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