Cambodia claims first Asian-level boxing medals

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Rajapov Abdulla (Red) throwing a punch at Kyrgyzstan Toktosun Uulu Bakyt during their fight in Thailand recently. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Cambodia Boxing Federation’s long wait for its first medal at the Asian Championships has finally ended, thanks to national team members Rajapov Abdulla and Penh Vanthong.

At the ASBC Asian U22 Boxing Championships 2023 in the Thai capital Bangkok, Vanthong claimed bronze, with Rajapov guaranteed at least a silver, as he prepares for the final.

The Asian champs have been underway since January 17. Cambodian-Uzbek boxers Rajapov and Vanthong drew automatic entry into their semi-finals, although only Rajapov was able to advance.

During his January 23 match, Vanthong lost 5-0 to Kazakhstan's Serik Abzal, to claim bronze in the 67kg weight division. Rajapov defeated Kyrgyzstan fighter 3-1 on points in the 92kg class.

However, during a tough match, Rajapov suffered a serious injury to his right eye, which may limit his ability to compete for gold in the final.

The heavyweight will face Uzbekistan’s Tokhirov Nusra Tbek. On January 23, Nusra Tbek defeated a Kyrgyzstan pug 5-0 in a unanimous points decision.

Boxing federation secretary-general Buy Sophoan admitted that Rajapov’s injury may have a significant impact on the final, but remained proud of what the team has already achieved.

“Vanthong's bronze medal and Rajapov's appearance in the final are both historic achievements for the federation – we have never claimed Asian-level medals before,” he said.

He added that the record-breaking performances had given the national team confidence in their abilities to compete at the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hosted by Cambodia in May, with its goal of securing at least one gold medal looking achievable.

“These victories have provided encouragement to the federation and the national team to continue to work harder as we prepare to host the games. Rajapov Abdullah is one candidate whom we expect to claim a gold medal for Cambodia,” he said.