Boxing officials suspended Cambodia’s top kickboxer from the boxing circuit for seven months Tuesday, punishment for his poor showing during Thursday’s bout with an Australian opponent.
Ei Phouthang was pelted with a barrage of plastic bottles from spectators at the Olympic Stadium who were driven to rage when their national hero appeared to be taking an unprotested pummeling from Australian Timure Dell.
“We found that he didn’t fight to his full capacity, so we must bar him from boxing for seven months,” said Oum Yourann, president of the Cambodian Amateur Boxing Federation.
But sitting in a small house he shares with his parents in Chamkar Mon district, Ei Phouthang, 29, said Tuesday he tried his best to fight, but a dog bite on his leg sapped his energy.
With his hard-won reputation hanging in the balance, Ei Phouthang rejected allegations that he took bribes to throw the match and vowed that before he retires he will redeem himself in the ring for his local fans.
“I did not sell my ideal,” he said.
Thinking back to Thursday, the fighter recalled how his leg hurt him as he tried to use his kicks. He tried to defend himself and use punches as well, but he missed.
His opponent moved too fast, he added.
Cheas Sruoch, a former kickboxer and corner man for Ei Phouthang, said his friend would make reparation for disappointing his fans.
On the night of the fight, Cheas Sruoch said, he urged Ei Phouthang to use his hands, but the fighter lost his energy. Ei Phouthang took no bribes, Cheas Sruoch said Tuesday.
Coach Chhit Sarim said the suspension was reasonable.
He did not elaborate, but added he would encourage his protege to train harder to regain his reputation.
Though Ei Phouthang’s status has dropped in the eyes of many of his once adoring supporters, boxing fan Sim Bunthoeun said the federation should have investigated further before it suspended him.
“Seven months’ suspension will hurt his boxing
career,” Sim Bunthoeun said Tuesday.
Ei Phouthang first climbed into the ring when he was 11 and rocketed to stardom for his fighting ability. His career was set to expand to film, with starring roles in at least three movies, including one planned for release next month. But film producers expressed concern after Thursday’s debacle. “I don’t know how I will earn money, because I am suspended,” Ei Phouthang said. “I have made a living by boxing for my whole life.” With his boxing gloves hanging beside his bed, Ei Phouthang vowed a come-back to redeem himself for his Cambodian fans.
“I have to regain my name before I retire,” he said.