Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sen Bunthen returns with interest

Sen Bunthen returns with interest

Sen Bunthen returns with interest


A badly dislocated shoulder nearly ended Sen Bunthen’s career. Only surgery in Germany made his return possible, and he has won both of his comeback fights in Cambodia over past two weeks. Photo by: Robert Starkweather

After being sidelined with a dislocated shoulder late last year, Sen Bunthen announced his return to the light-middleweight division at the weekend with an upset decision over local fight great Thun Sophea.

The top-ranked light middleweight a year ago, Sen Bunthen went five rounds to earn a points victory Friday night at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao, in just his second ring appearance since October 2009.

The victory continues a string of high-profile wins that began in March 2009 and has catapulted Sen Bunthen into the highest echelons of the division. Last year he beat Outh Phoutang twice, once in their initial meeting in March and again in a rematch a month later. In May, he outpointed Chey Kosal.

At the time, Sen Bunthen appeared unbeatable.

But then, seemingly at the pinnacle of an all-star career, he lost to Mai Chaimov in the final of the 2009 National Championships when he dislocated his left shoulder near the end of the second round.

His two corner men, Pov Soksut and Nuon Sorya, tugged and yanked, trying to snap his arm back into socket during the rest before the round three, but they could not, and Sen Bunthen was forced to retire.

He was to lose a K-1 title fight in Charleroi, Belgium, the same way three weeks later.

Both times, doctors had to sedate the 28-year-old Kampong Cham native to reset his shoulder. And as 2009 ended, it appeared that injury was going to rob boxing of one of its most promising new stars.

Sen Bunthen underwent shoulder surgery in Germany in March. The procedure, known as a Bankhart repair, has allowed him to return to ring. But the long-term prospects are anything but certain. With every clinch, every blocked kick, comes a degree of doubt about whether, and for how long, the new shoulder will hold.

“I do a lot of pull-ups,” Sen Bunthen said. “The doctor said they are good to help streng-then the shoulder.”

He got his first test two weeks ago, when he stepped into the ring against Vung Sithai, the eldest veteran of the Brigade 70 club. Sen Bunthen scored a knockdown in the first round with a straight right and finished it early in the second with a series of right middle kicks.

Friday’s bout with Thun Sophea provided a far greater test. Widely known for his thunderous low kicks, Thun Sophea wasted no time putting all his kicking power into the arm least likely to take it.

“No low kicks with me,” Sen Bunthen said with a laugh.

Within seconds of the opening bell, Thun Sophea kicked hard to the shoulder, beginning a long exchange of body kicks, and he easily won round two behind a barrage of right roundhouses to the shoulder.

“He was kicking me right here all night,” Sen Bunthen said, making a chopping motion into his left shoulder. “He knows I have a bad arm.”

After sharp opening exchanges in the third and fourth rounds, the pair settled into a low-action battle of head games.

“He’s an excellent counterpuncher,” said Sen Bunthen. “I knew that if I struck first he would counter me, so I had to be patient.”

Each side flinched and feinted, trying to provoke the other into striking, and heading into the final round, the pair appeared mostly even.

Sen Bunthen was busier though the final three minutes. “I knew I would win,” he said. “I have to win.”

Thun Sophea blamed a lack of preparation for the loss.

“I didn’t have enough time to train,” he said. “They only confirmed the match on Sunday, and then you fight on Friday. That’s only four days. Bunthen’s been training all along.”

A rematch seems likely, since neither fighter has many options in terms of local opponents.

For Sen Bunthen, a rematch with Outh Phoutang or, perhaps, a date with ISKA World Middleweight Champion Vorn Viva remains his only credible options beyond Thun Sophea, at least for now.

The other two big names, Bheut Kam and Chey Kosal, are both involved in the light-middleweight tournament at the Bayon TV boxing arena, which is likely to last into the new year.

Both would make for tantalising bouts. Sen Bunthen has never faced Bheut Kam, who for years dominated the lower weight divisions and is now making a run at his sixth career title in a fourth weight division.

And Chey Kosal has long wanted a rematch. “Chey Kosal is waiting for me, I know,” Sen Bunthen said.

Both matches will certainly be made after the tournament is over.

In the meantime, Sen Bunthen will turn to imported talent. He is scheduled to face an unnamed foreigner on September 25 at the TV3 boxing arena.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is