When we first started this site, heading towards over 6 years ago now, the Thai boxing scene was one of the most active. In 2013 there was 148 shows in the country, many of those were televised with, Channel 7 (CH7) showing fights pretty much weekly and Channel 3 (CH3) also doing regular broadcasts.
To put that number into some perspective Japan had 233 shows in 2013, Philipines had 126, Indonesia had 95 and South Korea had 31.
There wasn't just an incredible level of activity but that activity was mostly about developing fighters as part of the next wave of the Thai boxing scene. An example of that was between January 25th and January 28th 2014 there was fights for Yodmongkol Vor Saenghtep, Wanheng Menayothin, Petch Sor Chitpattana, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai.These men were allowed to be active, were allowed to fight frequently on television shows and build their profiles.
In that year alone Wanheng and Srisaket, two of the biggest Thai names right now, each fought 7 times. They weren't the only busy fighters, but are certainly the two who appear to have benefited the most from that high level of activity.
As well as the emerging fighters, which also included Amnat Ruenroeng and Knockout CP Freshmart, we also saw the end of the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, who fought 3 bouts during the year before his retirement. Yes he came back in 2018 for 2 bouts, including the infamous rematch with Koki Kameda, but his career really ended in 2013. Like wise it was the last year that Denkaosan Kaovichit scored a win of note,
It was a transition year for the country, but a great year all the same, and a year that gave us some amazing fights, such as Kompayak Porpramook's FOTY contender with Koki Eto, and the entertaining bout between and Pornsawan Porpramook abd Rey Loreto.
At the time it seemed like the Thai scene, along with the Filipino and Japanese scenes, was amazingly healthy and as we entered 2014 we also seemed to be on the verge of a break out year for Fahlan Sakkreerin, Jr, who had stopped Ryo Miytazaki in Japan at the very end of 2013.
Sadly though things have gone backwards for Thai boxing since then. Activity has dropped, with no year since ever having the same amount of shows. Although 2015 boasted 140 cards that numbers declined to just 99 in 2016 and 2017 wasn't much better with 105. Although it climbed slightly in 2018, when there was 115, it was still a massive reduction from what we had seen just 5 years earlier.
That decline is despite the huge success of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the 52 fight unbeaten streak of Wanheng and the emergence of Knockout CP Freshmart.
Worryingly yet, there has only been 31 Thai shows this year as we write this. That's less than 8 a month and it doesn't appear that the trend is set to change, in fact the upcoming scheduled seems to be worryingly scarce. We are well on course for the lowest number Thai shows since the millenium, and we need to go all the way back to 1998 for a year with less than 8 shows a month. That was a year where there was only 71 shows in Thailand, and even then there was unique circumstances behind things. After all 1998 was a year that had followed a massive financial crisis through out Asia, a financial crisis which began in 1997 in Thailand.
Thailand has long been one of the Asian boxing powerhouses, but right now it's a country floundering and a country that is paying for it's mistakes in the sport. Despite the attention given to Srisaket.
For years it has delivered awful match ups, packing records with wins, but not developing fighters. The focus has seemingly been to turn away from fighters carrying the name of top gyms, and instead to carrying the name of a sponsor, showing a shift in focus. Gone are the days of regularly seeing fighters reprresent OnesongChaigym, Kokietgym and Kratingdaenggym, and now are the days of seeing fighters carrying names like CP Freshmart or Ruawaiking. There are a few exceptions, but the gym names being part of a fighters identity are a lot rarer than they used to be.
