National Team Selection Fights Brought the Country’s Best Boxers to the Ring

With more than 600 en­trants, thousands of on­lookers and scru­tiny from Olympic Commit­tee Pre­si­dent Prince Norodom Ran­a­riddh and everyday citizens, the na­tion’s 11-day national boxing team se­lec­tion tournament is perhaps Cambodia’s most popular sporting event.

The competition, which began Sept 16 and concluded in a finale at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, ga­thered 619 fighters from boxing clubs across the country.

Boxing enthusiasts stayed riveted to the television coverage or joined the spectators who packed int­o the arenas to cheer on—and in some cases wager on—their fa­vo­rite fighters.

“Every year, the Ministry of Ed­u­cation, Youth and Sports organizes the event to find the best sportsmen in the country,” Tem Moeun, vice president of the Cam­bodian Amateur Boxing Fe­d­e­ration, said Sunday. “Eve­ry­one in the country participates in the event. Poor people and rich people enjoy it. Khmer boxing is part of our heritage—it is our duty to pre­serve it for the younger generation.”

For the fighters, 459 kickboxers and 160 Western-style boxers, the event is a chance to fight their way to a position on the national team and compete in international events.

Boxing officials said that the first-place winners also received $50 from Prince Ranariddh, $75 from the Ministry of Education and a television set courtesy of TV5. The prince, who personally do­­nated $5,500 worth of prize mon­­ey, presided over the event’s fin­al day. For enthusiasts like 34-year-old Chea Sakhon who claims she is the biggest kickboxing fan “in the world,” the tournament is an op­por­tunity to cheer for fighters they have seen rise through the na­tional ranks.

“Kickboxing is true Cambodian cul­ture,” Chea Sakhon said.

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