HOW good is Long Sophy? On Sunday, the 21-year-old Battambang native beat not one but two of the toughest fighters in the lightweight division. And while racing across town from one ring to the next, he even bested Mother Nature, too.
In the first match at CTN, Long Sophy countered looping punches with hard kicks and outmanoeuvred Vung Noy in the clinch to earn a points decision and hang on to third place in the lightweight tournament standings.
“I tried to get him with elbows and knees, but I could not catch him,” said Vung Noy afterward, waiting ringside for the doctor to stitch a cut over his left eye, the result of a head butt.
Vung Noy kept the fight close with punches, and the crowd at the CTN boxing arena roared behind each head-snapping right hand that he landed. But Long Sophy worked better in the clinch, and he racked up points countering right hands with roundhouse kicks to the ribs.
“He got me with lots of kicks to the body,” said Vung Noy with a grimace afterward, turning to reveal a shiny red torso.
After winning at CTN, Long Sophy hightailed it over to Olympic Stadium, just narrowly beating the afternoon thunderstorms. A mere 30 minutes after going five rounds with Vung Noy, Long Sophy outworked Van Chanvey to claim his second decision of the day and win the 2009 60-kilogram national title and a 21-inch color television.
With medal in hand, Long Sophy’s focus now turns to his next bout, a highly anticipated contest with Kao Roomchang to settle the lightweight tournament standings
The eight-man round-robin tournament began July 19. Once the round-robin competition is completed, the top four finishers, as determined by wins and knockouts, will advance into the semifinals, where first place meets fourth and second goes against third. Semifinal winners will then compete for first and second place in the tournament. Losers will contest third.
With just two weeks left in the schedule, Kao Roomchang, Van Chanvey, Long Sophy and Vung Noy are all but certain to advance. Only their placement remains in question.
Currently, Kao Roomchang (6-0, 2 KOs) holds first place, with Van Chanvey (5-1, 4 KOs), Long Sophy (5-1, 1 KO) and Vung Noy (3-3, 2 KOs) behind him.
But the final match of the tourney, Long Sophy v Kao Roomchang, carries with it the potential to rearrange the leader-board. Scheduled for October 25, a Long Sophy win would knock Kao Roomchang from first place and give Van Chanvey the top position.
Long Sophy and Kao Roomchang have fought three times. All three fights ended in decision, with Long Sophy taking the first two and Kao Roomchang the last.
Known for an intense, hard-charging style, Kao Roomchang tends to fight best in big fights. And right now, fresh from victory at the nationals, there are few fighters bigger than Long Sophy.
Kao Roomchang scores KO
In the first of two lightweight tournament fights Sunday at CTN, Kao Roomchang smashed Naem Chenda with an elbow to score a sudden but unsurprising first-round knockout.
A smart, nimble fighter, Naem Chenda looked good for the first two minutes of the fight, showing agile defence and footwork and scoring with punches and punch-kick combinations.
He was easily winning the round when Kao Roomchang caught a front push kick with his right hand, then skipped in with a left elbow. The blow landed flush on the right cheek of Naem Chenda, who took half a step and then collapsed face-first onto the canvas.