History of Boxing in Thailand 

History of Boxing in Thailand 

This article features the colorful history of boxing in Thailand, from its Muay Thai roots to its championship contenders. 

Summary of Muay Thai 

Thailand had a rich martial arts culture that predates even advent of the boxing that we know today, as they offer several styles with Muay Thai being the most popular. 

Known as the Art of Eight Limbs, Muay Thai came from Muay Boran (originally known as Toi Muay), which was an all-encompassing term for all things about Thai Martial arts, which is known for its immense power.  

Apart from the pair of fists (for punching), the sport knees, shins and elbows that also had the same painful effect when hit. 

The sport is a de facto cultural symbol of Thailand, where it had produced not just legendary fighters, but also fighting venues (aka Stadiums) that were iconic on their own right.  

Two of them, Bangkok’s Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, were known for its prestigious championships on their own gyms. Apart from the titles, both stadiums were a must-see tourist attraction with its charming atmosphere on fight nights. Media coverage of Muay Thai was widespread, with several networks dedicated their timeslots to fight nights. 

Modern, western boxing in Thailand 

The use of other body parts apart from its hands is what makes Muay Thai stood out from boxing in general, where it gives fighters more options to strike their opponents hard and at the same time enables them to come up with several defensive moves. 

Unlike the Philippines that produced their first professional world champion in the early parts of the 20th century, Thailand took a longer time to win their first pro title owing to giving importance to its own martial arts as the country was the only one in Southeast Asia that were never colonized by the west. 

Apart from that, the fighters must work more than double to get the recognition with the lack of coverage of their bouts outside of Thailand. Before Sor Rungvisai’s breakout performances in the United States, Japan was the primary destination for these boxers seeking for bigger respect to go along with their title-chasing aspirations. 

Thailand’s legendary boxers 

With the late development of boxing in Thailand, the sport only took off after the Second World War. However, it also became known for having underrated yet great boxers that won titles on their own right. 

Like most of them, they started their careers practicing Muay Thai, which enabled them to adjust to the western style of boxing faster. 

Here are some of the best boxers that came from the Land of Smiles. 

Pone Kingpetch 

Born as Mana Seedokbuab, he wasThailand’s first-ever professional World Champion, where he outlasted Argentina’s Pascual Perez by a split decision in 1960 to win the then-NBA (now known as WBA) and The Ring magazine lineal flyweight titles. Also known for his fights with Fighting Harada and Hiroyuki Ebihara, where he also took home the WBC belt from the latter in 1964. 

Khaosai Galaxy 

The lone Thai in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Khaosai (real name: Sura Saenkham) known for being one of the heaviest body punchers with his lethal left hand. He won the vacant WBA super-flyweight belt by knocking out Eusebio Espinal in 1984. He later successfully defended the title 19 times until 1991, culminating in one of the longest title reigns in boxing. 

He also has a twin brother, Khaokor (Sura Saenkham), who also won a world title after dethroning Wilfredo Vazquez for the WBA bantamweight crown in 1988, making them the first twins to hold those belts. 

Saensak Muangsurin 

He was known for being the fastest world champion by time, with him and Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko shared the record for the fewest fights to win the belt (on their third). 

Saensak (real name: Boonsong Mansri) did this by knocking out Spain’s Perico Fernandez in 1975 to claim the WBC super-lightweight crown. Before that, he also excelled in Muay Thai as he was a 140lb champion in Lumpinee. 

Veeraphol Sahaprom 

One of the best products of Muay Thai, having become a three-division Rajadamnern Stadium champion before putting on the shoes in 1994. On his fourth fight, he won his first world title after dethroning Daorung Chuvatana by a split decision to claim the WBA bantamweight crown in 1995. 

He was more known for his nine-year as the WBC bantamweight king from 1996 to 2005, defending the belt fourteen times. During his tenure, the “Deathmask” (real name: Theeraphol Samranklang) developed a rivalry with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Toshiaki Nishioka where he won twice in each of those fighters before suffering a pair of defeats to Hozumi Hasegawa to lose his belt. 

Somluck Kamsing 

Thailand’s first Olympic champion, having won the featherweight gold over Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov in the Atlanta games in 1996. Before his win, they only won a silver and three bronzes in Olympic boxing. 

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Srisaket Sor Rungvisai  

A former two-time world champion, the boxer whose birth name is Wisaksil Wangek  made mainstream news with high-profile wins in the United States. One of the most-active boxers, he became one of the faces of the super-flyweight division, registering wins against Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada and Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez with his bouts being featured on HBO.