Cambodian fighters are set to defend their world kickboxing titles for the first time this evening at the indoor hall of Olympic Stadium. The International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) sanctioned event is hosted by the Cambodian Boxing Federation and will be adjudicated by officials from both organisations.
A crowd of about 8,000 local fight enthusiasts are expected to pack the arena in support of Cambodian world champions Vorn Viva and Meas “The Dragon” Chantha. Vorn Viva fights out of the Preah Khan Reach club under trainer Treung Sossay, while Meas Chantha will be returning home as a representive of his new club in Australia, Sunrise Bradal Serey, where he is tutored by Chea Sarun.
The home crowd heroes will have no easy task in defending their respective belts against two hungry opponents who have journeyed from England in pursuit of the most prestigious hardware in kickboxing.
Challenging the 26-year-old Meas Chantha for the Welterweight title will be former ISKA world champion Tim “TNT” Thomas, who lost his belt in his first defence bout to fellow Englishman Frankie Hudders, who in turn relinquished the title in his next fight to the Cambodian.
Thomas has fought in the Kingdom once before, defeating then 66kg Cambodia national champion Pich Sophan in a non-title fight in 2008. Meas Chantha noted both of them had been given time to improve.
“[Thomas] may be better than before,” he told The Post. “However, through my training at the Sunrise Bradal Serey Club in Australia, I hope I will defend my belt.”
The 28-year-old Thomas, on the other hand, revealed he has paid little attention to his opponent in the build up to today’s fight.
“It’s going to be a good fight. I don’t normally watch tapes of my opponents. I just get in and do what I do,” he said during an interview at training on Wednesday. “And then if I win I win. If I lose, I’ll win next time.”
Middleweight title holder Vorn Viva will be fighting current ISKA European middleweight champion Ben Barwise in what promises to be an explosive match-up. The two fighters are both 24 years of age and are just as evenly matched in fighting experience.
Vorn Viva has 31 fights with 27 wins and 12 KO’s to his name, while Ben Barwise has 30 fights with 27 wins and 10 KOs, according to CTN press release.
Barwise’s trainer John Jarvis admitted to doing some research on their rival and anticipated a well-contested title fight.
“We have watched many of Vorn Viva’s fights on the internet. It’s a bit of a clash of styles, so I think it’ll be quite a good fight to be honest,” said Jarvis.
“Vorn’s a good boxer – likes his elbows, likes to come forward - so he’ll be pressing for that. He’s a bigger boxer than Ben I think, but it’s boxing, so anyone can win.
“We’ve come to do our best. Ben’s very fit, he’s been training very hard, and he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve as well.”
Barwise appeared unphased by the prospect of contending with a largely Cambodian crowd who will be behind Vorn Viva’s every strike.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “To be honest, I’ve loved Cambodia since I came over [on Tuesday]. It’s the first time I’ve been here, I can only imagine it’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere. It’ll be a pleasure to fight in front of them [the Cambodian crowd].”
Vorn Viva was more reserved and declined to comment on his upcoming fight when questioned by Post reporters this week.
Completing the international card will be Sweden’s Simon Janjam and Brazil’s Thiago Teixeira, who are trained by Ralph Beale at the WMC Lamai camp in Koh Samui. They will face Cambodian boxers Bheut Kham and Thun “Thunder” Sophea respectively.
Bheut Kham fights out of Salavorn boxing club under Long Salavorn, while Thun Sophea is trained by Chhit Sarim at the Ministry of Defense Boxing Association.
A series of local fighters will also clash on the undercard of this historic night in Cambodian boxing, with Cheam Adam facing Nun Chumnith, Morn Kimlong taking on Pich Arun, and Chey Kosal pitted against Pich Seyha.
Doors will open at Olympic Stadium at 6:30pm, with tickets starting from US$3.
Meas Chantha and Tim Thomas are slated to enter the ring around 9pm for their title bout, followed by Vorn Viva and Ben Barwise.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHORN NORN