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Pich Sambath punches way to decision victory over Kao Lek

Pich Sambath punches way to decision victory over Kao Lek

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Kien Svay native Pich Sambath (left) boxed his way to a decision victory over Battambang’s Kao Lek (right) Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena.

With a big right hand, RCAF strongman Pich Sambath powered past Brigade 70 kickboxer Kao Lek to win on points at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao Sunday.

FIGHTING for a thin but raucous holiday crowd, highly rated light middleweight prospect Pich Sambath punched his way to a decision win over Kao Lek Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

A solid favourite heading into the bout, Pich Sambath buckled Kao Lek twice in the second round with punches, and unloaded a flurry of combinations in the third to seal the victory.

Kao Lek, 23, knew going into the fight that Pich Sambath would cause trouble with his hands, and the strategy was to force the fight inside and make Pich Sambath, 24, fight from the clinch.

“The plan is to [work the clinch and] knock him out with knees,” Kao Lek said before the bout.

A native of Battambang, Kao Lek began fighting on the local village circuit at the age of 18. In 2006, he moved to Phnom Penh, where he landed with trainer The Sarin at the Brigade 70 boxing club.

Kao Lek’s fight strategy held up through the early rounds, as he landed hard kicks to the body and scored with knees in the clinch. But as the match unfolded, Pich Sambath found more and more openings for his punches and proved just as adept grappling on the inside as he did from punching at a distance.

Pich Sambath buckled Kao Lek once in the first round with a surprise right hand, then buckled him twice again in the second round, each time with punches.

With Kao Lek stepping backward into the neutral corner, Pich Sambath jabbed twice then slipped to the left and swung a wild, sidearm hook that caught Kao Lek square in the chin. Kao Lek’s knees gave way and he sunk into the ropes.

Standing at centre ring 30 seconds later, Pich Sambath jolted Kao Lek again with another sneaky right hand.

In the third round, Pich Sambath cut loose, punching to the body and head with hand skills rarely seen in kickboxing matches. A brutal body shot echoed through the half-empty arena and drew oohs and aahs from the crowd. Seconds later, a speedy six-punch combination – four to the body and two to the head – all but slammed the door shut on Kao Lek’s afternoon.

Pich Sambath remains impenetrable
Undeterred, Kao Lek hunted for the clinch and racked up points with knees in a bid to keep the fight close. But even inside, Pich Sambath proved, if not better, at least equal.

Unable to beat Pich Sambath in the clinch, Kao Lek tried to adapt. In the third round, he chose to stay outside and test his boxing game.

The tactic found minimal success, and by the fourth round The Sarin implored his fighter to return to the original strategy.

“Fight inside,” he shouted from ringside. “The hands are not working.”

But by round four, Kao Lek was breathing heavy and fading fast. As his work rate slowed and his strength waned, Pich Sambath began throwing him around the ring with ease.

Afterward, Kao Lek pointed to the distraction of the holidays for a lack of focus. “I didn’t have a chance to fully train,” he said. “I am completely exhausted.”

The Sarin offered a more succinct analysis. “He beat us with punches,” he said.

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