Nuon Soriya (r) throws a punch at Brazilian opponent Gustavo Mendes during their fight at TV3 boxing arena on Saturday. Photograph: James Goyder/Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian boxers Nuon Soriya and Phal Sophoan incited national pride on Saturday by prevailing in their bouts against two top foreign fighters at TV3 boxing arena.
In the main event, Nuon Soriya, who recently returned from a stint coaching Kun Khmer in the US, showed no signs of ring rust after being out of competitive action for a lengthy period.
He comfortably outpointed Bangkok-based Brazilian Gustavo Mendes, who was on the back foot for the entire five rounds.
Soriya, 32, is a veteran of 75 fights but was able to effortlessly roll back the years with this performance.
He looked to land clubbing right hands from the opening round and, save for a few sharp body kicks, the Brazilian never really found his rhythm.
By his own admission, Soriya was not in peak condition and took a conservative approach, doing enough to consistently stay ahead of his opponent without expending too much energy.
Afterwards, he expressed his delight to have won after a prolonged absence from the Cambodian canvas.
“I haven’t fought for two or three years, and I am not in as good shape as I was when I was younger. I have a bit more fat around the waist now,” he said. “I was tired, but I was able to save my energy so I could fight all five rounds and I am very happy to have won.”
Earlier, up-and-coming young boxer Phal Sophoan took on Stephen Meleady, the number one ranked Muay Thai fighter at his weight in Ireland.
There was no feeling out process as both men went toe-to-toe from the opening bell, with the visitor looking to land kicks while the local favourite focused on his punching.
It was Sophoan’s strategy that proved the more effective as he landed a lightning fast jab-cross combination in the first round, which put a stunned Meleady down for the count.
The Irishman recovered but appeared to be on wobbly legs and did not remain upright for long as a perfectly timed head kick dropped him for the second time.
Meleady made it to the end of the round and appeared to recover his composure a little and started the second strongly, looking to repeatedly register heavy-looking kicks.
Once again it was the punching power of Sophoan that made the difference as another straight right landed flush and left his opponent struggling to stay upright.
Meleady stayed on his feet but looked distinctly dazed and, despite his protestations, the referee decided to give a standing count.
With three knockdowns to his credit, Sophoan’s lead on the scorecards was looking insurmountable and when he put Meleady down again in round three the official had seen enough and decided to step in to save him from further punishment.
Meleady, who trains at the renowned Jitti Gym in Bangkok, was disappointed with the decision to stop the fight but admitted that Sophoan’s power had caught him by surprise.
“In Muay Thai, fighters normally start slowly, but he came out fast, which caught me out a bit and I don’t remember the first punch which put me down. I would have liked to have been given the chance to fight for longer but he was really strong, very good punches.
“It’s only the second time I have ever been stopped in my career, and I would be happy to come back and give him a rematch,” he added.
To contact the reporter on this story: James Goyder at [email protected]