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Pattaya Daily News

10 May 2007 :: 16:05:58 pm 21316

Pattaya’s Warriors

As farangs get drunk and paw girls, a small group of noticeably darker Thais sit in a small corner of the fluorescent light bathed bar next to a boxing ring. There is something that a boxing ring represents that is inescapable. That certain something rings of truth and commitment. Two hard Thai men meander around the ring and then climb into it, as they have done hundreds of times.
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These are not the stars of Muay Thai that are seen worldwide through cable or broadcasted to millions of Thai households across the Kingdom. These are the fighters that didn’t get that big pay day or the bout that made them stars. These are the other guys; the ones that practice Muay Thai for one reason: Love of the sport.

The two fighters climb into the ring and eye one another. They know each other as most fighters do. Some of them have faced each other many times. Some have never fought. I asked the girls that fill the bars surrounding the ring if they watch the fights and all responded in the negative. Evidently, they saw enough Muay Thai on the many lonesome Isann nights with their Fathers and Grandfathers.

Many of these warriors have just come from day jobs in construction or some other work. This is also a way that they add food to their mouths or pay rent. The bodies of the men serve as examples of a Spartan lifestyle. Most look like chiseled statues. Very few of them have any body fat at all. Many have scars from past bouts or large bruises that cover their upper legs. The winner gets to take a victory lap around the bar and collect tips as there is no usually no fight fee paid. The loser gets nothing.

This is the world of Pattaya’s Muay Thai scene. Every single night, you can see as many as a dozen of these fights. The fights range from little more than sparring between friends to all out battles where the fight ends with a KO. I watched one such fight in which, after 2 rounds, the victor hit his opponent with a round house punch so hard it took the man off the mat and knocked him completely out. His girlfriend and another man had to take him off the mat.

Some of the fights are more for demonstration and this is usually the first round or two. Combatants know that the elbows of a skilled Muay Thai fighter are among the most dangerous of their weapons. A well placed elbow strike can shatter a jaw or, in some cases, strike an opponent’s temple with the result being death. I watched as two fighters demonstrated how to use the elbow for a strike to the back of the head. They pulled the blows at the last second.

Sometimes, there is a slight that one fighter takes offense to. The result can be a true battle using all techniques. I saw one such fight where the bell rang and one of the fighters used the break to whack the other in the face with a cheap shot. The referee had to separate them again and at first I thought it was part of the show. However, when the bell sounded a second time, the slighted fighter came out so ferociously there was no doubt that this was a fight. After several hard hits to the body of the other man, he used a combination of one kick and one punch to knock the other to the ropes. When he came back, a powerful roundhouse knocked the man straight to the mat. With ring justice served, the winner did not even take his victory lap around the room for pay. Winning was enough.

I spoke with one of the fighters’ girlfriends while I was there. She told me in broken English that her boyfriend had been fighting Muay Thai since he was a child. I asked her if it was difficult for her to watch him fight night after night. She said they needed the money so it was a help when he did win. But he sometimes became angry at the lack of pay. The bars all paid the sponsors but the actual fighters seemed to be last on the food chain. She said some of the fighters were dirty but that her man could handle a cheater. I asked if it upset her when he lost. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “him cannot win every time.”

Next time you visit walking street or Pattaya’s bars, make sure you give at least 100 baht to the winner of the bout you watch. Try to imagine yourself having to climb into a ring knowing that if you didn’t win, you paid your own way home. Let’s all do what we can for some of Thailand’s bravest warriors

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Stories

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