Cambodia'A 73kg heavyweight champion Thoeun Theara praised his Estonian opponent Jargo Aniste for his resilience and refusal to surrender after being knocked down several times in their Sunday match, while three of Theara’s teammates were no fortunate, all being knocked out by Thai and Vietnamese fighters.

Meanwhile local star Elit Chamroeun defeated Thorn Ian Lai to become the hot favourite to reach the semi-finals and fight for the Golden Trophy at Town Arena.

Theara caught Aniste with a powerful elbow early in the first round, a blow which put his opponent on the mat and forced a ten count by the referee. The seemingly stunned Estonian fighter dropped his hands and was forced to absorb many punishing headshots from his Khmer opponent, which led to a further two knockdowns in the second round.

What astonished the crowd was the Estonian’s refusal to throw in the towel and his determination to stay in the hunt for a striking opportunity.

Entering the third round, Aniste was forced to accept a ten count for the second time after he collected another of Theara’s savage elbows to the left of his head. Theara followed the elbow up with a flurry of punches – but again Aniste refused to give up.

It was all over at the end of the third round, when another elbow knocked Aniste to the floor and cut his temple open, forcing the referee to declare the fight over. His face streaming with blood, Aniste expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision – despite being clearly outclassed.

“I tried my best to open up his defence and land some heavy shots. I really admire him for holding on in this match. When he fell for the third time, I was surprised to see him signalling that he wanted to continue. He has real heart. In the third round, I tried to walk him down and finish him off – because I wasn’t able to do so in the first or second,” said Theara.

Speaking after the match, Aniste said “this is the first time I have been to Cambodia and I am really impressed and surprised by the ability of my opponent – and as you can see, he is very strong. I would love the opportunity for a rematch.”

On the same day, in a qualifying match in Group A for the 2nd season of the Golden Trophy, Chamroeun took 3 points from Ian Lai with a 4-1 unanimous victory. Although the Cambodian fighter was really only pressed hard by his opponent in the second round, the match was tough and very attractive.

Following this victory, Chamroeun has an almost 100 per cent chance of reaching the semi-finals. Puth Sambo defeated Roeum Vannak in the second round to win 3 points after losing to Ian Lai on the opening day. After two rounds, Chamroeun has 6 points while Ian Lai and Puth Sambo have 4 points each. Roeum Vannak, who had only 2 points, was automatically dropped from the competition.

In the other three international friendlies that took place on Sunday, Cambodia was not so fortunate. Heng Sopheak was knocked out by Vietnam’s Nguyen Thang Trung Mat in the first 60kg class, while Elit Pheakdey met the same fate at the hands of Thai Nattaphum in the third minute of the 65kg event. Him Kimrieng wasted an early advantage in his match with Thai boxer Chai Phorn Phoeum Sovann, slipping into a third minute elbow – and unconsciousness.