Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

Kun Khmer (Khmer kickboxing)

Our rating:

I’m definitely not the violent type, but one of my favourite things to do on a quiet Phnom Penh weekend is going to a kick-boxing match. It’s free, it’s noisy and it’s a totally Cambodian experience.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal.

Most people’s first encounter with Khmer boxing is walking past a cafe full of shouting, grunting men and thinking it’s all about to kick off in there. It’s not; they’re just gathered around their iced coffees getting in the spirit of the sport on TV. While this is an event in itself, the best way to appreciate a boxing match is up close and personal, next to the ring.

Ask your guesthouse or a friendly tuk tuk driver which TV station is staging a fight — generally, it’s TV5 on Fridays and Saturdays, Bayon and CTN on Saturdays and Sundays. The CTN studio is the easiest to get to, just six kilometres from the city centre. On arrival, head to the warehouse building to find a good viewing spot on the makeshift grandstands or go standing room only near the ring. Keep an eye out for the illegal betting and men with clumps of cellphones stuck together or displayed on a board — they’re calling in their view of the fight to bookies in cafes across town.

My interest is purely sporting, honest!

My interest is purely sporting, honest!

The easiest way to lose friends at the match is to refer to this sport as muay Thai. Khmers are proud of their history and will inform you that Kun Khmer (also known as Pradal Serey) is most certainly a Cambodian invention. From the ceremonial prayer at each corner of the ropes to the hypnotising music played on drums and flutes, the sport is loaded with history. It dates back to the ninth century, when soldiers in the Khmer Empire used their skills in battle with punches and kicks, elbows and knees. If you look closely around temples at Angkor Wat, including the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom, you’ll see bas-reliefs showing kick-boxing fights.

These days, the sport is becoming big business, although a five-round battering may only result in a $25 fee for a newbie fighter from the provinces. Boxers are respected and admired, but you’ll still see them getting ready in the public toilets and going home on a moto. It’s this gritty reality, as much as the action itself, that makes a Khmer boxing match so thrilling.

Further reading
A viewpoint on the rivalry between Cambodia and Thailand through the medium of boxing

By .

Start planning your holiday today

Sent every Monday, our newsletter is full of travel advice, news & special deals. Read past issues.


Popular attractions in Phnom Penh

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Phnom Penh.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Phnom Penh.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Phnom Penh.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Phnom Penh.
 Read up on how to get to Phnom Penh, or book your transport online with Camboticket.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Phnom Penh? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

See below for more sights and activities in Phnom Penh that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phnom Penh? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

Top of page