Kosal was edged on points by Pich Seyha in a hard fought contest. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHORN NORN AND YEUN PONLOK, TRANSLATED BY IN SOPHENG