The TV companies, including long time boxing support CH7, have gradually changed their view on the sport. In fact CH7 have changed their policy on the sport so much that what were once weekly broadcasts are now a near rarity, with the channel only airing world title bouts. We've gone from having shows aired on different channels at the same time, to waiting weeks for a televised show, and even longer for one with some intrigue. The main channels of the past have fallen by the say side in some ways and been over-taken by a relative new comer who have raised the production standards and quality expected of a Thai show
That new channel is WorkPoint, who have really managed to step in, put money into the sport and been putting in what resembles quality control. That had been lacking at times, but was really needed when they moved into the sport last year. In 2018 Work Point put on 11 shows under their "WP Boxing" banner, and despite not always being huge shows, they were consistently worth watching. They were different to what other channels were putting on, and were a shining light in what was becoming a rather dark and dreary Thai sign.
With Workpoint it's not all doom and gloom, and boxing in Thailand isn't dead. It's not like Korea, where it's hanging on by it's finger nails. But it is hard in seeing what the next wave of Thai contenders is going to look like, and just how long their top names of today can remain relevant.
At the moment the top 3 fighters in Thailand are Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who is 32, Wanheng Menayothin, who is is 33, and Knockout CP Freshmart, who is 28. Srisaket, of course, lost last time out to Juan Franisco Estrada, Wanheng is 52-0 but is showing signs of aging in recent fights and will likely see his perfect record come to an end sooner rather than later, and Knockout has bored fans with dull performances.
Aside from the top 3 it's really unclear what is actually worth caring about in the Thai scene.
Their are prospects, like Apichet Petchmanee, Singsayan CP Freshmart, up coming world title challenger Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Chainoi Worawut and Thanongsak Simsri but they are few and far between. To get big bouts they will need to travel, their is little money backing the prospects and securing home advantage against good journeymen, gatekeepers and fellow hopefuls. If these fighters can get the bouts they need they could give us towards a new era in Thai boxing, but the feeling is that they won't be given the development match ups they need. They will either pad their records, and climb the rankings on the back of a lengthy unbeaten run, or be thrown to the wolves.
There is also the worrying trend for Thai fighters to be on the way down at a young age. The promising Fahlan Jr is looking to be on the slide at just 25 years old whilst the once touted Stamp Kiatniwat, at just 21, is looking like his career might be over before many fighters even turn pro.
Whilst there is clearly a lot to the downfall in the Thai scene, despite the huge success of Srisaket, the main thing is that it's happening, and that it's clearly happening. This isn't some gradual thing, but is something that is happening alarmingly fast. The change in CH7's policy is a big change, but the downturn was happening well before that, though it is hard to pin point when this downturn began. In fact it is likely a combination of the issues we've mentioned and a lot more.
There is, of course, one thing we've not yet mentioned, and that is the effect of ONE, which held it's first show in Thailand in 2016, the same year that there was less than 100 boxing shows in Thailand. The competition from other combat sports, including the traditional Muay Thai, is there and no longer is boxing the best alternative source of income for a top Muay Thai fighter who can join something like ONE. It's also worth noting that in 2013 the Sports Authority of Thailand lifted a ban on MMA, which may also have played a notable role in the decline of boxing.
It's hard to know for sure how much of an impact the rise of MMA had, but longer term we suspect it will deny the sport the chance to acquire some top Muay Thai fighters, something that has been a key source of talent.
One other thing to note is the strengthening of the Baht in recent years, meaning the Thai currency is stronger than it was in 2013, meaning domestic are essentially costing more than they did.
Despite all of this, it is not the end of Western style boxing in Thailand, it is however the start of a worrying trend. A trend that needs to end quickly of Thai boxing isn't going to be into a proverbial dark age. Hopefully the rise of Srisaket will kick start the next generation of Thai fighters, if it doesn't then it's hard to see what it will stop the current in decline in boxing in Thailand., though as mentioned there are a few beacons of hope and hopefully those will become the game changers Thailand needs right now.
We saw the sport bounce back from the big issues in the 1990's, and we've seen Thai boxing producing a gem when it's needed one in the past. Fingers crossed they produce another and the sport will be given another shot in the arm for what has been a major player for the Asian scene ever since Pone Kingpetch won the World Flyweight title back in 1960.
