IN his Cambodian debut six weeks ago, Irish kickboxing veteran Josh Palmer stunned local crowds with a first-round knockout over Koh Kong legend Outh Phouthang.
On Saturday, the six-foot-tall (1.83-metre) former soldier faced Um Dara, Outh Phouthang’s 22-year-old stable mate at the Ministry of Defence boxing club.
Although nowhere nearly as experienced, Um Dara turned in a dazzling five-round performance, blasting away with low kicks early and elbows late. Still, he could not slow the bigger, stronger Palmer, who marched right through Um Dara’s roundhouse to take the victory decision on Saturday at the TV3 boxing arena.
“He hurt me with the low kicks,” said Palmer, the 31-year-old former sports therapist. “After the second round I couldn’t walk. A few more and I might have gone down.”
For all the pain, however, Palmer knew he could not show it. “Cause then you’re fucked,” he said. “The guy is just going to come and finish you off.”
Palmer retook control in the third. He began countering punches with knees and forcing the clinch, where he could exploit his size and strength advantage.
Still, Um Dara, who is nicknamed ‘Black Face’ for the large black birthmark that covers the bridge of his nose, proved remarkably durable.
“I had him in the clinch, and I pushed his head down and caught him hard right [on the cheek] with a knee,” Palmer said. “Nothing – he just kept coming.”
In the fourth, Palmer drove Um Dara backward with two flush left knees. For a brief moment, Um Dara appeared hurt, and his work rate dwindled through the final minute of the round.
Um Dara fought hard to retake the lead in the fifth. He scored with low kicks and studiously tried to avoid the clinch. But Palmer just kept steamrolling through, tying him along the ropes and landing knees to the body and elbows to the head.
During the fight, a fan had donated 50,000 riels (US$142.50) to each fighter. And afterwards, Um Dara walked over to Palmer’s dressing room to shake hands with his opponent and pass along the money.
After a brief discussion on the value of the riel, Abbas Ahmedi, who lost in the second round of the co-feature against Long Sophy, asked how much his and Palmer’s opponents made. Upon hearing the answer – 600,000 riels – he made a face as if someone had hit him below the belt.
Palmer has fought around 50 professional fights around the world, including more than two dozen bouts in Thailand. “The tougher fights are here. They’re hometown boys, and they fight their hearts out,” he said, before handing the 50,000 riels back.