Kun Khmer boxing fans embrace Chey Kosal as he returns to the ring having escaped a lifetime ban from the sport to defeat veteran Vung Sithai Sunday
AS the wet season reached a crescendo last November, the prospects of former kickboxing champion Chey Kosal seemed as bleak and unforgiving as the monsoon rains that pounded the muddy scrubland surrounding his home in Kambol.
Among Kun Khmer’s most prized fighters, the Siem Reap native faced a lifetime ban from the sport that defined him.
The local fight scene, however, could not survive without Chey Kosal any more than Chey Kosal could survive without fighting. And on Sunday, with his suspension recently overturned, the ‘Cambodian Bull’ charged back into the boxing ring at TV5, cutting former champion Vung Sithai with an elbow late in the fifth to clinch a decision victory.
It was Chey Kosal’s second fight since being reinstated in February. In his first comeback bout two weeks ago, Chey Kosal outpointed Brigade 70 veteran Long Sophal at the Bayon TV boxing arena.
Chey Kosal, Outh Phouthang and brothers Pich Sophan and Pich Seyha were given lifetime suspensions in July 2009 for fighting in Australia without the permission of the sport’s governing body, known then as the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation.
The word amateur has since been dropped as the organisation now includes professional boxing.
In December, the federation elected a new president, Tem Mouen, who overruled the ban enacted under previous president Oum Yourann, and all four fighters have since returned to the ring.
On Sunday, Brigade 70 veteran Vung Sithai showed little deference to the Bull, who is widely feared for his fight-stopping, face-changing elbows.
Within seconds of opening bell, Vung Sithai, a southpaw, landed a hard left elbow to the face, drawing a wide smile from Chey Kosal, who responded in kind seconds later.
Chey Kosal then kicked Vung Sithai across the ring early in the second with half a dozen unanswered right roundhouse kicks. Vung Sithai came charging back with four-punch combinations and knees to the body.
In the second and third rounds, Vung Sithai landed elbows so flush that Chey Kosal dabbed at his left eye checking for blood.
The two clashed heads in the fifth, ripping a short, jagged gash down the center of Chey Kosal’s forehead, and referee Chhith Sarim stopped the action twice to mop away the blood and check the cut.
The blood sparked a final charge from Chey Kosal, and with less than half a minute left, he landed the right elbow for which his is so famous. The blow split Vung Sithai’s heavily scarred left brow, and Chey Kosal lifted his gloves in a brief moment of celebration.