Despite his small stature, 14-year-old Rithy Borin is determined to pursue a career as Kun Khmer fighter.
His ambition has grown thanks to encouragement from fans, who have flocked to see the young man display his talent and determination in the ring.
Despite his parents banning him from pursuing martial arts, his love and passion for the sport drove him to train in secret from the age of 11.
His skills have developed rapidly, and in the past three years, Borin has won 26 of his 32 fights, seven by knockout. He has also suffered five losses and been held to one draw.
Borin became the first boxer to claim the “Kun Khmer Super Fight” title in the 29kg weight class on July 12, when he defeated Pich Panha on points.
His feat earned him 1.5 million riel (around $375), and he has since gone on to win an additional million riel ($250) in purses.
He faced his first international opponent at the 8th Kun Khmer All Star event at the Morodok Techo National Stadium on August 22.
A left-right combo – followed by a jarring left elbow – in the second round saw Lao fighter Khun Lek Gym knocked out cold.
The crowd, impressed with the young man’s flawless execution of the elbow strikes – which are one of the Kingdom’s ancient martial arts’ signature moves – rewarded him with more than two million riel (over $500) as a sign of their appreciation.
He used the applause and admiration of the live audience as further motivation to commit to the sport.
“I want to compete with more international fighters, and in the future I want to become a famous boxer,” said the 1.4m pugilist.
He explained that while he had once been forced to train in secret, the Kun Khmer Super Fight Club eventually required him to gain the permission of his parents if he wished to continue. He made the decision to beg his parents for their support, convincing them of his passion.
“My parents did not want me to train in boxing, but my coach said he was unwilling to let me continue without their permission. Fortunately, my parents are now proud of my success, and even offer me encouragement,” he added.
Phat Soda, coach of the Kun Khmer Super Fight Club, said he would continue to train Borin and help him to develop his career.
“So far, I think his hardest opponent was Phan Panha, but all of his last four fights have been tough and challenging. I will try my best to coach him for a long as he wants to continue training in Kun Khmer,” he added.
Soda also expressed his delight at Borin’s recent extraordinary growth, both physically and in terms of his discipline and commitment to training.
He noted that although Borin is still at school and cannot train full time, he is still progressing remarkably well.
“As for his physical body, it’s now up to nature. The club president has sponsored him by providing him with plenty of milk to drink, so he will grow as much as possible. In the past three months, he has gained 3kg and grown taller,” he added.