Prum Samnang became the first Cambodian boxer to win twice in a row at the Thai Fight event after stopping Russian Firdavszhon Naiimov in the first round of the February 26 event.
On the same night, Thoeun Theara – who last December claimed a title at the event, making him the first Cambodian to do so –knocked out the Moroccan boxer Oussama El Kouche.
As the fame of Samnang and Theara grows, so too does the reputation of Kun Khmer in the world of combat sports.
Samnang took less than two minutes to stop Naiimov in the first round of his bout, which was watched live by more than 200,000 people. The result echoed his first round knockout of English boxer Thomas Carpenter on February 5.
The outcome was far from clear at the beginning of the match, with the Russian keeping Samanag under pressure with a flurry of well-aimed blows. Fortunately, Naiimov appeared to tire, leaving an opening for the knees of Samnang, who knocked him down and forced a standing count.
Although the Russian attempted to continue the fight, he was promptly taken down by a flying kick and left knee strike, forcing the referee to declare the match over.
On the same night, Theara also utilised Kun Khmer-style knee strikes to deadly effect, knocking his opponent out clean in the second round.
The two victories swelled the pride of the Kingdom’s fight fans, and served as a declaration that Kun Khmer is a force to be taken seriously.
Samnang and Theara have become two of the most popular fighters in Cambodia, and both are attracting a lot of attention both at home and abroad.
Against the heady backdrop of the two victories, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and the Cambodia SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC) Vath Chamroeun called on fans to stop fuelling the debate between the exponents of Kun Khmer and those of Mouy Thai.
The decision to use the term Kun Khmer at the upcoming 32nd SEA Games led to a boycott by the Thai national fighters, who insist that Muay Thai is the only acceptable term for the sport.
“When we organise a multi-sport event like the games, we need to do it collectively as a whole nation. This means we must express our national pride as a nation, and Kun Khmer is very much a part of our cultural identity. Many other ASEAN members have conceded the point, and are happy to compete. If one nation chooses not to, then that is their own concern. Of course, if another country opts not to use our preferred term, than we have the option of not participating in their events, too,” he told a February 23 press conference.
“We have no issue competing in Muay Thai championships or fight promotions, because they are an excellent chance for our fighters to hone their skills. It is important though, that we do not make this a political issue, or use it to incite anger between our two nations. We must remain calm. We our developing our sport, and they are developing theirs,” he said.