I am a pretty peaceful person. I wish no violent harm onto anyone, maybe with the exception of some university administrators, and even there I’m not gonna do anything other than pray to Odin that they get hit by a car. Typically, I believe that in personal relations and in international politics, the negotiation and the compromise should lead to conflict resolution, not the fist or the cruise missile. But, at the same time, if everyone is a consenting volunteer, I love a good fight in a ring, on the grass or in a hockey arena. When I was younger, I played Judo and American football (that’s the type of football where you try NOT TO fall down, and get up like a man if someone knocks you to the grass), and I still love to watch contact sport.
So it was a real treat for me to watch some Thai Boxing in the famous Ratchadamnoen Stadium in Bangkok! This, together with the Lumpini Stadium, is one of the two traditional Thai Boxing arenas in the city. The stadium is in the center of Bangkok, near some government buildings and across from military barracks. When I got there, a small crowd of drink and snack vendors serving the fight fans was already assembled in front of the gates. I met up with my friend Ton and we even had ringside seats, only a few meters from the aktschn! We walked in just as the Thai national anthem was played.
And we saw an evening of good fights. Respect to every one of the athletes!
In Sydney, urban upper middle class couples outfit their precious little princesses and princes with helmets when they ride around on their push-bikes on the paved walkways in the parks. In Bangkok, 10 year old kids don’t wear helmets WHEN THEY COMPETE IN PRIZEFIGHTS! The first few matches indeed featured young boys, who already had remarkably smooth fighting technique and fierce fighting spirit. It was impressive to see! Halfway through the undercard, after the boys and the teenagers, adult men entered the ring and showed a superb level of fighting: feints and good footwork, knees and elbows in the infight, push-kicks to keep the opponent at a distance, barrages of punches when an opening showed, and an occasional high-kick or throw.
Having watched scores of boxing, Muay Thai and mixed martial arts matches, I could expertly parse what was going on, and make an educated guess which of the two combatants would win. So I didn’t resist when and older Thai gentlemen next to us offered to take any bet I’d like to make. The fighter I put 500 Bath on was unconscious only a minute later. After taking some hefty elbows to the head, he collapsed in his corner in-between rounds. He was one of two guys carried out on a stretcher that night, but fortunately, so it was announced a few minutes later, he was ok.
In general, the crowd was really into the fights and a lot of the guys behind us in the cheaper seats were enthusiastically betting on the fight’s outcomes. They were greeting every kick with loud shouts, and wildly gesticulating whom they’d like to put some money on. While the two dudes in the ring seemed very controlled and cool, emotions were running super high in the stands.
The main event was an exciting back-and-forth between two very evenly skilled fighters, and ended in a points decision. We even got to take a picture with the winner. Congrats to him!
Bangkok is an electric place. I want to go back rather sooner than later!