A long shot when the light-middleweight tournament opened, Pom Saray outguns Long Sophy Sunday at TV5 arena to clinch a quarterfinals berth
THE difference in size between the two fighters could not have been more pronounced. Long Sophy, tall and wiry at 1.75 metres, towered over Pom Saray, the barrel-chested underdog with the muscles of a bodybuilder, who stood a mere 1.62 metres.
Long Sophy’s height, however, never became a factor, and whatever perceived advantage he held going into the fight quickly evaporated under the powerful assault of Pom Saray, who used slick defense and body-shaking kicks to score a major upset decision victory Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.
A southpaw from Banteay Meanchey, Pom Saray worked harder in the opening rounds to take an early lead. He scored with low inside kicks and hard kicks to the body, and used his speed to keep away from the taller Long Sophy.
Long Sophy, the 22-year-old from Battambang, stayed patient until the middle round, when a sense of urgency began to show in his pace. He marched forward with jabs and scored with kicks while looking for the clinch, but Pom Saray show no interest in tangling inside with a significantly taller opponent.
Instead, the 33-year-old continued to kick away at the legs as Long Sophy came forward with punches, and he countered kicks with lead right hooks, knocking the youngster wildly off balance on several occasions.
In the minutes between the third and fourth round, Long Sophy’s corner man Chheng Rithy frantically urged his fighter to pick up the pace.
“You must kick more,” he pleaded. “Jab, jab, kick. Jab, Kick. Kick! KICK!”
Long Sophy came out strong in the fourth round, trying to fend off a sense of inevitability that was slowly but undeniably settling in at the TV5 boxing arena.
The den of ringside spectators, eager to cash in on an upset, roared in support of the underdog. “Kick him again! Kick him again!” screamed the large lady known by her nickname Yeay Map.
Inside the ring, Pom Saray continued to blast away with low kicks and powerful roundhouses to the body, the packed house punctuating each blow with a thunderous roar.
Long Sophy kept marching forward, relentlessly trying to score points with punches and kicks, but by the final round only a knockout could have changed the outcome.
When the final bell rang, Long Sophy bowed at Pom Saray’s feet.
The bout came as part of an eight-man 63.5-kilogram tournament currently under way at the TV5 boxing arena. In the second group B fight Sunday, Nuon Phireak waited patiently for a knockout shot that never came, letting Les Tuk escape with a convincing points decision.
Only one round remains in the group stages of the tournament, and Sunday’s results set up exciting do-or-die fights in the final round.
With the victory over Long Sophy, Pom Saray moves to the top of Group B with a 2-0 record. Long Sophy and Les Tuk are stuck in the middle at 1-1.
Long Sophy and Les Tuk will meet Sunday, January 14 to determine who advances into the quarterfinal stage.
At 0-2, Nuon Phireak faces certain elimination.
Group A’s final round unfolds Sunday. Kao Roomchang, who sits atop the group with a 2-0 tournament record, will face Sarim Vonthon in a bout that has no effect on tournament standings. Kao Roomchang has already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, whereas Sarim Vonthon, 0-2, has no chance of advancing.
Luk Vibol and Kao Bunheng, both 1-1, are the two fighters caught in the middle, and both are expected to offer a fierce fight in defence of their tournament lives.