Thailand’s boxing popularity: From amateurs to pros 

Thanks to its vibrant martial arts culture, boxing (the western-styled one) has become one of the fastest-rising sports in Thailand and its fighters are one of the most feared in the professional scene, thanks to their vast experience in their national sport which is Muay Thai

In such a short span, both the professional and amateur side of boxing had extensive coverage, in which the transition of the Muay Thai practitioners is seamless for most of the time, given that they are one of the most feared martial artists owing to their sheer punching power. 

As such, foreigners have gone to Thailand to learn and have a career in Muay Thai, bringing back the sport to the masses as it appreciates its value as they learned more than just a form of kickboxing. 

In this feature, we break down how boxing took a foothold in what was now a multi-million-baht industry. 

Amateur Boxing 

Thailand is one of Southeast Asian powerhouses in the sport of boxing, with their rivalry with the Philippines being the highlight of being the best in the region. 

The Thais have won fifteen Olympic medals in boxing, making it the second-best sport behind weightlifting. Their first medal was their country’s first-ever, courtesy of the the late light-flyweight pugilist Payao Poontarat in 1976, and went on to win the WBC superflyweight title in 1983 as a professional. 

Twenty years (and two more bronzes and a silver) later, featherweight Somluck Kasing took down Bulgaria’s Serafim Todorov to claim their first Olympic title. 

Flyweight Somjit Jongjohor was arguably their greatest amateur fighter, as he was the lone Thai boxer to win the then-AIBA World title and an Olympic gold, having accomplished it five years apart. 

Jongjohor’s 2003 win at home in the AIBA Worlds was one of the dozen medals that they have claimed in the competition. 

Professional boxing 

Thailand’s boxing scene began in the prizefighting aspect, with the dreams of the Thai youth got them into the Muay Thai, hoping that the art of eight limbs will be their way to lift the families out of poverty. 

Flyweight Pone Kingpetch was its first-ever world champion from the Land of Smiles, with the Hua Hin native dethroned Argentina’s Pascual Perez to snatch his then-NBA (now WBA) and Ring magazine belts in 1960. 

Light welterweight Saensak Muangsurin is known for his record as the fastest World Champion, having fought (and won) his first three pro bouts for the WBC title in 1975. 

However, the poster boy of Thai boxing is their lone Hall of Famer Khaosai Galaxy. The Super flyweight racked up a 41-bout winning streak that took him to Canastota, including 19 defenses of his WBA crown (12 consecutive) in a seven-year stretch. 

Currently, Mini flyweights Panya Pradabsri and Thammanoon Niyomtrong are the current titleholders that came from Thailand. 

Famous venues 

Thailand’s colorful history with the sweet science has made their venues that are iconic of their own status. 

In terms of the traditional sites, the duo Lumpinee and Rajadamnern.  The aura on fight nights is unlike any other, where former titlist Pone Kingpetch fought and won here. 

Also, not to be denied was Saensak’s abode in Hua Mark, wherein he fought and won his first four pro bouts as well as the Nimibutr and Nonthaburi’s Impact Arena which was one of the country’s premier mixed-martial-arts venues.