Part of a boxing bloodline, Chhut Serey Vanthong trained with his father since the age of 11, enduring countless hardships to build a solid reputation in the Kun Khmer kickboxing world.
After spending more than two years training and competing in various events at pagodas, Vanthong first stepped into the ring in competitions in private arenas in Phnom Penh in 2014,quickly building a reputation with his good and attractive ability.
This led the opportunity to compete in major events for belt titles, with Vanthong becoming the last boxer of an illustrious group to finally win the coveted belt after the disappointment of finishing runner-up in three finals.
Vanthong’s title wait came to an end after he defeated old adversary Sot Veasna in the final at Town arena on July 24, winning the gold belt in the 60kg weight category.
Finally winning the belt and the first of $10,000 prize money was such that Vanthong burst into tears wearing the belt.
“I was so excited and shed tears of joy for winning this belt for the first time, because I went through a lot of hardship and had competed in nine competitions before I was able to do so.
“All my hard work and sacrifices were worth it to win this belt and the $10,000 prize money,” Vanthong told The Post.
Vanthong and Veasna had met once before in the final of a lesser gold trophy competition, with Vanthong knocking Veasna down in the fourth round to win and take home the 16 million riel ($4,000) prize money.
Both fighters saw off two opponents to be able to fight for the gold belt, with Vanthong defeating Veasna again with a unanimous score of 5-0 to win his first belt after losing three previous finals.
“I reached the final three times, but I was disappointed to lose all three, first losing to Long Chin at SEATV arena in 2018. The second time I lost to Khim Bora, and the third to Meun Mekhea, both losses coming at the CNC arena in 2020 and 2021.
“Being defeated in three finals made me so disappointed because I had tried so hard in each fight, and to lose at the final hurdle really hurt.
“However, from those failures I learnt lessons, with the experience giving me the focus to challenge myself,” Vanthong said.
Chhut Serey, Vathong’s father, said Vanthong was the only one of his four children – he has three other daughters – to follow in his footsteps as a boxer.
“Vanthong is the only son in the family and his involvement in Kun Khmer kickboxing has helped the family a lot. Our livelihood improved greatly, and wherever he goes, everyone knows him.
“What is special about Kun Khmer kickboxing is that Vanthong has been able to earn a military position. I did not expect my son could get such a good opportunity.
“I am so proud of my son who tried so hard to win the belt. The $10,000 prize money from this competition is a lot of money for us who live in the province, but I do not ask for anything – it is for my son to use because this money was born from his sweat and blood,” Chhut Serey told The Post.
Vanthong earned a position as a soldier in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in February 2020, before being included in the Cambodian kickboxing team in 2021.
The 22-year-old was given the opportunity to compete at the recent 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Vietnam, but failed to win a medal after losing to an opponent from the host nation.
When asked how Kun Khmer kickboxing had helped him in life, Vanthong replied: “Kun Khmer has helped me a lot through competition. It has helped improve my family’s livelihood, and I have gained good reputation.
“I have also been able to buy a motorcycle, a car and a 20x40m parcel of land. All of this has come from my boxing career. I was recruited into the military because of boxing, too.”
However, Vanthong does not intend to end his ambitions there, with the popular boxer setting goals to work harder and win a medal at the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia, while looking to compete abroad for international titles one day.
“One day I want to compete internationally, like in the [mixed martial arts] ONE Championship. Even though some people say I am not yet able to win belts at the international level, I am still setting that goal, and I hope that one day I will do so.
“For the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia, I will try to do better than last time because I gained a lot of experience from the edition in Vietnam. So at the 2023 SEA Games, I will do my best. I do not dare to say that 100 per cent I will win a medal, but I will do my best and hope to bring pride to my country,” Vanthong said.