December 24, 2014 by Melissa Ray
For a long time I’ve taken only a passing interest in the Thai Fight shows. Judging from the footage I’d seen, I thought the bouts were generally uncompetitive, with any Thai fighters on the cards predictable winners against outmatched foreigners.
But, last Sunday (21st December), I made it to my first live Thai Fight event—the finals of the 2014 Kad Chuak and Muay Thai tournaments—at Asiastique, The Riverfront: an open-air shopping and dining area on the banks of the Chao Phraya river.
And I’ve been totally converted. Well, actually, I still think the matches are generally uncompetitive; but, to be honest, the fights don’t make the show—the production and atmosphere do.
Thai Fight manages to appeal to all sections of society, and the vast crowd of spectators on Sunday night included many women, children and “hi-so” fans. Among the VIPs in attendance were Thai Princess HRH Ubolratana and British Ambassador Mark Kent.
How was the action? The most spectacular moment was Saenchai PK Saenchaimuaythaigym’s high kick KO of Ghilas Barache (Algeria), with Saenchai landing the full shin to his opponent’s head, sending him crashing out in round 1. Ghilas had entertained the crowd with some energetic dancing as he entered the ring, and even mocked Saenchai’s famous foot shuffle at one point during the bout. It’s unwise for a fighter to be too cocky when in the ring with Saenchai; Ghilas was quickly made to regret his actions.
In the 70 kg Kad Chuak tournament final, Yodsaenklai Fairtex made short work of Christophe Pruvost (Switzerland), landing sharp and accurate punches to score a round 1 KO, with Christophe having gone down three times before the referee stopped the fight.
The 72 kg Muay Thai tournament final between Antoine Pinto and Saiyok Pumpanmuang was always destined to be the most interesting match of the night. I thought the fight might have been closer, but Saiyok was too accurate with his left-side weapons, with some particularly well-timed elbows catching Antoine full-on. Antoine showed heart, but after taking two 8-counts in the first round, it was always going to be an uphill task for him to make up the difference, and Saiyok took a comfortable points win after the three rounds of action.
In the remaining fights, Thai Fight regulars Iquezang Kor Rungtanakiat, Chanajon PK Saenchaimuaythaigym and Leo Pinto won relatively easily against boxers from Myanmar, Algeria and Senegal, respectively. Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee was pretty much untested in his bout against Burmese opponent Gow Suao. As Sudsakorn jabbed, Gow’s poor guard became apparent and Sudsakorn capitalised quickly, ending the fight within seconds.
As I mentioned, the fights are not really the highlight of the Thai Fight show—it’s the party atmosphere and supreme production (including lights, sound and fireworks) that make the event so enjoyable. The presenters are very good at whooping up the crowd, and Thai pop music blasted between rounds maintains the energy throughout (see my shaky video for a short clip of the fun).
Muay Thai purists will probably continue to turn their noses up at the Thai Fight events, and, for gamblers, there surely isn’t going to be much appeal. But it’s definitely worth experiencing one of the live shows for a great night out. You have to give credit to the Thai Fight organisers for making Muay Thai accessible to the masses—where else can you watch the likes of Saenchai, Saiyok, Sudsakorn and Yodsaenklai for free?