Held in Taiwan, the tournament became legendary for its brutality. In those days, a variety of very dangerous techniques were allowed, such as elbow and knee strikes, and fighters wore only thin cotton gloves on their hands. Lai Hung beat all four opponents he faced. At 19, he became instantly famous.
Over the next 12 years, Lai Hung fought full-contact matches all around Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Cambodia. The fight in Cambodia is especially interesting because it was one of the first times that traditional Chinese martial artists faced "Thai boxing"-style fighters. The kung-fu fighters fared poorly, but it should be noted that they fought under unfamiliar rules and they faced professional kickboxers who trained and fought for a living, while the kung-fu fighters all had day jobs and trained in their free time.
The following is a translation of a newspaper article from the Hong Kong Chien News dated May 18, 1961 detailing the Cambodian event.
"Lai Hung Talks About the Fight in Cambodia"
"Miscommunication leads the referee to declare him the loser".
Lai Hung shook his head when queried by the referee if he was seriously injured. The referee took this to mean he wanted to quit, so the fight was halted.
The seven amateur fighters from Hong Kong returned on the 15th. Their defeat was not unexpected as their motive for competing was simply to gain experience. Now they will analyze their performance so that the Chinese martial arts community can improve. Our reporter had a special interview with fighter Lai Hung yesterday. Mr. Lai talked about his experience fighting Bing Leung.
Mr. Lai teaches Chinese martial arts at the Kowloon Bus Employee's Association, as well as at his own school located at 191 Ching Shan Road. According to Mr. Lai, the Cambodian fighters were all fierce and fast in attack and knew how to use their advantage of ring experience. The kung-fu fighters and Cambodian fighters each had their special techniques, but the Cambodian fighters definitely had superior physical conditioning.
According to Lai, the competition had been in the planning stages for a long time, but for awhile it seemed that it was not going to happen, until suddenly a month ago a notice came from Cambodia informing the Hong Kong fighters that the competition was on. The Cambodian organizers of the event suggested the Hong Kong delegation travel to Cambodia on May 2. The trip was delayed due to visa procedures, so the competition was rescheduled. The fighters from Hong Kong finally boarded a Cathay Pacific flight at 5 p.m. on May 8, and landed about two hours later.
The Hong Kong and Cambodian delegations finally agreed to begin the competition on May 9. The Chinese population in Cambodia was very supportive of this event. They heartily supported the kung-fu fighters.
In the aftermath of the event, and in Lai's analysis of Cambodian boxing, he believes the Hong Kong fighters do not compare to the Cambodians. Although the Cambodians do not train in a traditional martial arts school manner, they are very well-organized. Boxers go through a process of selection and training. They train with iron rods, iron plates, punching bags, and so on. They remain light on their feet, yet can deliver enormous kicking power. Their fingers, fists, elbows, knees and legs can subdue an opponent in one or two moves. Their legs, especially, can attack without warning. Their left-right kicking combination is like two knives chopping from either side.
Bing Leung is a brave, well-known Cambodian boxer
Lai Hung's opponent was Bing Leung, a famous Cambodian boxer. According to Lai, Bing Leung was brave and skillful. Lai said that if the event had been held in Hong Kong, the audience would not be able to watch because of the unbearable brutality of it. Lai Hung and Bing Leung were scheduled to have five three-minute rounds. Lai said his loss was really just a matter of a misunderstanding.
Testing the Waters
According to Lai, in the first round, the two fighters engaged in light contact, trying to feel each other out. Both spent the round testing the water, so to speak.
In the second round, the fighters began to discover each other's technique, so the contact became heavier. Bing Leung started the offensive with a strong punch toward the side of Lai Hung's forehead. Lai sank into a horse stance and hooked Bing's arm with his left hand. As he hooked the arm, he blasted Bing with a right punch. This punch had all of Lai Hung's might, and Bing fell to the canvas immediately after the hit. But then he jumped right back up again. The second round ended shortly after this exchange.
Lai Hung fell into trap His forehead started to bleed
After two minutes of rest, the third round started. Bing Leung came at Lai with a full offense. In this round, he switched to kicking. With just a slight body movement, he was already in the air with a left-right crescent kick. Lai avoided the attack and counterattacked with a choy lay fut strike. This time, Leung fell to the ground and stayed there. He grasped his midsection, showing signs of great pain. Lai Hung felt remorseful for hitting such a vulnerable spot. He actually apologized to Leung. At this point, Leung attacked. One of his techniques cut Lai's forehead. Lai was furious and charged forward, striking Leung heavily. The round ended shortly thereafter.
Lai says, my kick was fast, yet his was faster
As both fighters stepped into the center of the ring for the fourth round, the audience clapped wildly. Bing Leung attacked with a variety of techniques, catching Lai off guard. Lai was overpowered and hit. However, he was not injured. He counterattacked as he had in previous rounds and again knocked Leung to the canvass. As Leung got to his feet, Lai immediately attacked with a flying right kick. Leung was fast and locked up Lai's leg. He pushed Lai against the rope. The referee separated the two and paused to look at Lai's forehead. The referee, worried about Lai's injury, asked him he wanted to continue the fight. Lai misunderstood and shook his head, trying to convey that the injury was not serious. The referee then stopped the fight. He did not announce a winner.
After the fight, Lai Hung told reporters, "It's only a competition. I don't care about winning or losing. Losing does not mean a loss of face. The trip was for experience. My only desire to win would have been to spread the art of kung-fu." He then praised the Cambodian fighters and said he admired their training methods and envied their frequent opportunities for fighting.