In Thailand Muay Thai or Thai boxing has a role similar to that of soccer in South America. It is a way for children from underprivileged families to become famous and earn loads of money. The sport’s Mecca is the Lumpini stadium in Bangkok where the highest prize money is paid and tickets cost up to 2000 Baht. But with Muay Thai being the national sport there is events in every city.
On Monday nearby Thapae Stadium had a couple of fights going on and I wanted to have a look at all that circus with sports, gambling and drinking myself. The ticket I got was for the cheap ranks, hoping that just like in a soccer stadium that’s where the party is going.
I was led to a table a couple rows away from the ring and handed a menu with price tags that probably exceeded every restaurant in town. Most people around me were westerners and the whole thing looked like a tourist trap. At this point I was pretty sure I had wasted my time and money. I caught a glimpse of hope when two Thais next to me started to get involved in the betting action.
The first fight started about half an hour late and all the time they had played some horribly annoying music – I wasn’t in the best mood.
As fighters in Muay Thai start at a young age, the first two fights for the night were between contestants hardly exceeding the 50kg weight mark. Despite their young age these guys had a pretty mean attitude though and the opening fight ended after the first round when one of the guys was lying on the floor, bleeding all over his face.
Muay Thai is often describes as kick-boxing but it goes beyond that as the frequent use of knees and elbows makes any western form of boxing look like a pillow fight. Surprisingly it’s fatality rate is far below that of western boxing, probably because people don’t get hit on the head that often (a knee in the stomach usually ends a fight as well).
When the kids were done, the adults entered the ring. By the time I had enough of my ‘western spot’ and had left my table to stand around where the Thais were watching the action. They all had a drink or two already and cheered for every successful punch and kick. I don’t know if the fights that night were fixed or real but the pain certainly looked authentic.
Between the fights I wandered around and had a look at what’s going on outside the ring. The whole area is pretty open and I could see guys preparing for the fight and others being taken care of after one.
The final event of the evening involved a farang, a guy from Switzerland came to take on a local. By the looks of it he had been practising Muay Thai for quite a while and the set up looked very unfair to me as he outweighed his opponent by at least 10kg. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that Thai’s position.
All-in-all the evening was not the waste of money I had feared it to be in the beginning. Watching the fights isn’t really much fun unless you’re into blood and pain but everything going on around them is interesting to see.