The truck bounced up and down as we pulled off the dirt driveway and onto the main road. The tall stalks of sugar cane across the street looked like a field of earless corn. The green crop reached towards the sky as the morning sun moved westward in the eastern country of Thailand.
I sat in the pick up truck with four other men, one of the trainer’s from Sitmonchai, Jaa, two older men, and one man that was about twenty five. He had a slight mustache, and ripped holes in his jeans. He looked like he liked Caraboa, the Isaan rock star who sports his own energy drink, a lot, like a lot a lot.
I stared out the window watching the surburbs pass by as we moved east against the motion of the sun to our destination. My interest was piqued only when the radio played Slur, a modern indy rock band. Their latest song, Hitler, has made it to number nine in the pop charts. The song title is a pun, as ler means or, so the song title means Hit or not? They’ve taken the pun one step further with their video for the song in which the band members dress as the Nazi party leader and bludgeon each other. The video is not being played on Channel V a popular music video station because of its potentially offensive content.
We made it to Siam stadium in a little less than an hour. Omnoi or Siam stadium is located about 40 kilometers from the capital of Thailand. The venue is used to televise fights, and was built in the last ten years so offers a more “pristine” atmosphere. I paid for my ticket to see the bouts, it was a reasonable 500 baht, about eighteen dollars, a third of the price of Lumpinee or Rajadamern. I walked into the stadium and was surrounded by the most popular commodity in Thailand, food. To my left was a stall with noodles, rice, and the usual wares while to my right was a stand that sold fizzy, carbonated water, and a pletherora of different fruits from sour mango, to pineapple, to farang, a favorite of Thais, but not Farang.
In front of me was the ring, it was standard sized and raised for better camera work, and incidentally viewing. Men with shoulder cameras were standing around the side of the ring preparing for their shoot. I took my seat on a raised level which made me slightly above the ring and offered a much better view than the famous stadiums in Bangkok. The bouts took a little time getting rolling. The first fighters were warmed up and in the ring as the commission, or someone piddled about getting the bout started. It reminded me of Chaz Mulkey’s recent bout with Joe Schilling in which the two fighters had to wait around for 20 minutes.
Luckily for the two Thais; Yodkuunpon Sitmonchai and Neungaatid Sitodpiibuun the wait was slightly shorter, about ten minutes. The two fighters were cool and emotionless as they waited for the bout to start. I sat in my seat excited. I had come to see Yodkuunpon, whose nickname is Muu. Most of the times when I see friends fight I get nervous. My heart gets excited as I see them in the ring. My hopes are projected on to them, their acts in the ring are like a puppeteer’s strings pulling on my marionette heart.
Muu fought the left handed opponent with strong hands, uncharacteristic of many of his Thai peers but totally in accordance with the background of Sitmonchai fighters. In the second round he was able to rock Neungatid making him forget what day of the week it was. In the third round Neungatid was able to engage in the clinch and score more knees but Muu showed his superiority by dumping Neungatid to the canvas. The fourth round, the round that is often counted most highly in the marathon matches of Muay Thai was also the most exciting as Muu was able to throw a hard cross into his opponent’s gut. The cross to the body visibly injured Neungatid and Muu capitalized on the blow by following the punch with a barrage of straight knees to the stomach. The bell rang and Neungatid’s corner men rushed out pouring water on the young man’s stomach and hurriedly massaging the pain away while the clock ticked down to the final round.
photo by Michael Galvin of MuayThaiTrainingCamps.com
The fifth round opened and Neungatid, behind on points, came forward swinging hoping with a puncher’s chance that he would score a knock out. Muu was able to keep his ground and keep him away and midway through the round a visible agreement was made. The two touched gloves and through the unspoken communication paid each the professional courtesy of not attacking each other more. Given the lack of action the referee called the fight a little early and Muu won on a points decision. The young man won 20,000 baht for the bout.
The second fight was a filler for the show with the hoards of gamblers paying scant attention to the bout but the two boys in the ring were not fighting forthe gamblers. They looked as if the two boys were fighting over a Playboy magazine full of sound and fury. The bout was more typically Thai both in method of attacking and tempo then the first bout however Godi of Sitnamkapwan gym in red was able to drop Fatlitong of Akkindidon gym with a strong leg kick in the third round. The corner men emerged franctically from their corner and massaged Fatilong’s leg with ice trying to regain the health and ability of their fighter. Their efforts were in vain as Fatilong lost the bout to referee stoppage due to inability to retaliate after he was leg kicked further and then elbowed.
The third fight of the six fight show was the main event with Sam A of Ladongeandi fighting Maanasakdi of Bpinsinchaiy. Sam A is the current Lumpinee champ at 122lbs and like fellow southpaw beltholder Saenchai Sor. Kingstar is suffering the price of success as he is often matched up with fighters that are bigger than him or he has to cut a large amount of weight for fights. Sam A began his wai khru moving counterclockwise from his corner, an act I’ve never seen anyone do, most people move clockwise from their corner. His ram muay was well practiced and at the ropes he did the bird, slowly moving his arms up and down in time with his bobbing legs.
With their respective ritual dances done the bout began with some trepidation from Maanasakdi. He seemed nervous and wary of Sam A. The belt holder used his timing to keep his opponent away and in the first round when Maansakdi was able to kick Sam A, Sam A caught the kick and sweeped him to the ground. Maansakdi was tight and looked as if he was going to put a thousand angels through the head of a pin through sheer will power. Sam A teeped his opponent with ferocity and followed with a sharp leg lick to end the round.
As Sam A continued to counterfight in rounds two and 3 his opponent began to gain confidence as he was able to successfully land his attacks. Maansakdi’s slow gaining of ground in round 4 excited the gamblers fever. The crowd of bettors shook their hands in fury attempting to capitalize on the rounds momentum. Men in suits that held a hoard of cell phones took and placed bets with a pace more frantic than the one in the ring. The music sped up and the final round began. Sam A was able to keep Maansakdi away and secured a points victory. As the bout ended he brought a small child into the ring holding the baby aloft while the referee took in the judge’s score cards declaring Sam A the winner.
Along with the Lumpinee champion was Bragaysang Kiatphontip who won on points against his opponent, Yodkunpon B Tirgin. I am sure at least one bald man in the crowd was happy about that.