A fifth-round charge from Anlong Veng fighter Khon Reach was not enough for points decision over faster and busier Long Sophy of Battambang Saturday
Referee Sok Vichay watches as Khon Reach (left, red shorts) sizes up top-ranked veteran Long Sophy during the first round of the main event Saturday at CTN.
LOOKING stronger in the clinch and quicker to the punch, Long Sophy outworked an underpower Khon Reach to win by a points decision Saturday at CTN TV station.
Fighting on just four days' rest, Long Sophy stayed busier and defended better throughout all five rounds. He scored with low kicks early and showed little trouble outpacing Khon Reach in the later stages.
Khon Reach, arguably fatigued from trying to make the 63-kilogram weight limit, showed scarce glimpses of the fighter who scored a fourth-round knockout over Long Sophy in August.
"He beat me, there's no doubt," Khon Reach conceded after the bout. "I was worn out from trying to make weight."
The 19-year-old typically fights at 65kg. Weighing 66kg Thursday morning and despite two days of dieting, he still weighed in half a kilogram too heavy for Saturday's fight.
"I haven't eaten since Thursday," Khon Reach said before the bout. "Still, I couldn't make weight. I weighed in this morning at 63.5 kilograms."
Long Sophy, 21, weighed in at 61 kilograms. He too arrived at less than 100 percent, having gone five rounds in Ratanakkiri Tuesday in a losing effort against Nuon Soriya.
He shrugged off Khon Reach's failure to make weight and the fight went ahead as scheduled.
Long Sophy and Khon Reach have met several times, and it did not take long before Long Sophy noticed that Khon Reach could put little behind his punches.
"I knew I had him in the second round," he stated after the bout.
In the second round Khon Reach and Long Sophy traded a dozen low kicks or more. For each one that Khon Reach landed, Long Sophy answered with one quicker and harder.
When Khon Reach tried a front kick to the face, Long Sophy saw it coming and slipped away. Seconds later, Long Sophy landed his own face kick. His foot did not land flush, but it scored, and in an otherwise even three minutes, the point probably swayed the round in favour of the senior fighter.
Khon Reach's best round came in the third, when he caught several Long Sophy kicks and scored with counters. Early in the round, with Long Sophy's right leg hooked under his arm, Khon Reach kicked the supporting leg and swept his opponent to the ground. Using a similar catch later in the round, Khon Reach used his free hand to pull Long Sophy's head toward the canvass and land knees into the body.
The move jolted the crowd into raucous life, but the points likely came too late to steal the round from Long Sophy, who had earlier racked up scores with knees in the clinch.
Frustration showed in the fourth when Khon Reach gave raised eyebrows and a "come on" look at Long Sophy in an attempt to goad him into an exchange of power shots.
Khon Reach got what he wanted in the fifth round. When the opening bell rang, both fighters bolted to centre ring and traded a flurry of combinations in the most action-packed minute of the fight.
The small, holiday crowd of loyal fans exploded with applause every bit as deafening as a packed house on Sunday afternoon.
But while the crowd thundered in support of Khon Reach, the exchange did little to alter the outcome of the fight, which to Long Sophy at least, had been apparent since the second round.
With the victory, Long Sophy of Battambang moves to 58-23-1.
Khon Reach, from Anlong Veng, drops to 25-8. The loss will do little to ease doubts about Khon Reach's ability to rise for the big fights.
Having first come to notice in last year's CTN reality series Kun Khmer Champion as an early favourite to win it all, Khon Reach got knocked out in the first round by Ei Kosal, a then up-and-coming student of Ei Phouthong.
Although disappointed by his performance in the show, Khon Reach went on to score victories over top-name talents such as Sarim Vonthon and Phal Sophat, as well as the fourth-round knockout against Long Sophy.
In September, Bayon TV selected Khon Reach as one of 12 contenders in a tournament for the light-welterweight title, losing in the quarterfinals to veteran Pich Arun. Phal Sophat and Sarim Vonthon, both of whom he had beaten previously, took first and second place, respectively.
Even in defeat, the talent that got him chosen for the Kun Khmer Champion series remains evident, and past losses have inspired him to train longer and harder.
At just 19 years old, Khon Reach is likely to have many years of fighting ahead of him. Age and experience should teach him how to pick up victories even on off nights. So too should it give him the ability to drop a couple of kilograms without losing the fight.