Situated amid the ancient grandeur of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province, an exciting development is afoot.
This November, the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF), in partnership with various Cambodian ministries and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), is gearing up to host the Kun Khmer World Championship 2023.
The collective aim is to elevate the sport’s international profile and pave its way towards Olympic recognition.
The KKIF is reviving the championship after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s event promises to be an even grander spectacle, with invitations extended to 59 countries across Asia, the Americas, Europe, Africa and Oceania.
Meam Ra, president of the KKIF, told The Post: “All member countries from around the world have been invited to participate in the competition”.
“Most of the countries we have reached out to intend to send their delegates to participate,” he added.
The stakes are higher than ever, not least because the federation has expanded its membership following the recent 32nd SEA Games.
“As of now, more than 10 countries have confirmed attendance,” Ra stated. “We’ve given invitees until mid-October to prepare, so we expect the number of participating countries to rise”.
For 2023, the Kun Khmer World Championship is pulling out all the stops, offering something for athletes at all stages of their careers.
“It’s going to be similar to the SEA Games but on a larger scale. We’re featuring boxers from under-17s to those aged 17 to 37,” Ra explained.
“The competition is divided into three categories: volunteer, mid-career, and career. Cambodia is committed to showcasing the event and promoting Kun Khmer globally,” he added.
The championship is set to unfold over three days on November 26-28, coinciding with the nation’s annual Water Festival.
“We’ll have a career champion match, pitting skilled boxers against one another,” Ra said. “Each day will have five bouts, totalling 15 over the three-day event. Some of these will be title bouts.”
The venue, located near the Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Shrine, can accommodate over 5,000 spectators.
“We want to focus more on mid-career competitions,” Ra revealed. “Our aim is to develop and educate athletes, aligning with the NOCC’s objectives. Once we have enough support from other countries, our next step is to seek recognition from the International Olympic Committee “.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the NOCC, echoed these aspirations: “Promoting Kun Khmer to the world is crucial. Not only for the sport’s recognition but also as a tourist draw, bolstering Cambodia’s appeal as a sporting destination”.
Building on these aspirations, Meam Ra offered a glimpse into the federation’s long-term vision for international involvement.
“We’ve been seeing a surge in foreign boxers taking an interest in Kun Khmer,” Ra noted. “If we can raise the level of international support to 74 countries, it will strengthen our case to propose that the International Olympic Committee recognise Kun Khmer”.
Ra also pointed to the intersection of sport and tourism, especially for athletes from colder climates.
“Once Cambodia develops more advanced sports infrastructure, we’ll become a go-to destination for training,” he said. “This is particularly appealing for athletes from countries with long, cold winters, as they often seek warmer places to practise”.