Over the last few years Thailand hasn't produced many world class fighters. They have, of course, had the odd star like Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Tepparith Kokietgym and most recently Amnat Ruenroeng but on the whole they haven't been producing top class fighters like they have done in the past. If I'm being honest I'm disappointed not only in the fact that they have just 1 world champion right now but also in the fact a number of their contenders, like Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat, Pungluang Sor Singyu and Denkaosan Kaovichit have all suffered stoppage losses in recent bouts.
Of course Thailand has a number of promising contenders, the ones that are, or have been, on the fringes of a world title fight for a while. Those guys, like Rusalee Samor for example or Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, aren't the focus of those piece, instead I want to bring to your attention some of Thailand's most promising youngsters and those who are just beginning to break onto the scene. For that reason I'm only going to mention guys with 10 or fewer fights, according to boxrec.com.
Nop Kratingdaenggym (10-0, 1)
It's not often that a complete non-puncher will get rave reviews but 22 year old Nop Kratingdaenggym is certainly a fighter who has had a growing reputation as one of the Super Bantamweight prospects with real potential courtesy of his excellent boxing ability.
It's that boxing ability that really makes Nop standout compared to many of his compatriots. He's not power hungry but instead he will fight off his jab, move intelligently, land crisp combinations and control the distance cleverly. At the moment he still lacks his man strength but already has 4 complete 12 rounders under his belt and is the proud owner of the PABA Super Bantamweight title.
At the moment Nop is a million miles from a world title bout but with Kratingdaeng backing him and his obvious talent I'd be very shocked if he doesn't become a genuine contender at 122lbs. He has the tools to be very good if given time to develop and I think he has something a little bit special about him. It's obvious though that his team know he needs development and that's why he's been matched with the likes of Hendrik Barongsay and Daniel Ferreras, tough opponents but not ones good enough to beat a real star prospect.
Footage of Nop isn't very widely available though we do have full footage of his bout with Jovill Marayan, although it is only a 6 rounder, and his bout with Skak Max, though see the note below about that.
*Note Nop's record on boxrec is, at the time of writing, 9-0 (1), I know that's wrong as it ignores his title winning contest against Skak Max.
Palangpol CP Freshmart (4-0, 4)
Whilst Nop Kratingdaenggym might be a relative "non puncher" the same cannot be said for the lead handed Light Flyweight Palangpol CP Freshmart who appears to lack some of boxing ability of Nop but makes up for the lack of skills with really vicious power. That power has seen him not only remain unbeaten but also score a number of interesting wins, already.
The most interesting of those wins have come over Jack Amisa (KO7) and Heri Amol (TKO8), neither opponent is typically faced in a fighters first few bouts suggesting that Palangpol is really expected to go a long way, likely due to his history in Muay Thai. Most recently he added a win over Joan Imperial, another foe that isn't usually faced this early in a fighters career.
There was talk, at one point, about Palangpol being moved towards an IBF world title fight. I think that talk is too early at the moment but it's likely that if he keeps stopping usually tough and durable opponents then he will have to be moved towards a title fight, just to get him in with someone capable of surviving against him.
Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi (4-0, 3)
Another fighter who appears to have have power is Super Flyweight hopeful Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi. Eaktawan has been matched relatively impressively for such a novice and has also been able to look impressive. In fact Eaktawan probably should have come to our attention more on his debut when he scored a stunning KO over Chamuakpetch Kor Kamolwat. In that bout he looked very much like a fighter with serious potential, nasty but natural power and pretty solid speed.
To date his biggest win as a professional has come over Jemmy Gobel though it's clear that he's going to be moved up in class significantly in his coming fights. Eaktawan may not have beaten the same level of competition that some other's have beaten but he looks like a fighter with the potential to go a very, very long way. In fact just watching suggests that we have a very promising fighter on our hands.
