Fight Draws Frenzied Fans

Cambodian heavyweight Ei Phouthang defeated Sudanese kickboxer Faisan Nakaria in a fifth-round decision on Friday in a much-hyped rematch that broke attendance records.

Thousands of fans packed the Old Stadium in the capital, overwhelming officials who had pre­dict­ed a crowd of 15,000, said TV5 As­sistant Managing Director Seng Kadeka. Two officials estimated as many as 30,000 attended.

At 2 pm, two hours before a string of 10 matches began, thousands of ticketless bystanders in town for the Water Festival pushed through the security gates of the stadium.

Based on advance sales of 12,000 tickets, officials had planned for 5,000 standing spectators. The unexpected 20,000 standers led to limited visibility for many viewers, who were squished into corners and pushed onto stadium fencing. A few fans perched in trees.

Many thousands more fans gathered around blaring television sets throughout Phnom Penh, at times pouring into the street. Po­lice, immersed in the fight themselves, stopped manning their W­a­t­er Festival security checkpoints.

The bout was shown on television live despite fans’ worry earlier in the week that it would not be televised until Saturday.

In the first round, Ei Phou­thang landed a powerful right kick on the legs of Nakaria, who is known for his lower-body strength. In the fourth round, Ei Phou­­thang un­leashed a quick right hook to Na­karia’s cheekbone, knocking him on the canvas. The crowd, in a fren­zy, roared with approval. Na­karia quickly re­gained his stance and landed a series of powerful downward kicks on Ei Phou­thang’s shins.

When the decision was an­nounced following the fifth round, the crowd erupted. As a referee held Ei Phouthang’s arm in victory, television viewers watched crazed spectators jump onto the screen, whooping at the cameras.

Oum Yourann, acting president of the Cambodian Amateur Box­ing Federation, said Sunday he was surprised by the unexpectedly large crowd, but happy with Ei Phouthang’s performance, particularly in light of Nakaria’s Oct 27, 2002, knockout of Ei Phouthang.

 

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