“In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders,
Of every glove that laid him down,
And cut him till he cried out,
In his anger and his shame,
‘I am leaving, I am leaving,’
But the fighter still remains.”
So goes Simon & Garfunkel’s song in my head just as the crowd roared out their support for the 2 fighters in the ring and drowning out all sense of sobriety. It was the last fight for the evening and already into it’s last round. The 2 fighters, tired and bleeding were trying to outlast each other.
From my previous blog post about Chiangmai, I had wanted to watch a muaythai fight and had bought tickets to the boxing stadium near Ta Phae Gate. I passed by the place earlier in the day but it was closed, so while going for dinner, I stopped by again and bought the standard ticket for 400 baht. VIP seats are 500 baht, and you get to sit just below the ring. Based on online reviews the VIP seats aren’t worth the extra 100 baht, unless you really want to get close to the action, and besides I didn’t want to get myself drizzled with sweat and blood, or injured by falling fighters.
Although it’s called a boxing stadium, the place looks more like an underground fight club with the boxing ring surrounded by bar counters and neon lighting. I guess this is more of an entertainment venue for tourists rather than a real boxing stadium.
The fights start at 9.30pm but visitors were already allowed to enter by 9pm. As one of the first to enter, I was shown to seats just 3 rows from the boxing ring. The VIP seats were just in front of me. I would say that it’s not necessary to buy the VIP tickets as you don’t enjoy any perks except to sit next to the ring. The katoey (transvestite) waitress was already pushing me to buy a beer, to which I obliged.
While slowly drinking my beer and waiting, the crowd started coming in slowly. 9.30pm came and went, the stadium was only half full and the fights still had not started. Ticket sales must have been slow that night. But by 10pm the it was almost full and the referee entered the ring. Every table was given the schedule of the fights for the night, with a short 1 sentence biography of each fighter. There were a total of 7 fights that night with the last fight as the main draw. It was a heavyweight fight between a farang (Westerner) and the local champion.
The first fight was the kids class. Two young boys entered the ring. They looked like they were 15 years old or younger.
However, we may feel about letting young kids fight professionally, getting into the ring for these kids is a way out of a life of poverty and farming. But it is a long journey and I wonder how many of them will fall at the wayside.
Each round lasts 3 minutes with a 2 minutes rest in between. And there are a total of 5 rounds with the winner being declared either by knock out or points.
In between the fights, there was a round of several blind folded boxers hitting at each other and the referee in a free-for-all for comic relief (video below). At the end of the comedy fight, they came down to the audience to ask for donations.
After nearly an hour of punches and kicks, it finally came to the last fight of the night that was the highlight. In between fights, the waitresses were also encouraging the spectators to buy more beer and they became even more rowdier after many rounds of beer. The tourists were cheering for the foreigner challenger and the locals were cheering for the Thai. I guess this was what everyone was waiting for; the real professional fight, not the amateur rounds that went before.
The New Zealander came out strong and put the Thai on the defensive for the first 2 rounds. But the Thai was a pro and he easily absorbed the attacks. Often he would get pushed to the ropes, but he would use the tension on the ropes to bounce back and return a blistering counter-attack. Clearly, he was tiring out his opponent and by the third and fourth rounds, the Thai was getting the advantage.
There is a base and savage side to our human nature, where we find pleasure in watching 2 human beings beat each other to death. From our cavemen days to gladiator fights in ancient Rome, we are the only species on Earth that fights and kill our own for sport. So are we savages, or just that we mask our savageness with our humanity?
Philosophical thoughts aside, the Thai was getting the upper hand and the New Zealander was getting bloodied and bruised from the constant attacks. The blood thirsty crowd was cheering louder as they sensed the end was getting near. The bell rung for the end of the last round and the Thai was declared the winner by points. The stadium started to empty as everyone filed out, their blood thirst satisfied, along with lots of alcohol.