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Theara becomes first Khmer boxer to take Thai title with first round stoppage

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Elbow specialist Thoeun Theara became the first Cambodian boxer to win a title at a Thai Fight event, held in Thailand on the night of December 24. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Theara becomes first Khmer boxer to take Thai title with first round stoppage

Elbow specialist Thoeun Theara became the first Cambodian boxer to win a title at a Thai Fight event. Theara released his deadly elbow at the 2022 Thai King’s Trophy event, leaving a deep gash on the eyebrow of Thai veteran Saiyoknoi Sakchainarong – known as Saiyok – and forcing a doctor to stop the fight in the first round.

Through the 72.5kg bout, held in Thailand on the night of December 24, Theara attacked the experienced Saiyok without fear. His opponent is one of the best Thai fighters on the circuit, and had just knocked out his compatriot Thorn Rithy with one of his signature leg strikes in the second round of the tournament.

A constant barrage of short left and right jabs from Theara kept Saiyok close and with no chance to use his strong kicking game. The Cambodian’s relentless punches put the veteran Thai under pressure and in this favourable situation, Theara found the range to release his elbow, leaving Saiyok bleeding uncontrollably.

A doctor immediately rushed to Saiyok to examine the wound, but was unable to staunch the flow of blood. He was left with no choice but to stop the match and award victory to Theara.

It was an emotional victory for the Cambodian boxer. Tears rolled down his face as he knew he had raised the profile of Khmer martial arts on the international stage. It was also the first title of his career.

As the holder of this year’s Thai King’s Trophy, Theara went home with a total purse of nearly $30,000. He has also attracted interest from many Cambodian sponsors, as all Khmer fight fans were elated to see their compatriot defeat the fierce Thai ‘tiger’.

Many Cambodian boxers have tasted defeat in the boxing rings of the Kingdom’s larger neighbour. Only Sen Bunthen and Keo Romchang have claimed victory in Thai rings in the past, albeit in international friendlies, not full-fledged title fights.

To prepare for the tournament, Theara drilled extensively with veteran fighter-turned-trainer Eh Phuthong.

“For this match, I was ready. I blocked him on the left side and opened a cut on his leg before I was able to deliver the lethal elbow strike that cut his brow. To be honest, I was always hoping for victory, but I still can’t believe that I did it,” said Theara.

Lieutenant General Hun Manet, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), offered his congratulations to Theara.

“Congratulations to Thoeun Theara for winning the Thai Fight title and the 2022 Thai King's Trophy in style, by defeating Saiyok in the first round,” he posted to social media.

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