Peru­vian can’t put a halt to Too Too’s streak

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­

TOP-FLIGHT lethwei fighter Too Too added an­other win to an al­ready-in­tim­i­dat­ing record with a third-round knock­out of Peru’s Mat­teo Celi at the 2016 Man­dalay Rum­bling Lethwei Chal­lenge on Novem­ber 27.

Celi, 27, is a Thai­land-based five­time muay thai cham­pion, but his con­sid­er­able skills weren’t enough to stun Too Too, who scored the knock­out 2 min­utes and 10 sec­onds into the third round.

Thein Phyu Sta­dium was host this past week­end to 11 fights, in­clud­ing some three-round youth matches, ahead of Too Too and Mat­teo’s head­line dust-up. One of the more eye­catch­ing un­der­card matches pit­ted two-time con­sec­u­tive Golden Belt cham­pion Mite Yine against youth chal­lenger Tun Lwin Moe.

Tun Lwin Moe, the 2016 world lethwei cham­pion, lead the gru­elling fiver­ound brawl look­ing for a knock­out but the more sea­soned Mite Yine evaded to mount nim­ble coun­ter­at­tacks. The match was a crowd-pleaser, hard­fought to a draw, and wise lethwei watch­ers would be wise to keep an eye out for both fight­ers, and a po­ten­tial fu­ture re­match.

Ahead of the ti­tle fight, Th­way Thit Win Hlaing and Phoe La Pyae faced off in a grudge match, their fourth meet­ing, fol­low­ing two draws, and two wins for Th­way Thit Win Hlaing.

In their last meet­ing, at the Golden Belt cham­pi­onship in July, Th­way Thit Win Hlaing’s high kick sent Phoe La Pyae spin­ning to the ground and out of con­tention in the 67-kilo­gram semi­fi­nal. Th­way Thit Win Hlaing even­tu­ally went on to win the gold in the cat­e­gory.

But Phoe La Pyae will have to wait to ex­act his re­venge: The 67kg cham­pion de­liv­ered an­other high kick to the jaw – the very same move – to de­fend dis­patch his op­po­nent just 2 min­utes and 24 sec­onds into the first round.

This year’s event saw a more highly an­tic­i­pated mar­quee match than usual. Mat­teo Celi, some­thing of a cu­rios­ity as a South Amer­i­can muay thai fighter, had never en­tered a proper tra­di­tional lethwei match be­fore. The dread­locked Peru­vian fighter was no heavy un­der­dog, though – the reign­ing South Amer­i­can muay thai champ ar­rived in Yangon with a pre­vi­ous record of 37 wins and 10 losses.

Celi cer­tainly came out ready: Be­fore the sound of the first-round bell had faded, Mat­teo had al­ready sent a high kick at the home­town cham­pion. But the South Amer­i­can muay thai cham­pion seemed sur­prised – as did the spec­ta­tors – to find that Too Too had no trou­ble de­flect­ing the at­tack.

Through the first two rounds, Celi re­lied on his large wing­span to keep Too Too at dis­tance, while Too Too waited to evade the long strikes to at­tempt to close dis­tance on the coun­ter­at­tack. The two fight­ers seemed evenly matched: When Too Too at­tempted high kicks, Celi re­sponded with a fly­ing knee.

At 1 minute, 19 sec­onds into the third round, Too Too man­aged to work Celi into a cor­ner. Seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity, Myan­mar’s con­sen­sus num­bertwo fighter de­liv­ered a strong duo of punches, capped off with a high kick, knock­ing Celi dizzy and forc­ing the ref­eree to in­ter­vene.

Myan­mar tra­di­tional lethwei rules per­mit two min­utes of rest at the ref­eree’s in­ter­fer­ence, but Celi’s coaches de­cided to sent him back into the fray. While the two con­tin­ued to spar, Celi was clearly dazed and struggled to stay on his feet. Af­ter an­other se­ries of bru­tal at­tacks, Celi’s cor­ner in­ter­ceded to call for a rest for the rat­tled fighter.

The Peru­vian showed real courage re­turn­ing to the ring, dis­miss­ing the ref­eree’s sug­ges­tion to re­tire, but it was clear his num­ber had been called.

He bat­tled for 2 min­utes and 10 sec­onds of the third round, but was un­able to evade Too Too’s pun­ish­ing fists.

“I’m over­joyed by this vic­tory, and thank all of my fans for sup­port­ing me. This was not an easy fight for me. He [Celi] is a very tal­ented fighter and a strong com­peti­tor, and he put up a tough fight,” Too Too, 26, said af­ter the bout.

Too Too, who sits be­hind only his friend and train­ing part­ner Tun Tun Min in Myan­mar’s lethwei ranks, won gold in the 2012 Asian Muay gold medal cham­pi­onship as well as in the 2013 South­east Asian Games muay thai com­pe­ti­tion. It’s been quite a while, in fact, since he’s lost a match – but Too Too, polled af­ter the fight, couldn’t re­mem­ber ex­actly how long his un­de­feated record stretches. It’s cer­tainly been a while.

And there are more op­por­tu­ni­ties on the hori­zon to ex­tend that streak. Two in­ter­na­tional lethwei fights are on the hori­zon: the Three Na­tions lethwei chal­lenge fight on De­cem­ber 4, in­clud­ing fight­ers from Myan­mar, Thai­land and Laos, and the Air KBZ Aung Lan lethwei fight on De­cem­ber 11. Mean­while, Myan­mar’s White An­gels will face Thai­land in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-fi­nal on De­cem­ber 4 in Yangon. It’s a rich end-of-year cal­en­dar for sport spec­ta­tors, and will be an ex­cit­ing end to 2016.

Photo: Zarni Phyo Photo: Naing Lin Soe

Mite Yine (left) v Tun Lwin Moe. Too Too (right) cornered Peru­vian fighter Ma­teo Celi in the third round, de­liv­er­ing bru­tal strikes that tried the for­eign chal­lenger’s en­durance.

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