“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.

Before the crowd comes in and the fight starts, all is quiet in anticipation.
Before the crowd comes in and the fights start, all is quiet in anticipation. In front of me are the VIP seats. The best seats are the ones just below the ring, but I noticed during the fights that the spectators there risked getting injured if any of the fighters fell over the ropes.

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.

But he's only just a kid...
But he’s only just a kid…
The opponent looks just as young and kinda skinny too.
The opponent looks just as young and kinda skinny too.
This ain't no playground fight. The boys were going at each other like pros.
This ain’t no playground fight. The boys were going at each other like pros.

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.

After the kids fight, it was time for the adults. And they came in by weight category. Here, a fighter does the traditional prayer for victory before the start of the fight.
After the kids fight, it was time for the adults. And they came in by weight category from lightest to heaviest. A fighter performs the traditional prayer for victory before the start of the fight.
Most of the fighters were on the lean side. But they still pack a wallop.
Most of the fighters were on the lean side. But they still pack a wallop.
Declaring the winner in one of the fights. A couple of fights were won by knock out, and others by points.
Declaring the winner in one of the fights. A couple of fights were won by knock out, and others by 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 last fight of the night, the heavy weight category and the most experienced fighters. The challenger was a New Zealander against the local Thai champion.
The last fight of the night, the heavy weight category and the most experienced fighters. The challenger was a New Zealander against the local Thai champion. A moment of quiet contemplation and last minute advice before the start of the fight.
It was a brutal fight to say the least. They went the full 5 rounds.
It was a brutal fight to say the least. They went the full 5 rounds.

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.

That's a real brutal roundhouse kick, and the face of the referee tells it.
That’s a real brutal roundhouse kick, and the face of the referee tells it.
Yes, there will be blood and the New Zealander was bleeding most of it. He lost the fight by points.
Yes, there will be blood and the New Zealander was bleeding most of it. He lost the fight by points.

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.

 

One thought on “Muaythai Fight Club

  1. Great actions shots ~ and you capture both sides of the Muay Thai scene well; the tourist feel and then the real passion/feeling of the boxers and sport. For some, as you say, it is a way out. Great post.

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