Kao Roomchang battled to a draw against Pich Seyha on opening night at new TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao Friday
After nearly getting knocked out in the third round, Kao Roomchang brawled his way back to score a draw against Pich Seyha on Friday in the inaugural fight card at the new TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.
"I thought I won," Kao Roomchang said after the fight, changing in the new arena's air-conditioned dressing room.
Fighting at 65 kilograms, Battambang's Kao Roomchang was standing in for injured May Sopheap, who pulled out of the fight Sunday citing heart problems.
Working off a simple left-jab, right-knee combination, Pich Seyha appeared to have Kao Roomchang in trouble during the final minute of the third round.
But Kao Roomchang refused to go down.
The push began in the final seconds of round two when 20-year-old Pich Seyha of Takeo province caught Kao Roomchang with two jab-knee combinations that knocked the Battambang fighter onto the ropes.
Picking up where he left off in round two, Pich Seyha began round three using a stiff left jab to create openings and land knees.
The technique worked not only as an offence tool. By the middle of the round, Pich Seyha was landing the straight knee as an effective counter to Kao Roomchang's arching overhand right.
As 21-year-old Kao Roomchang lunged forward with the haymakers, Pich Seyha drove a knee into his gut. Toward the end of the round, and a dozen or more knees later, Kao Roomchang looked ready to crumble.
By then Pich Seyha (31-3-2) was loading up on punches and picking his shots, but the bell rang and Kao Roomchang (23-4-2) escaped.
"I thought I had him with the knees," Pich Seyha said afterwards.
But Pich Seyha did not have him, and chasing the knockout did not come without cost - Pich Seyha started fading in the fourth round, looking tired and vulnerable at times.
Kao Roomchang, a hard-charging brawler with knockout power and a ferocious fighting style, continued to put everything he had behind every punch thrown.
He landed hard roundhouse kicks and started connecting with the big overhand rights. In the middle of the fourth, he found the mark with a couple of elbows, both times freezing Pich Seyha and sending sweat flying into the sticky arena air.
Pich Seyha fatigued
With a minute left in the fourth round, Kao Roomchang threw Pich Seyha to the canvas from the clinch. Pich Seyha struggled to his knees and showed so much trouble climbing to his feet that for a fleeting moment it appeared as though he may not get up.
But get up he did, marching straight back to centre ring where he continued to slug with Kao Roomchang until the sound of the bell.
The packed house screamed with delight, shaking the arena's concrete walls.
When the bell rang to open the final round, the pair stood briefly at centre ring and traded a flurry of knees, kicks and elbows. Fatigue, however, quickly caught up with both men, and as the pace slowed and the closing minutes ticked away, both boxers fought desperately to win the round.
Kao Roomchang jumped onto the ropes and pumped a victory fist into the air after the final bell rang with the crowd roaring with approval. However, judges at ringside were not nearly so certain.
"That was everything I had," said an exhausted Pich Seyha after the fight.
When ring announcer Kim Lawe called the fight a draw, Kao Roomchang winced in pain. Pich Seyha's face went blank, then he laughed.
Everything had been for nothing.