At Super Flyweight there is certainly some competition at the top but in the mid-to-lower levels there isn't many, if any, that will get Eaktawan's way and we imagine his team know it. However his team will also be aware that he has defensive issues that need working on before rushing him. He does eat a few shots to get his own off and in many ways he resembles the old style South Koreans who walk forward with the mentality of busting up their opponents before being broken themselves. If he can change that mentality slightly and tweak his boxing he really could be a star with his seek-and-destroy style.
Stamp Kiatniwat (9-0, 4)
For many the standout Thai prospect is Stamp Kiatniwat who we are very big fans of. The youngster is still a teenager though looks like one of the most promising and aggressively matched young fighters on the planet. Unlike many Thai fighters he doesn't bring a lot of pressure of power though like Nop he can box and can do so on the front foot or the back foot making him a versatile fighter despite his young age.
Whilst we're very impressed when we watch Stamp we need to say we were blown away by his most recent contest, a 12 round decision over former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. For a teenager with just 8 previous fights to take on, and beat, a world champion shows what a promising youngster this kid is. And the fact he is still a kid means there is still a lot of physical development left to do which could easily mean that he ends up with more bang on his shots, a scary thought all things considered.
Although still a long way from a world title fight we would not be shocked to see Stamp's name coming into the world rankings in coming months, especially following the win over Kwanthai. Hopefully his team will hold him back just a little for now, though we can understand if his team do get a little over-excited considering how good he is. Whilst he is good now he is potentially great.
For those wanting to see more of Stamp we have footage of his opening round victory over John Bima and his 4th round TKO over Johan Wahyudi which both show there is more than just skills to the promising youngster.
Kongputorn CPFreshmart (3-0, 2)
One of the numerous Muay Thai fighters-turned-boxers is Kongputorn CPFreshmart who appears to have taken to boxing in a serious way having had 3 bouts in the last few months. In each of them he has looked like a man ready to make a real go of boxing and a man set to rise as quickly as he and his handlers deem fit. In fact the experience of Muay Thai is merely an addition to natural power and swift vicious combinations.
To date Kongputorn's boxing has come against very limited foes though the skills are very visible and it's obvious that his team know how good he is, even if he's not been allowed to show it against suitable opponents as of yet.
Currently the WBC Youth Flyweight champion, having beaten Xu Yuan Cai for the title in August, it seems likely Kongputorn will be rising through the WBC rankings over his next few fights. Of course with Flyweight being the deepest division in boxing right now we'd not be shocked to see Kongputorn held back from the elite for a year or two though if he keeps winning he'll be able to decide which of the champions he would like to target down the line. In my eyes that will be the smartest decision from him and his team whilst also getting him as much experience, in terms of rounds, as they can.
Note-As with Nop we know boxrec.com are missing a fight of Konputorn's. That fight is Konputorn's debut against Veeradej Manoprungroj. His only other fight to date saw him defeating Lomnauo Sakberlin in 4 rounds.
Thong Sithluangphophun (9-0, 6)
When we look at Japanese fighters we tend to not the number of rounds they fight on debut. Very, very few start in 8 rounders with Naoya Inoue being the most recent example. In Thailand we don't tend to do that too often but Thong Sithluangphophun did the same as the Japanese "Monster"and began his career in an 8 rounder, taking a decision over Chatpayak Sithkopon Nuengkawkawhok. Since then he has fought in several 6 rounders and a trio of 12 round title fights as he's gone from strength to strength and claimed the PABA Featherweight title.
As he's stepped up the rounds we seem to have seen Thong become more confident in his power and although he went the distance in 3 of his first 5 bouts he has actually stopped his last 4 opponents, including Tony Arema in the first defence of the PABA Featherweight belt and Jason Butar Butar. That's not to say they are huge wins but at the moment they are solid wins for a fighter just starting to make their name.
