Sẳm Minh Phát is expected to make history at the WBO Oriental Title Match on October 23 in Ansan, South Korea. Photo courtesy of Cocky Buffalo
HÀ NỘI – After testing himself in several different sports, Sẳm Minh Phát has finally found his passion in life: boxing.
After years of intense effort, he now expects to make his big step up in the world by vying for the minimum-weight title in the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Oriental Title Match later this month in South Korea.
The diminutive Phát has been practising hard in a two-month intensive training in Uzbekistan to become Việt Nam’s first male boxer to take the belt.
From taekwondo lover to boxer
Phát, 26, from Hồ Chí Minh City, is a rising star in the professional boxing world and competes for the Cocky Buffalo Team. However, before turning to boxing he practised taekwondo.
“I trained in taekwondo from when I was 18, a little late compared to other athletes,” said Phát.
“I practised in the minimum-weight of 50kg but two years later things changed, that category was deleted and the smallest pool was 54kg which was not suitable for me anymore,” said Phát, who comes in at around 45kg.
Sẳm Minh Phát of Việt Nam (left) punches Thailand's Gerttipong Kusahwat before knocking him out during their match at the WBO ASIA Pacific event in February in Cambodia. Photo thethao247.vn
His coach told him to try boxing, where he picked up many new skills and ultimately decided to stick with the sport.
“I made small steps in the sport and gradually grew to love it and have stuck with it until now,” he said.
However, it was not easy for him to start over.
“My background of years in sport gave me strong physique and I seemed to integrate fast in boxing but I am still faced with trouble. Boxing requires consecutive strong moves of the arms, whereas in taekwondo it is all about the feet,” he told Việt Nam News.
“The physique is quite different. I can jump and move around without problems in taekwondo but could not do punching for more than two minutes. And I have to now.
“However, taekwondo trains for a quick response and agile movement, which I have applied in boxing, giving me certain advantages.”
Phát marked his development with medals from the famed LetViệt Number 1 tournament, the National Sport Games, and the National Boxing Championship in HCM City.
His latest title was a gold at the National Boxing Clubs Cup and a silver at the National Men’s and Women’s Boxing Championship in 2020.
Apart from amateur boxing, Phát also tested himself in professional competitions, after which he decided to devote himself to the highest level.
“It is a big difference between amateur and professional, if not two separate sports, although they are all named ‘boxing’. In the amateur field, we box for three rounds which requires speed, accuracy and agility. We don’t need to floor our rivals but score as many points as possible,” he said.
"Meanwhile as professionals, we compete for up to 12 rounds so we need to have a strong physique, endurance and powerful shots to knockout rivals as soon as possible.
“It takes about two months for an amateur to move to pro and to be fluent in the techniques and rules,” said Phát, who initially lost a few fights and contemplated quitting.
It was South Korean promoter Kim Sang-bum, who has been in Việt Nam for many years, that saw the young boxer’s potential and wanted to push him further in the world of boxing.
He brought Phát to his Cocky Buffalo Team and spent time and money to make him a top fighter.
“I don’t need a ready-made champion. I am seeking a man who can be a champion. By my standard, if you have 60 per cent talent you can train for the remaining 40. But that 60 per cent, which includes your intelligence, physique and being genuine is really important,” Kim told Việt Nam News.
“Phát has 70 per cent. He is active, humble and never gives up. I will add the remaining 30 so he can rise high and far.”
Sẳm Minh Phát (right) competes and wins at the Việt Fight 2020. Photo tin247.news
Phát said joining the Cocky Buffalo team was a milestone decision. Under Kim, Phát has been pushed and pocketed remarkable victories locally and regionally, helping him get close to the top. Meanwhile, he has used any losses to push himself.
“I was in shock receiving that loss [to Esneth Domingo of the Philippines at the WBO Oriental Youth Title Match in 2019]. I could not understand why and was very sad,” Phát said.
“It took me about two weeks going over the loss, thinking about quitting or continuing. Finally, I chose to punch to reach a higher level, to go on to new peaks. I learnt a lot from losing.
“My most impressive win was against Chang Ho Jo of South Korea in 2019. I fought when I had not recovered from a serious left elbow injury. I decided to box mainly with my right hand and I won. I found that sometimes taking a risk is part of life.”
Kim said that Phát’s style was typical, and that he made people nervous and aggressive at the same time.
“He still needs to improve a lot to be a world-level boxer,” Kim said.
Phát will fight Arar Andales from the Philippines on October 23 in Ansan City.
Defeating Andales, 22, is seen as a tough task, as though he is younger he has much more experience in the ring.
Two years since he started training as pro, Phát has recorded seven wins, including five knockouts, and three losses.
Andales has bagged 12 wins, with four knockouts, and just two defeats, winning a WBA Asia title in 2019 and a WBF world belt last year.
“We have same attacking style. He is much better than me in terms of experience, ranking and title. However, I am working hard every day and believe I will win,” said Phát, who is targeting a world title fight in the near future.
“My strong points are good physique and stamina. But I also lack focus when competing. I have to improve to develop in the world of pro boxing. But first of all I want to be Việt Nam’s first male athlete to win a WBO Oriental title."
Kim has full faith in his protégé.
“As a promoter, I trust my athlete. I believe in him more than he does. So I decided to co-organise that event, which is costing a lot of money and labour,” Kim said.
“It is risky but I am really confident. It will be a strong rival and a big chance for Phát to show off his abilities. It is an elite tournament that has not been organised in South Korea in 15 years and is appreciated by the WBO. Phát has taken part in some WBO events but it is his first challenge for a belt. It will be high pressure but if he wins he would open the door wide for Việt Nam boxing in the wider world.”
Poster of the WBO Oriental Title Match between Sẳm Minh Phát of Việt Nam (right) and Arar Andeles of the Philippines on October 23 in Ansan, South Korea.
Kim believes that Vietnamese athletes have a lack of confidence as they do not know their potential because none of them have won a world title, but he thinks things will change.
“I believe and will let everyone know how talented and strong they are. Phát will progress further. He will be a world champion in the near future if he receives the right support,” Kim added. VNS