IN what will likely go down as the 2010 fight of the year, undefeated Koh Kong newcomer Phon Phanna outpointed top-ranked veteran Van Chanvey to clinch a spot in the light-welterweight tournament finals.
Fighting Saturday at the TV3 boxing arena, Phon Phanna cut Van Chanvey with an elbow early in the third round and withstood a ferocious 4th-round onslaught to hang on and score the upset.
“My head is sore,” said Phon Phanna, still dazed and rubbing his head several minutes after the fight. “Elbows,” he explained. “I’m dizzy.”
Both fighters copped a fierce beating.
Van Chanvey spent several post-fight minutes sitting on the apron before limping over to an empty judges table.
“The knees wore me out,” he said, as corner man Chan Ratana poked a towel between his teeth and the ringside doctor began stitching closed the gash across his forehead.
Twenty minutes later, Van Chanvey was on his hands and knees in the TV3 parking lot vomiting.
Blood and brutality
After two studious opening rounds, Van Chanvey and Phon Phanna climbed into each other in the third.
Phon Phanna opened a long diagonal cut across Van Chanvey’s forehead with an elbow in the first minute of the round and, except for two referee stoppages to mop up the blood, the pair traded power shots non-stop for three solid minutes.
When the bell rang, Phon Phanna glared across the ring and rolled a victory fist in the air. The gloating, however, was just a bit premature.
Van Chanvey came roaring back in the forth. “I wanted to knock him out,” he said
Smeared in blood, the pair traded dozens of elbows. Van Chanvey called it a “fight to the death.” Both fighters look dazed at times, and both appeared in danger of going down on several occasions.
“I was finished in the fourth,” Phon Phanna said.
But the knockout Van Chanvey so badly wanted never came, and by the fifth round he could barely hold his gloves up.
Phon Phanna, in only slightly better condition, came forward with strong push kicks, sending Van Chanvey into the ropes like a ragdoll. But also exhausted, he lacked the energy to put the Battambang left-hander away.
A new contender emerges
Six months ago, few in boxing circles had ever heard the name Phon Phanna.
Before returning to the Phnom Penh boxing scene in December, the 21-year-old Koh Kong native had spent the previous few years fighting across the border in Thailand.
Since coming home, he has rocketed from unheard of to unbeatable, and the victory over 22-year-old Van Chanvey makes him the top challenger in the light-welterweight division.
Beyond the TV3 tournament, a shortlist of top-ranked talent awaits him. Those names include Phal Sophat (the Bayon TV light-welterweight champion), Long Sophy (the TV5 lightweight champion) and Lao Sinath (the lightweight and light-welterweight champion at CTN).
Kao Roomchang, too, makes for an extremely compelling match up, even though he holds no title.
But first, Phon Phanna must get through the field at TV3. And that likely means another encounter with Van Chanvey.
Do or die for final berth
With a single fight card left in the round robin stage, Phon Phanna leads the pack with a 2-0 record.
Van Chanvey and Cheam Adam are tied in second at 1-1. The two will meet in a do-or-die bout August 21 to determine who faces Phon Phanna in the tournament final.