Tensions high ahead of historic Kun Khmer match up

The Wurkz Sena Kun Khmer promotion, which will be held at the Town Arena at Chip Mong 271 Megamall, will see six elite Cambodian fighters take on foreign opponents.

Chhorn Norn

Chhorn Norn

The Phnom Penh Post


Cambodian Kun Khmer legend Prum Samnang (left) is set to face off against Myanmar's Dave Leduc on November 5. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ THE PHNOM PENH POST

November 3, 2023

PHNOM PENH – The long-awaited November 5 matchup between Kun Khmer legend Prum Samnang and Myanmar-Canadian boxer Dave Leduc has become the most anticipated fight of the year.

The Wurkz Sena Kun Khmer promotion, which will be held at the Town Arena at Chip Mong 271 Megamall, will see six elite Cambodian fighters take on foreign opponents.

The significance of the event is such that Prime Minister Hun Manet is tipped to be attending.

The main event will see Kun Khmer’s greatest hope Samnang take on Leduc, the first foreign champion of Myanmar’s national martial art Lethwei. The Lethwei style is notorious for its use of head butts and bare knuckles. Fight fans are excited to see how he will adapt to the tighter form of Kun Khmer.

For the past month, neither athlete has been shy about expressing their belief that their unique martial arts backgrounds will see them claiming victory.

The Kun Khmer Federation (KKF) and its sponsorship partners have left no preparation to chance, enlisting 10 assistant coaches. Not only have they provided Samnang with specialised coaching, they are helping to analyse Leduc’s past fights and identify weak spots.

The KKF have also posted a number of videos of Samnang’s preparations, seemingly with the intent of demonstrating the greatness of Kun Khmer and intimidating his Myanmar-based opponent.

The posts have drawn criticism from some quarters, with people claiming that revealing his latest techniques and possible combinations before the match is a mistake.

Many of the Cambodian champion’s admires were frustrated by the videos, with several taking to social media to pour scorn on the KKF and its partners for not keeping Samnang’s training private. Many of them suggested that the best time to demonstrate his latest fighting style would be in the ring, against an opponent who would not see them coming.

For his part, Leduc appeared to add to the controversy, mocking the extra training load taken on by the Khmer fighter.

“Even if Samnang had 100 coaches, it would not be enough to beat me,” he said, alongside photographs of the 10 assistant trainers.

Shrugging off the criticism, Samnang also took to social media.

“I have trained harder and on November 5, I will not disappoint the spectators! The critics will witness an eye-opening match,” he said on October 29.

“There was some constructive criticism, but there was also a lot of negativity for its own sake. I do not get angry over critical comments, even hateful ones. What is important to remember is that I do what I do for the sake of the Cambodian people and for our sacred sport. My fellow lovers of Kun Khmer are also ready to sacrifice their flesh and blood for Kun Khmer,” he added.

KKF secretary-general Heng Sokhorn seemed uninterested in the war of words, suggesting that the public end the negative commenting that has drawn so much attention.

“I urge people to keep their messages and comments to ones that encourage fighters to train hard and earn victory,” he said during an October 27 press conference.

One of Leduc’s conditions is that the two men meet in the 81kg weight class, meaning Samnang has had to cut weight from his preferred 86kg weight.

Alongside the main event, 72kg Khmer fighter Thoeun Theara will take on Brazilian Daniel Torres, while Roeung Sophorn will compete with Spain’s Mikel Jesua in the 69kg category. Phal Sophoan will be matched up with Chinese fighter Li Tiantao in the 65kg class.

Serey Vanthong will be pitted against Russian boxer Sharif Mazoriev in a 60kg bout, while SEA Games two-time gold medallist Beut Sangkum will meet Kyrgyz from Timor-Leste, in the 57kg class.

Town Arena, the hosts of the event, have announced that admission will be free, to ensure the maximum number of fight fans get the opportunity to witness the historic showdown.

The arena promoters have also arranged two international presenters, who will offer commentary in English, with the goal of promoting Kun Khmer to the world.

“Today marks a good moment. I want to formally welcome presenters Andrew Whitelaw and Christopher Garridor to the Wurkz Sena Kun Khmer match on November 5 at 7pm. Town Station will broadcast the matches live in Khmer and English to the world,” said Town Arena adviser Tommy Kim on October 30.

Leduc, former holder of a ONE Championship belt, arrived in Cambodia on November 1. Immediately before his departure, he once again took to social media to provoke his opponents, and perhaps generate some attention for the event.

“This is the week of the competition. My entire body is a weapon. I am ready for the biggest match in the history of Southeast Asia,” he posted.

Upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, he was greeted by a heavy media presence.

“Prum Samnag, where are you?” he called, in jest.

He said he was happy to visit Cambodia for the first time and had met several nice Cambodian people.

He was also slated to meet with Prime Minister Hun Manet on November 2.

“I am very honored and excited for my meeting tomorrow with [Manet]. I am very happy and proud to hear that the prime minister is interested in the classic martial arts of Myanmar and Cambodia. Prom Samnang and I promise to show the world a great spectacle!” he posted the night before.

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