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Boxing the Thai Way

One of the strange aspects of following boxers around the world is that you see things from various parts of the planet that done completely differently to how they are done at home. Some of these are good others are bad but they are all worth thinking about, even if it’s not for long.

One of the notable countries for doing things differently is Thailand who have 2 very distinct things to both the UK and the US. That is that their fighters are often very active and that their top fighters often have losses against their name.

The first thing we need to consider is whether or not a loss is a bad thing. Does is show a fighter is beatable and therefore not very good? Or does it act as a sign that they need to improve, they need to work on things and also toughen them up in the process. If you look at the top Thais in “western boxing” (to differentiate from Muay Thai) they often have early losses in their career. Examples of this are Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, Tepparith Kokietgym and Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.

When you look at the record of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (the current WBC super flyweight champion) you notice 3 career defeats all of which came early in his career and if you look at Yodmongkol (the current WBA interim flyweight champion) he picked up 2 losses in his first 8. Neither of these men are “talentless” because they lost early instead they have developed from those losses and decided they don’t want to lose again. They took losses and used them as foundations to get better.

As well as many top Thais having losses something else you notice is the the sheer number of fights the Thais have. Aged 21 Teerachai Kratingdaenggym has 24 fights, aged 25 Pungluang Sor Singyu has 48 bouts, age 23 Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep has 35 fights and aged 20 Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr has 25 fights. That’s because a lot of Thais take part in obvious stay busy fights.

The busiest world champion last year was Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who despite being crowned a world champion in May fought 7 times in the year with 4 of those fights coming after he won a world title. He gets paid for each of those fights even though they look a lot more like public sparring than real fights.

What this level of activity does is keep the fighter making money, keeps the fighter in shape and active and also helps to lower the cost of the show. The fighter knows he isn’t getting championship pay days but he is effectively being paid for a public work out.

Whilst the “stay busy” approach might not work for every fighter it has numerous benefits and not just the payments. It also forces a fighter to stay in shape. Had Ricky Hatton, for example, been a Thai his infamous blowing up between fights would have been stopped because he’d have had a fight to prepare for rather than curries to eat and beers to drink.

It may seem foreign to us now but in the “good old days” fighters didn’t care about losses and fighters were active. The likes of Henry Armstrong, Harry Greb, Joe Gans and Sugar Ray Robinson all fought stay busy fights and all picked up losses in their career. Their losses didn’t destroy their legacy and those stay active fights didn’t exactly stop them from being legends. 

Maybe, just Maybe, the Thais have the right idea and that activity in the ring is more important than just activity in the gym. It’s hard to say for sure though it’s certainly something worth considering when you think about the inactivity of various British and American boxers.

Scott Graveson covers the Asian boxing scene for AsianBoxing