As with a number of fighters on here he's not anywhere near ready to be moved up to a word title fight though he's certainly showing signs of being able to hold his own against fringe world ranked contenders. We'd not have worries if Thong's team put him in with someone on the fringes though with Featherweight looking like a division heading towards a boom period it could be a while before we see just how good Thong really is.
At the moment footage of Thong is difficult to find unfortunately though we hope to have more in the future.
And one I don't think will make it...
Chalermpol Singwancha (9-0, 7)
For many the most notable fighter will be Welterweight hopeful Chalermpol Singwancha, real name Chaloemporn Sawatsuk. Personally I think he is too flawed to be considered a true prospect although his results suggest he could be promising.
On paper Chalermpol's win over Dan Nazareno Jr, back in April, should have put the boxing world on red alert. Nazareno may not be great but a fighter beating him as early in their career as Chalermpol did was highly impressive. Unfortunately though the Thai did look very tired at the end of the bout and showed that his power may not be as killer as it looked at the time, he entered 6-0 (6). Not only was he taken the distance by Nazareno but also by Amor Tino who also pushed Chalermpol very close.
From having seen him a few times he looks strong and powerful but against opponents who understand the ring he's shown that he is very limited and unlikely to exceed despite some notable expectation being on his shoulders.
Note-I have not included Knockout CP Freshmart (8-0, 5) due to the fact he is getting a WBA interim world title fight in his next fight. If we ignore his upcoming bout with Carlos Buitrago he would certainly have made this list with his skills that really impressed against Sandeep amongst others.
Over the past few weeks we've been reading about Tabtimdaeng Na Rachwat (52-2, 34) on forums following the announcement he would be fighting Britain's Jamie McDonnell (23-2-1, 10) for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title. Unfortunately a lot of the comments about Tabtimdaeng have come from Western fans who are unaware of how boxing works in Thailand.
Due to that we've decided it was only right to try and explain why so many things in Thailand seem so wrong to a western fan. Some of this may not make a lot of sense to a Western fan but we hope to help at least explain things, even if something's are things that they may not agree with.
Firstly the question of Tabtimdaeng's ranking. Ranked #3 by the WBA at 118lbs Tabtimdaeng has a very flattering ranking and we completely accept that it's not demonstrative of his merits or his talent. What it is however is the boxing political game which he and the WBA have played.
Tabtimdaeng is a 2-time PABA champion at Bantamweight. His first reign was from 2005 to 2010 before he was upset by the very talented Filipino Roli Gasca. His second reign began in 2011 as an interim champion before being upgraded in 2013 and later he was upgraded to the PABA super champion, for the second time.
What Tabtimdaeng had done is defended a WBA regional title for a high ranking and been rewarded for. The PABA belt is a Asian based WBA regional title that is utilised much like the European title. Having a PABA belt doesn't automatically grant a high world ranking but defending it multiple times will help a fighter shoot up the rankings and move on to a WBA world title fight.
Other fighters who have benefited from being PABA champions in recent years have included:
Paipharob Kokietgym, Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Pornsawan Porpramook, Wisanu Kokietgym, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Tepparith Kokietgym, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Chris John, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Eduard Troyanovsky, Dmitry Chudinov, Beibut Shumenov, Oleg Maskaev and Nikolay Valuev. All of these men, other than Troyanovsky, have either fought for or won a WBA title of some variation.
Rather interestingly the PABA title is open to Australian fighters and have been held by Jarrod Fletcher, Sam Soliman and Anthony Mundine over the last few years as well as the men already mentioned.
Interestingly it is Thai's who seem to target the PABA route with many Japanese and Filipino fighters preferring to go the OPBF route which is affiliated with the WBC instead of the WBA. We intend to do an in depth piece on the OPBF in the future but it's essentially the same game there, albeit with tougher competition due to the WBC having tighter rules on challengers.
The second issue we hear with Tabtimdaeng relates to his recent competition which has been against novices. What many fans in the west don't realise is that Thai's tend to prefer activity over a tough level of competition.
