By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
Currently professional boxing is in a pretty solid state in Thailand with 3 world champions and some decent contenders in the mix around world level. The amateur scene in the country could be on the verge of a really sustained period of success with the youth and junior programmes put in place in 2013 paying dividends. The nation has also hosted many significant events in the last couple of years and it will be the destination for the elite Asian men’s and women’s Championships this April.
Here are a selection of the best current Thai amateurs and some future stars who will be aiming to move up to the senior level in the upcoming years.
Chatchai Butdee, bantamweight (56kg)
A veteran of over a decades experience at the top level, Chatchai has been there, seen it and done it, competing at every major tournament and is probably the most well-known Thai amateur boxer. He was voted the top sportsman in his homeland in 2013 where he won South East Asian gold and a world championship bronze.
Further gold at the South East Asian Games in 2011 and silver in 2009 coupled with top spot at the Asian Championships in 2015 prove Chatchai’s quality and ability to compete with the best around. At 33 and with a very cagy awkward style, a transition to the professional ranks is unlikely but expect Chatchai to be a tough out for anyone at bantamweight in future competitions. Some footage of Chatchai in a bout versus Misha Aloian can be seen below:
Sailom Ardee, welterweight (69kg)
Another man with copious amounts of experience at the top level Sailom is a regular for Thailand at all the major tournaments and has had his fair share of success. His most recent medal came at the 2018 Asian Games where he took bronze.
The South East Asian Games has proved fruitful for Sailom with the 32-year-old claiming gold twice and 3 bronze medals. His other most notable achievement came in 2013 where he picked up silver at the Asian Championships. Given his age a run in professional boxing doesn’t seem likely but similar to Chatchai, expect Sailom to be in and around the medals in future events. You can view a contest between Sailom and Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez below:
Wuttichai Masuk, light welterweight (64kg)
Wuttichai is a highly decorated amateur winning a medal at every major event apart from the Olympics. 2015 was a great one for Wuttichai, with gold at the Asian Championships followed by a bronze at the world championships.
The 29-year-old has also captured gold at the 2009 Asian Championships, 3 golds and a bronze at the South East Asian Games and Asian Games gold and bronze twice along with a handful of bouts in the WSB. Presuming there is boxing at the Tokyo Olympics, Wuttichai is arguably Thailand’s best hope for a medal but a crack at the professional game could be a root to take if the AIBA IOC dispute can’t be resolved and he would be an interesting addition in the pro scene at home. Wuttichai’s bout in the final of the 2015 South East Asian Games can be viewed below:
Atichai Phoemsap, lightweight (60kg)
A young man with elite potential Atichai’s first breakthrough came at the 2017 South East Asian Youth Games where he topped the podium. The Korat born teenager then had what can only be described as a phenomenal 2018, winning Asian, world and Olympic Youth golds cementing his place as one of the hottest future talents in amateur boxing. At just 17 Atichai really does have the world at his feet but it’s unclear when the step up to senior level will come but the 2024 Olympics seems a very realistic aim. Atichai’s winning effort over home man Adrian Orban in the world Youth Championships final can be seen
Thitisan Panmod, light flyweight (49kg)
Not far behind teammate Atichai, Thitisan’s first success also came at the South East Asian Youth Games in 2017 where he claimed gold. After Bronze at the Asian Youth Championships in 2017 followed by silver in 2018, Thitisan finally went one better at the world Youth Championships in Hungary in the same year. Again the move up to the elite level should come in time with the teenage talent showing he has all the tools to succeed. You can watch Thitisan’s fight from the final of the 2018 world Youth Championships
Sukthet Sarawut, flyweight (52kg)
Finally, the last of a trio of top young Thai talent Sukthet won silver at the Asian Junior Championships back in 2017. After victory at home in the Asian Youth Championships, a medal at the world’s was more than a realistic aim but the teenager was drawn against top Uzbek Samandar Kholmurudov in the early stages. Having defeated him in the final of the Asian Championships Sukthet would have been confident but it was Kholmurudov who got the better of it on this occasion leaving the Thai empty handed. Sukthet did however go onto claim silver at the Youth Olympics in Argentina and the future looks bright for him if he continues to develop his skills and experience. You can take a look at a clash from the world Youth Championships involving Sukthet
It's been a few bad weeks for Thai boxing with several fighters suffering unexpected stoppage losses. There was another of those today with Indonesian youngster Iwan Zoda (7-1, 6) claiming the biggest win of his career, and picking up a WBO Pan-Pacific title with a stoppage win over Petchchorhae Kokietgym (13-1, 8). The question now needs to be asked, is Thai boxing going through a crisis, or is it just a coincidence that two previously unbeaten fighters, a highly ranked world contender and fringe contender were all beaten in the space of just a few weeks.
In the past we have bemoaned the quality of match making in Thailand. The country airs cards pretty much weekly but all too often the shows are predictable mismatches that resemble boxing's equivalent to "squash matches" found in professional wrestling. The recent run may well be a wake up call to those in Thai boxing, who have padded the records of many fighters over the years rather than really getting them to develop the skills. It may also serve as a wake up call to visitors who will have seen these results and be encouraged to fight to win rather than go into "journeyman mentality".
The best thing it could do for Thai boxing is force the match makers to change their attitude to the sport. These may be hits to their contenders and prospects but it'll serve them well and show what they need to work on in the future. Hopefully it will also lead to better match ups for their genuine contenders, such as Suriyan Sor Rungvisai who has been force fed a steady stream of weak opposition since losing to Shinsuke Yamanaka last year. Guys like Suriyan would develop much better from Nakornloung bringing in solid fighters and hopefully that will happen in the future.
The current run is unlikely to continue much longer but we've got to admit that we've enjoyed seeing fighters travel and fight to win and hopefully that will continue, win or lose. Boxing needs fighters coming to fight not just coming to make up the numbers, as fighters like Domi Nenokeba, Samuel Tehuayo, Boido Simanjuntak and Johan Wahyudi have done in recent years. Bouts with those guys have served little purpose to the men other than to notch up an easy win against an opponent unwilling to give a fight to the home guy.
All videos courtesy of the brilliant tko.in.th
*Pigmy was #5 ranked by the IBF who had the #1 and #2 spots vacant
**We did consider including Espinos Sabu's draw against Inthanon Sithchamuang on August 11th, despite the fact Sabu only got a draw. The reality however is that Sabu is another fighter who comes to win and gets our utmost respect for his attempts in the ring.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features