ONE Cham­pi­onship sets stage for leth­wei grudge match

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­times.com

IT’S their big­gest stage yet for a long-sim­mer­ing leth­wei ri­valry. ONE Cham­pi­onship’s State of War­riors will see Yan­gon’s Thuwunna In­door Sta­dium host a world strawweight cham­pi­onship de­fence as well as the re­turn of Aung La Nsang, mak­ing his sopho­more ap­pear­ance on Oc­to­ber 7 to face Pol­ish fighter Michal Paster­nak.

But one of the night’s big­gest fights may be one fa­mil­iar only to leth­wei fa­nat­ics: a down-card con­test pit­ting Saw Ba Oo and Kyawl Sin Phyo for the fourth time.

The two have pre­vi­ously met three times – and fought to three draws. They will also be avail­able as sub­sti­tutes for the event’s feath­er­weight (70.3 kilo­gram) cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment if a fighter is found phys­i­cally un­able to con­tinue, but the draw of a ti­tle match is only a side-show to the op­por­tu­nity for both fight­ers hun­ger­ing af­ter a de­ci­sive vic­tory over a long­time ri­val.

“I’ve got my eyes set on Kyawl Sin Phyo – I’ve been pre­par­ing non-stop in leth­wei style fight­ing but also ground and grap­pling styles. Kyal Sin Phyo is strong fighter, and he has a pow­er­ful weapon in his kicks. We’ve met three times al­ready, so we know each oth­ers’ styles well by now – I’ve learned his strengths and weak­nesses, and I’ve pre­pared to take ad­van­tage of them,” Saw Ba Oo told The Myan­mar Times.

“All of our pre­vi­ous meet­ings have ended in draws, but not this time – I’m go­ing to be fight­ing to win,” the Kayin fighter added.

Saw Ba Oo, 27, who trains with the famed Taung Ka Lay leth­wei gym in Hpa’an, Kayin State, com­peted in ONE Cham­pi­onship’s King­dom of War­riors in July 2015, where he over­pow­ered Dawna Aung with a rain of floor blows for a vic­tory, be­fore he was dis­patched by Th­way Tit Aung in only 2 min­utes, 25 sec­onds later in the evening.

He won favour with the crowd at King­dom of War­riors for ar­riv­ing at the ring in tra­di­tional Kayin dress, wield­ing a cross­bow. He was also flanked by fa­tigue-clad pro­mot­ers, who car­ried a framed por­trait of Saw Ba U Gyi, the first pres­i­dent of the Karen Na­tional Union whose death is com­mem­o­rated on Karen Mar­tyr’s Day.

“I am proud to wear tra­di­tional dress to rep­re­sent Kayin State and its peo­ple, and this year I plan to wear it again,” he told The Myan­mar Times, adding that per­haps this year he would leave the weapon at home.

The fight won’t be a first on the ONE stage for Kyal Sin Phyo, ei­ther. The 25-year-old, who trains at Ah Phyu Yaung Th­way Thit gym, made an ap­pear­ance as a ban­tamweight (65.8kg) at ONE Cham­pi­onship’s Union of War­riors in March 2016, where he bat­tled the pre­vi­ous event’s feath­er­weight cham­pion Tha Pyay Nyo in a three-round brawl be­fore fi­nally suc­cumbed to fa­tigue and a well-timed knee to the chest.

Kyal Sin Phyo also com­peted in the na­tion­wide Golden Belt Cham­pi­onship in Yan­gon in June, where he fought his way to the 63.5-kilo­gram fi­nal be­fore los­ing to Thar Ahthel Ta Pwint.

“I’ll try my best in the com­ing fight. I’ve been train­ing for a stand­ing fight as well as brush­ing up on my ground tech­niques,” Kyal Sin Phyo said.

“I’ve faced Saw Ba Oo three times al­ready, and I think I’ve been get­ting closer to a vic­tory each time we fight. I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting an­other chance,” he added.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

Saw Ba Oo cut an in­tim­i­dat­ing fig­ure ar­riv­ing in tra­di­tional Kayin dress at ONE Cham­pi­onship’s King­dom of War­riors in July 2015.

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