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First ‘Angkor King Fight’ leaves staunch supporters dismayed

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Cambodia’s Kun Khmer fighter Lon Panha (left) releases his punch on Chinese Shang Xifeng during their Angkor King Fight. SUPPLIED

First ‘Angkor King Fight’ leaves staunch supporters dismayed

Most boxing fans who watched the “Angkor King Fight” event, held for the first time in Siem Reap on Sunday night, expressed frustration and pain at seeing three of Cambodia’s strongest boxers easily knocked out in the first round by their Chinese opponents, while three others lost on points – in kickboxing matches that used rules which ran contrary to their natural Kun Khmer style of fighting.

Cambodia’s top boxer Lao Chantrea, Sot Veasna and Chhoeung Lvei were all knocked out in the first round, while struggling to adapt to the rules of the night. The use of elbows was barred, and fighters could not hold their opponents and use knee strikes, two core aspects of Kun Khmer.

Meanwhile, other top Kun Khmer martial artists Lao Chetra, Phal Sorphoan, and Prum Samnang lost their matches with the Chinese fighters on points. Only Lon Panha and Nov Sreypov were able to salvage some Khmer pride by defeating their opponents to take “Angkor King Fight” trophies.

Following the results, most fans who watched the competition were left disappointed and upset. They were critical of the rules, saying they did not respect the values of traditional Khmer martial artists, by forcing them to fight in a style that they were unfamiliar with. The knock outs were uncharacteristic for the fighters who were taken out in this way, and some observers felt that the point decisions were scored unfairly.

A Cambodian sports journalist who took part in the event told the Post on condition of anonymity: “The organisation of this event seemed to be on a large scale, with widespread media coverage across the country and what was clearly thousands of dollars in sponsorship, so why were the Khmer fighters paid so poorly?

“As far as I know, only one Cambodian boxer earned around US$1,000 in prize money, while others did not. As for the results, our Khmer fighters were nearly all knocked out or lost on points – what did this do for the image of Kun Khmer martial arts?” he said.

Top Cambodian Kun Khmer star Lao Chetra, who lost to Wei Wei Yang on points in the 64kg category, also expressed his dissatisfaction with the kickboxing match. The SEA Games’ bronze medalist wrote on his Facebook page: “If I can fight Kun Khmer rules in a rematch, I will not demand any fight fee at all.”

However, leaders of the Cambodian SEA Games Organizing Committee (CAMSOC) said before the event that this was the beginning of a campaign to promote traditional sports and national identity, without much focus on the results. It was just a competition to prepare for the hosting of the 2023 SEA Games, and promoted Cambodia’s traditional sport on the international stage.

Vath Chamroeun, General Secretary of CAMSOC, said: “The purpose of organising this event was not to fight fiercely but to compete in international friendly matches and promote our Khmer martial artists through international mixed martial arts. We did not want to fix it so all Cambodian fighters would win, nor did we want all international fighters to take trophies.”

“At this point I want to encourage people to not focus too much on winning or losing – these were not medal fights, but a good chance to practice hosting an international event. It also gave our boxers a chance to show their skills ahead of this year’s SEA Games in Vietnam, especially our kickboxing athletes.”

Full results from Sunday Fights:

Yang Hua knocked out Sot Veasna in the first round
Luo Chao knocked out Lao Chantrea in the first round
Han Wenbao knocked out Chhoeun Lvei in the first round
Lao Chetra lost to Wei Wei Yang on points
Prum Samnang lost to Wang Aogan on points
Phal Sorphoan lost to Wei Rui on points
Lon Panha won Shang Xifeng on points
Nov Sreypov won Li Lishan on points

Kun Khmer Fights for 57.5 Kg categories:

Van Voeun defeated Su Kexin in semi-finals
Chhut Sereyvanthon defeated Wei Xi Qin in semi-finals
Chhut Sereyvanthon knocked out Van Voeun in the second round of the final

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