Cambodian boxer Thon Rithy expressed his regrets at having to settle for a draw against Thai boxer Saiyok Pumpanmuang during their rematch, held during Sunday night’s “The Battle of Kings” event at National Television of Cambodia (TVK). He blamed himself for failing to secure the win.

On the same night, SEA Games medallist Lao Chantrea beat his Thai opponent Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee on points in an uncharacteristically slow match, securing a Krud Kun Khmer belt for the Kingdom.

Both matches took place in Prek Aeng commune, of Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district. 

During the first round of Rithy’s match, the Thai boxer appeared dominant, landing a series of accurate punches. This all changed when a strong left kick from the Khmer fighter rocked Saiyok, dropping him in his tracks. He received an eight count, but was able to return to his feet and see out the rest of the round.

Following the knock down, many fight fans believed the match was Rithy’s to lose, and so it proved. He dominated the second round and entering the final round, looked set to avenge his loss in the two men’s previous meeting.

Saiyok knocked Rithy out in the second round of the October 2022 match.

Cambodian Thon Rithy (in red) and Thai boxer Saiyok Pumpanmuang during The Battle of Kings event at National Television of Cambodia (TVK) on the night of February 4. Krud Energy

The Cambodian’s hopes were dashed when – with no more than 20 seconds remaining in the third round – the Thai boxer seemed to find another gear, launching a savage assault and catching Rithy with a series of blows to the neck and throat. Rithy was forced to suffer the indignity of appearing to be held up by the referee as he received a standing eight count.

Thanks to their respective knock downs, the judges had no option but to award a draw. The match was billed as an international friendly, but both fighters elected to put their belts on the line, as an indication of how seriously they took their preparations for the bout.

“When I scored the knockdown, I believed I had done enough to secure the win,” said Rithy.

“From that point, I thought I could protect myself and bring it on home. Unfortunately, I slipped and caught two very good punches to the neck. That’s when my legs went on me,” he added.

He explained the remorse he felt for the eight count, blaming himself for failing to hold on for the win.

“I was not happy with myself. I should never have had such a problem so close to the end of the third round. I apologise to Sam Ang Vattanac and all of my fans,” he said.

Cambodian Thon Rithy (in red) and Thai boxer Saiyok Pumpanmuang during The Battle of Kings event at National Television of Cambodia (TVK) on the night of February 4. Krud Energy

Sam Ang Vattanac is CEO of Vattanac Brewery, and sponsored the match, their first meeting on Cambodian soil. Immediately following the draw, he announced that he will sponsor a rematch. He suggested that the two exchange belts in preparation for their third encounter.

Rithy’s compatriot Chantrea had a far more decisive result, claiming a belt after his points decision over Thai boxer Sudsakorn.

However, their match was less tense, with Chantrea acknowledging that the two pugilists lacked aggression in their bout.

“I personally did not think his form was particularly good, so perhaps he may not have trained hard enough,” he said.

“His moves seemed slow, but then again I also felt like I was struggling. I aim to train harder and become stronger before my future fights,” he added.