Vietnam is a country where as recently as last year , the sport of boxing was largely unheard of. Local company VSP Boxing saw the need to create hope for potential home grown champions, and decided to host a modest event in the province of Dong Nai in July 2018. The theme of this show was intended as “ a cultural and sports event to extend good will ” – where five professional Korean boxers would showcase their talents to some low ranking Vietnamese amateur opponents. It would provide these Vietnamese with a taste of what it would like to be in the ring with professional fighters, and give them the inspiration needed to improve and perhaps one day achieve such lofty heights. That was the plan anyhow!! KP Singh of VSP Boxing recounts “ The first Korean came into the ring that day looking very confident, and we were really hoping that the Vietnamese fighter will not get hurt. This is the first time that we have tried this thing, and we are praying for no accidents. And very quickly, this match is already over. But wow, it is the confident Korean that is lying on the canvas!!! We are very surprised , and whilst we are relieved, we are very sure this is a freak occurrence. The next Korean fighter comes in and he looks more fearsome, and now I am definitely more concerned. Maybe he is wanting retribution for his fallen team mate. The bell rings and the professional I remember looks very dangerous and experienced, but in less than 30 seconds, he is also lying in a crumpled heap!” The young Vietnamese team surprised all and went on to win all but one of the contests.
Fast forward to March 29 2019. Welcome to Vietnam is the second big boxing show to be held in HCMC. The Vietnam team selected battled an overseas contingent of largely unbeaten professional fighters from Australia, the Philippines and Italy. The event proved that Vietnam boxers are quickly able to achieve new levels when presented with a monumental challenge. Six quality bouts were contested against International opponents where logically, the Vietnam amateurs would have little chance. The home team won five of the six bouts, including the main event.
VSP Boxing gym has been set up in the centre of HCMC District 1 to provide a base for fast tracking the sport in Vietnam. Ms Luu Huyen, operations manager says “ We want to be known as the home of boxing in HCMC – the heartbeat if you like! We have built a magnificent facility here, and we are encouraging top boxers and trainers to use our amenity. Only last week, we hosted super middleweight Mateo Tapia for his training camp before his amazing win in Dubai. We have also had world class trainers such as Tony Del Vecchio, Dave Hedgcock, Tommy Mercuri and Adam Hadad passing on knowledge to our boxers.” Ms Luu also added “ VSP Boxing gym will continue to develop elite local boxers, but please tell your readers that we are happy to provide classes and tuition to foreign visitors – from beginners right through to advanced. Most tourists are in HCMC for only three days, so this is the perfect place to stay fit and keep up your boxing training. We can also accommodate fight camps if required. VSP Boxing will be hosting a rising stars interclub event from July 5-7, so foreign fighters are welcome to come and compete under sparring conditions to gain experience and perhaps even compete at a future Victory 8 event!”
VSP Boxing has already had a massive impact on the local boxing scene. Its first televised show in November achieved over 3.1 million views. Welcome to Vietnam March 29 improved again on that to do just in advance of 4 million on local television, and more than 40,000 offshore views via live streaming . “We are committed to building the industry here and growing the fan base by staging quality events. We already have plans for a big show in Hanoi, and I expect a crowd of at least 20,000 to attend.” stated KP Singh. “ We will plan to do an outdoor event in this picturesque city, and once again bring top professional fighters here to show the world how good Vietnam fighters really are.” VSP Boxing has plans to take these exciting young fighters abroad in the very near future. “We are already in discussion with promoters in China, Japan, and Australia to give VSP boxers professional fights abroad.”
Victory 8 – Welcome to Vietnam produced six classic fights at the Nguyen Du Gymnasium. The event enjoyed the participation of three promising Philippines fighters, and was in turn graced by the presence of Ms Cucuy Elorde and Mr. Dante Almario. Ms Elorde is widely regarded as the queen of boxing in the Philippines, being owner of many of the Elorde chain of boxing gyms, a promoter, and a successful manager of many talented fighters. Mr. Almario is legendary in the country through his affiliations with many champion boxers and more recently the Wild card gym. Ms Elorde was kind in her praise “This was a wonderful event and I would love to come back here and help the sport of boxing develop. VSP Boxing have done an amazing job in such a short time, and I see a very big future for boxing in Vietnam.”
Results of the six super bouts and the links to their replays are listed below: (please subscribe to VSP Boxing Victory 8)
Cao Van Nguyen (W) v Ariel Puton (L) (Philippines) points decision
Ariel Puton from the Philippines came to Vietnam with a reputation as a fearsome puncher. He was previously unbeaten in 5 fights that had all ended in stoppage – earning him the name “the Sleep Doctor”!! A former filipino world champion commented “If you stand in front of Ariel Puton – it’s lights out nighty night! This is a non- stop action fight where Cao Van Nguyen upsets his more celebrated opponent with clever boxing and some old fashioned courage and determination.
Bui Phuoc Tung (W) v Emmet Brown (L) (Australia) points decision
A clash of styles where young and improving Bui Phuoc Tung takes on the older and stronger Emmet Brown from Australia. This fight was up for grabs where Bui scored the early part of the fight, and Brown dominated latter and started to over run the young Viet. Narrow win for Bui Phuoc Tung, but watch for Brown who had good moments in round 2 and also finished it off great in round 4. Could easily have been a draw, or even tipped in Brown’s favour.
Nguyen Thi Tam (W) v Gretel De Paz (L) (Philippines) points decision
One of Vietnam’s best women’s boxers takes on the relentless Gretel De Paz of the Philippines. Tam is a high octane southpaw that has a high boxing IQ, with range and hand speed to match. She has achieved honours at the Asian Games in 2018, the world youth gold, and also was victorious representing Asia v Europe. Once again she puts on a master class against hardened pro De Paz, who will no doubt improve out of sight on her Vietnam debut.
Vu Thanh Dat (W) v Jino Rodrigo (L) (Philippines) points decision
Vu Thanh Dat provides an ominous reminder that he is indeed one of Vietnam’s best young prospects. He faces highly talented puncher Jino Rodrigo from the Philippines. Jino earned the moniker “the Missing Link” because of his wild looks and boxing style – and he doesn’t let fans down here!. Coming to Vietnam with 6 previous wins, Jino attempts to land the heavy artillery from the opening bell. Watch for Vu Thanh Dat to stay composed under pressure and take advantage of a tiring Rodrigo. Great action fight!!
Tran Duc Tho (L) v Danilo Creati (W) (Italy) points decision
Class undercard where Italian star Danilo ‘Dash’ Creati takes on up and comer Tran Duc Tho. Creati is an ex- Italian amateur champion with over 100 wins, and now is unbeaten in 4 professional outings. He is fabled for his defence, and many of the sparring partners call him a ghost – he is just so damn hard to hit! So watch Tran Duc Tho give Danilo some cosmetic work in this match up – especially in Round 2. Great learning fight for Tran Duc Tho, but Creati’s experience and cool head takes centre stage here.
Nguyen Van Hai (W) v Jye Lane Taylor (L) (Australia) points decision
One of Vietnam’s best takes on unbeaten Australian rising star Jye Lane Taylor in a quality main event. Nguyen Van Hai took this rematch of last November’s Victory 8 fight on two weeks notice, and shows why he is one of the country’s most versatile and respected fighters. Jye Lane Taylor demonstrates superb touch here and shows the poise of a much more experienced fighter. This bout was controversial, as most had thought Lane Taylor had done enough to get the verdict. That said, this match was a closely contested chess match by two very high echelon boxers that are both favourites with the Vietnam fans.