In the last 12 months Tabtimdaeng has fought 6 times, including twice already this year. That is twice as often as McDonnell who fought thrice last year and hasn't fought this year.
For many outsiders it looks like Tabtimdaeng is just beating up novices. What he's actually doing is treating boxing as a full time job. He gets paid to fight and the more fights he has the more he gets paid. In Thailand purses aren't large and activity can make up for the small purses as well as keeping a good fighter sharp and in shape. We're not suggesting Tabtimdaeng is being paid a lot for these "stay busy" fights or even learning a lot but he's getting paid and that is the key reason for his activity.
The same issue arose when Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the WBC Flyweight champion in the 00's. He, like Srisaket Sor Rungviai does now, was collecting pay days between world title fights.
Wonjongkam reigned as the WBC Flyweight champion twice between 2001 and 2012. In total he fought in 28 WBC or WBC "interim" world title bouts in 11 years. He also fought in 21 none title bouts in the same time span often against the same level of competition that Tabtimdaeng has been fighting. He did that to be paid and the level of competition between his title fights didn't hinder him against fighters like Luis Alberto Lazarte, Daisuke Naito, Gilberto Keb Baas, Tomonobu Shimizu, Julio Cesar Miranda, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai or Edgar Sosa. all of whom were world title holders themselves.
Going back to Srisaket he has defended his belt just once since winning it a year ago. He has remained active however with 7 none title victories and is now just weeks away from his second world title defence, a mandatory against Carlos Cuadras in Mexico. Rather than just wait for his mandatory he has remained active and collected numerous paydays whilst Cuadras has fought just once in the last 12 months.
It seems silly in the UK and the USA where fighters often have either "a big name" and get paid handsomely or have a full time job but for a lot of Thai's in boxing, boxing is their job and they want to be at work regularly.
Of course not all fighters follow the route of heavy activity. Instead some are fast tracked to a world title with fighters like Saensak Muangsurin, Muangchai Kittikasem, Sot Chitalada, Veeraphol Sahaprom, Samart Payakaroon and most recently Amnat Ruenroeng all being put on the fast track to the top. These man have all come from a strong background in Muay Thai, other than Amnat who was, of course, a stand out Thai amateur and scored a notable win over Kazuto Ioka in the amateur ranks.
This brings to one more point. A lot of Thai's don't have an amateur career, or at least not a substantial one. They often come from either Muay Thai or a very short amateur career and as a result they are forced to learn on the job. This can lead to fighters having 20 or 30 fights before they face anyone of any note.
The fact so many learn on the job does show why some top Thai's have losses. One such fighter is Srisaket who began his career 1-3-1 with a loss to Akira Yaegashi on his debut, another is Suriyan who was 8-2-1 after 11 fights, whilst Rusalee Samor was 8-2 early in his career and later 11-3-2 and Mike Tawatchai was 3-3.
Fighting regularly lets a fighter hone their skills and, as mentioned earlier, they are being paid for their lessons.
We know their are issues with the way Thailand do what they do. It does encourage mismatches, it encourages the abuse of visiting fighters from Indonesia and Philippines, and it also leads to some awful televised cards which are often full of mismatches however it works for them and they do regularly provide the world with ranked fighters. They often have world class fighters, world champions and some must watch guys, like Srisaket, Samor and Jomthong Chuwatana are right now, and probably most interestingly they have a lot of free to air fights on Channel 3, 5, 7 and 9 something many other countries could well do with copying.
With everything said, we don't think Tabtimdaeng will be McDonnell. From the fights of his that we've seen we don't think he has anything to trouble McDonnell with, however we do hope fans will at least let Tabtimdaeng teach them something about from Thailand and even if he does lose it'd be nice for fans to become a little bit more aware of why Thai's do what they do.
(Images courtesy of: www.bangkokpost.com-Tabtimdaeng, and boxrec.com Srisaket and Muangsurin)
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces