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First Khmer boxer off to China; France, Europe, US fights beckon

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Cambodian kickboxer Lon Panha. PHOTO SUPPLIED

First Khmer boxer off to China; France, Europe, US fights beckon

The Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and the Cambodia Kickboxing Federation (CKBF) have partnered with Chinese-run LoongHai Fight Club to send fighter Lon Panha to a kickboxing tournament in China. The federations also have plans to send boxers to Europe and the US in the near future.

Hosted by Henan TV, the tournament is China’s largest.

SEA Games silver medalist Panha will face off in a February 3 international friendly match with a Chinese fighter in the 67kg weight class.

“This is the first time Cambodia has sent a fighter to China, and it is a source of pride for us. It is also a special opportunity for Panha to test his skills ahead of May’s SEA Games,” said CKBF president Heng Sokhorn at a January 30 press conference.

Sokhorn, who is also secretary-general of the KKIF, said national kickboxers Beut Sangkeum, Chhut Serey Vanthong, Chhoeung Lvei and Kham Khla Neang have also been invited to compete in China, in what he sees as an excellent opportunity to market both Kun Khmer and the Kingdom’s fighters.

Loong Hai president Gup Yang, who also addressed the press conference, said: “Henan TV will organise this event. I don’t see how we can host such a [major] kickboxing event without the presence of Cambodian fighters. We contact the federations because we want to promote Kun Khmer to the world,” said.

According to Yang, this is the first time they have invited a Cambodian kickboxer to fight in China, though his club hosted an event in Siem Reap last year, which he said received widespread support from Chinese fans.

“I want to help Cambodian boxers to step into big events on the international stage so that they can perform and showcase their skills. Cambodia has a strong culture, and Kun Khmer is a huge part of Khmer national identity. We want to contribute to its promotion so Kun Khmer becomes well-known around the world,” he added.

Guo saw LoongHai’s relationship with the CKBF and KKIF as symbolic of cooperation between China and Cambodia.

“Through this cooperation, we grow our sport. A Chinese proverb goes ‘As long as there is solidarity, nothing is impossible for us to achieve’ and our close friendship will make us stronger,” he said.

He believed Panha has a good shot at claiming the Kingdom’s first victory on Chinese soil.

Sokhorn explained the federations’ long-term international expansion plans.

“We already have many notable successes in Thailand, and are about to begin competing in China. We have signed an MoU with communications experts, who will help us to find new markets and negotiate fights. Some of our fighters are scheduled for matches in Greece. In June, four boxers will fight in the US, and four more in France,” he said.


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