After spending practically the first three years of his cage career ripping through the local competition, ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2016 Champion Phoe “Bushido” Thaw finally got the chance to compete against an international opponent last Friday, 23 February.
Evidently, he proved to be just as dominant. The 33-year-old Yangon hero demolished Cambodia’s Sor Sey at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD. He claimed the victory with a sensational knockout in front of a roaring hometown crowd at a capacity Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
“It was more exciting to go up against a foreigner,” Phoe Thaw says. “And my first taste of international competition was amazing, because I was getting huge support from the fans.”
Phoe Thaw, the taller of the two competitors by 15cm, used his reach advantage to strategically land strikes during the initial seconds of the bout. But soon, he jumped into the clinch, where he connected with a succession of fierce knees.
The local favorite continued to remain calm and methodically attack from a distance. However, after a fiery exchange, Sey backed up, and “Bushido” sprang forward with a push kick to the chin, which instantly crumpled the Cambodian to the ground.
Referee Yuji Shimada made the save at the 1:53 mark of the opening round, giving the undefeated Yangon hero his fifth first-round victory, and sixth win overall.
Though he captured the victory relatively quick, Phoe Thaw admits he did not have enough time to implement his original game plan, nor did he envision winning the match in such spectacular fashion.
“The match was fast,” he begins. “My strategy was to grapple, and control him on the ground. I trained a lot of push kicks to compete long distance, but I did not plan to knock him out by push kick.
“When I got the win, I felt so happy. I had showed my skills in my performance, and everyone in the audience was satisfied. The fans were incredible.”
“Bushido” is not looking too far into his future. Ideally, though, he would like to face another foreign talent, and continue testing himself against the best featherweight martial artists from around the globe.
Phoe Thaw’s victory is not only another huge step for himself, but for Myanmar in general.
The sport of martial arts has grown exponentially in the lethwei-adoring country ever since ONE Championship hosted its inaugural Myanmar card, ONE: KINGDOM OF WARRIORS, back in July 2015, which featured Phoe Thaw’s cage debut.
With the arrival of Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang, martial arts took the nation by storm, and was elevated to new heights in June 2017 when he captured the ONE Middleweight World Championship and became the first-ever world champion in Myanmar’s sporting history.
Now, with the addition of Aung La N Sang’s ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship, the door has opened even more for local athletes such as Phoe Thaw, Ye Thway Ne, ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2015 Champion The Pyay Nyo, and two-time national boxing champion Bozhena Antoniyar to rise up the ranks.
“This is the best time to promote Myanmar lethwei athletes and Myanmar athletes. It is important to have a growing martial arts trend in Myanmar,” he says.
“The athletes are going to succeed at the international level of martial arts, and the organization will capture a huge market around the world. As long as both the organization and the athletes are successful, it will be a win-win situation.”