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Top lightweights battle for title shot

Top lightweights battle for title shot


An eight-man round-robin tournament to name a new challenger for the lightweight title begins Sunday at CTN with a top prize of 1.5 million riels and a motorbike to keep competition fierce

Photo by: ROBERT STARKWEATHER
Vung Noy is following a strict health regimen ahead of his bout Sunday against Kao Roomchang.

The Eight-Fighter lineup

  • Van Chanvey (Preah Khan Reach)
  • Bheut Bunthouen (Lions Roar Bans Drugs)
  • Vung Noy (Paillin)
  • Kao Roomchang (Brigade 43)
  • Nhaem Chenda (Bakheng)
  • Long Sophy (Salavorn)
  • Song Saruth (7NG Ei Phouthang)
  • Nuon Mony (MoD)

GUNNING for a shot at Lao Sinath's 60-kilogram title, some of the most exciting fighters in Cambodian kickboxing will square off in the coming months at the CTN boxing arena.

Beginning Sunday, and unfolding over the next 14 weeks, eight of the country's toughest lightweight contenders will compete in a round-robin tournament to determine a new No 1 challenger for the division.

"Everybody is strong," said Vung Noy, a rail-thin 20-year-old who faces Kao Roomchang in the inaugural card Sunday. "But I am strong, too."
The youngest of five brothers, all former boxers from the hard-scrabble northwestern province of Pailin, Vung Noy began fighting at the age of 13.

By late 2008, the 57-kilogram fighter had run out of opponents in his own weight division. He moved up to the 60-kilogram weight class in order to get fights, but even in the heavier division he found few takers.

Among tournament contenders, Vung Noy ranks himself fourth. Van Chanvey, he says, rubbing a long, jagged scar that marks his left temple, is stronger. So is Long Sophy and Kao Roomchang, who he will meet Sunday in the main event at CTN.

"Kao Roomchang is very good," he said. "I will have to be very fit to win. If my stamina can hold up, I can beat him."
The tournament marks Vung Noy's first opportunity to win a title, and he remains committed to making the most of his chances.
"No going out," he said, "and no sex!"

Winning by knockouts
Tournament rules state that fighters will fight seven times, once against each of the other seven contestants, said Ma Serey, director of sports at CTN and the station's star fight maker.

The tournament winner will be decided on points and knockouts. For each winning fight, a boxer receives three points, while losers get nothing. After all 28 bouts, the fighter with the most points and knockouts will take home the tournament's top prize of 1.5 million riels (US$358), drive away with a brand new Viva motorbike, and book a date with Lao Sinath in the ring. For normal tournament bouts, boxers earn around 350,000 riels, a standard purse for top-name fighters.

In March, CTN concluded a similar tournament at 63.5 kilograms. Three of the top names from that contest - Long Sophy, Van Chanvey and Kao Roomchang - have dropped in weight and will also appear in the upcoming tournament.

Another Long shot
Long Sophy won the heavier competition, for which he received a sizeable cash prize, a new moto, and a title bout with Lao Sinath.

Although Lao Sinath knocked him out in the third round of that fight, Long Sophy remains the top-ranked contender in both the 60- and 63.5-kilogram divisions, and he is a heavy favorite to win the coming lightweight tournament.

With Long Sophy's first fight still more than a week off, his trainer, Long Salavorn, said he had not given much thought to the tournament, but he knows his fighter can win.

"Come on," he said. "Give us another moto."
Fights start at 2pm on Sunday at CTN arena, featuring Van Chavey v Bheut Bunthoen and Vung Noy v Kao Roomchang.

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