Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian kickboxing champs swing into action

Cambodian kickboxing champs swing into action

Cambodian kickboxing champs swing into action

More than 600 of the Kingdom's toughest fighters prepare to do battle over 13 furious days as surging interest in the sport forces officials to turn away competitors

SOME 610 fighters will compete in

Cambodia's annual Khmer Traditional Kick Boxing Championships, which

start today at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, an event official said

Wednesday.

Tem Moeun, vice president of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing

Federation, said clubs across the country had nominated their fighters

for the competition, but only 408 kickboxers and 202 boxers were

selected for the 13-day tournament ending October 21.

"The number [of competitors] increased compared to last year," Tem Moeun said. "Boxing is now becoming more popular."

He

added that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports had to limit the

number of competitors this year because of budget considerations.

All contestants were selected from the 48-75kg weight classes.

"We

selected only qualified boxers," Tem Moeun said. "We have had lots of

experience from previous competitions, so anyone performing [illegal]

acts will be punished."

Keo Bunheng, 22, who has fought about 50

bouts, said this year's competition would be a big challenge for him

because of the number of strong fighters from across Cambodia.

"I am

in the preparation stage, as I spent almost two months training," Keo

Bunheng told the Post Wednesday during a training session at Olympic

Stadium.

Hundreds of boxers have travelled from distant provinces to

crowd the stadium's hallways this week. Training rooms echo with the

sound of boxers preparing for the next day's fights.

Grumbles emerge

Not

everyone is happy with preparations, however. Ei Phouthang, head of the

Ei Phouthang Keila boxing club, said his fighters were not allowed to

participate in the competition because all positions were filled.

"I don't understand why they did not allow my team to compete," lamented the well-known former heavyweight kickboxer.  

"We have many strong boxers and expected to win the championship," he said.

Dun

Sophon, 64, coach of the Phnom Touch Club from Banteay Meanchey

province, said the lack of food and proper training equipment would

make it hard for his boxers to win against better-equipped clubs from

Phnom Penh.

"Wining or losing is part of sport," he said during a

training session with his 10 boxers. "But when we are in the ring,

hitting our opponent is what we have to do."

Ly Sethy, director of

the Department of Finance at the Ministry of Education, Youth and

Sports, said the ministry budgeted 340 million riels (US$85,000) for

the competition.

"The annual expense for the competition was not

different," Ly Sethy told the Post. "Last year the event was not well

organised but this year we want to see more transparency."

Ly Sethy said boxers will compete for awards in 32 categories in the final stage of the championship. 

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