Sen Bunthen escaped a second-round brush with trouble and used his big right hand to punch his way past May Sopheap on Sunday at TV5 boxing arena
Sen Bunthen (right, blue shorts) throws a high kick at the face of May Sopheap during their non-title bout at TV5 boxing arena Sunday.
AFTER getting kicked in the head early in the second round, Sen Bunthen regained his composure and largely outclassed welterweight champion May Sopheap to win by decision Sunday at TV5 boxing arena.
Even before losing Sunday's non-title fight, May Sopheap was largely viewed as a champion on the wane with the 25-year-old veteran from Battambang losing three of his last four fights.
In comparison, Sen Bunthen has not lost a fight in nearly a year since winning and then losing a controversial pair of bouts for the welterweight title against May Sopheap.
Declared the winner in the first bout, Sen Bunthen was immediately stripped of the decision by Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation president Om Yourann, who accused Sen Bunthen's corner of applying balm to his gloves and deliberately rubbing them in May Sopheap's eyes.
In the final round, May Sopheap stopped fighting briefly, turned away and rubbed intently at his left eye. Sen Bunthen drilled him with a right hard to score an 8-count.
May Sopheap outpointed Sen Bunthen in an extremely close rematch to claim the 67-kilogram title. Before every round, referee Chey Bunchoeu sniffed the gloves of both fighters, smelling for signs of dubious sportsmanship.
In the months since those fights, Sen Bunthen has beaten May Sopheap convincingly, as well as legends of the sport Outh Phoutang and Chey Kosal.
If there was a danger in facing May Sopheap on Sunday, it lurked in taking him too lightly. With his hands low in the opening seconds of the second round, 27-year-old Sen Bunthen slipped a right-left punch combination from the Battambang southpaw, but a trailing left roundhouse caught him on the jaw.
The kick stunned him for a second, but claimed he was not in any real danger after the fight. "I was little dizzy," he said. "No problem."
With his opponent leaning against the ropes and blinking hard, the veteran May Sopheap needed no cues. He followed the kick with another combination then lunged into the clinch with a knee. Sen Bunthen crumbled under the weight.
Sen Bunthen binds his hands in preparation for his non-title fight against May Sopheap at TV5 arena Sunday.
Referee Chaum Chaury pulled the fighters to their feet and appeared to wave May Sopheap to the neutral corner, but when Sen Bunthen stood up, Chaum Chaury said nothing and waved the fighters on.
May Sopheap charged forward with another right-left kick combination, sending Kampong Cham's Sen Bunthen careening back into the ropes. May Sopheap shot in for the clinch and thundered away at the body with knees. Sen Bunthen, still starry-eyed, could do little but hang on.
Chaum Chaury broke the fighters and restarted them at center ring. May Sopheap came straight forward with a right-left kick combination which Sen Bunthen slipped and connected with a right hand to the chin, knocking May Sopheap back a step.
Sen Bunthen raised his eyebrows and smiled. Until that moment, he had mostly fought a lacklustre fight. The kick to his face had not only wobbled him, but appeared to wake him up.
Fifteen seconds later, Sen Bunthen landed another hard right that buckled May Sopheap, then half a dozen more after that. From there on out, it was all Sen Bunthen.
In the third round and beyond, Kampong Cham native Sen Bunthen hammered away at May Sopheap with big right hands.
Sen Bunthen caught May Sopheap with the right as the champ shot in for the clinch and, on a few occasions, just stepped away and let the southpaw barrel into the ropes alone.
As the fight slipped away, May Sopheap got careless and Sen Bunthen started loading up and picking his shots. He rocked May Sopheap with punches in both the fourth and fifth rounds, and it looked as if the Battambang fighter might fall.
In the dressing room afterwards, Vorn Viva, ISKA world middleweight champion and a fixture in May Sopheap's corner, gave the defeated fighter his analysis. "You lost it on hands," he said. "He was catching you with the right hand." Others in the room murmured in agreement. May Sopheap cleared his throat hard and shook his head, but said nothing.