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