Can Buakaw Really Be Considered The Best?
Buakaw Banchamek (formerly known as Buakaw Por Pramuk) is a legend in his own right. He rose to fame on the international scene, beating formidable opponents from just about anywhere, most of the time with incredible ease.
Now, one can’t walk down the streets of Bangkok without seeing “The Prince of Muay Thai’s” face on something, whether it be an ad for phones, medicine or beer. Even in the Muay Thai community, almost everyone has seen the video of him kicking down a banana tree in a matter of seconds.
Who Is Buakaw?
Originally out of the Por Pramuk gym, where he trained since he was 15, he has collected few belts fighting in Bangkok, with his only titles being from one notable stadium – Omnoi Stadium.
He won the title first in 2000 in the featherweight division (126 lbs.), then again in 2002 in the lightweight division (135 lbs.).
It really wasn’t until he started fighting internationally under K-1 rules that he gained much of his current fame and recognition.
Shortly after he started fighting internationally, he stopped fighting Thai opponents. It is for this reason, and several others, that I argue Buakaw is not the best Muay Thai fighter of all time. Here’s why:
#1: Untested Against The Best
As skilled as he may be, Buakaw is far from being the best in the world, in his weight class and otherwise. Yes, Buakaw is strong, talented, technical, and more, but he simply can’t be the best because he hasn’t fought the best in Muay Thai – Thai fighters.
This is one of the most controversial points about Buakaw, especially when his success is disputed. People remember his victories and the amazing ways he has won his fights, but a well-known fact about him is that he does not fight his fellow countrymen and has not for a long time (since 2006, to be exact).
How is it that someone who chooses not to fight the current top talent could claim the title of “the best”? The true best fighters do not cherry pick their opponents; if they were truly the best, they would fight anyone, and win.
#2: Zero Notable Thai Stadium Titles
As a fully grown adult competing at 154-165 lbs., he never won any notable stadium titles – ergo he was never the best in the land of Muay Thai.
One really cannot be considered the best in the art of the eight limbs without having a title in their prime from a prestigious stadium, such as Lumpinee or Rajadamnern.
Some people might roll their eyes at this, but the way they rank the fighters in the big stadiums is in an extremely careful manner. For a fighter to be able to fight for one of their coveted titles, they must be ranked first.
#3: Not Invincible
On the international scene, he is one of the toughest people to beat but he has been beaten.
In 2015, he got into an elbow war on the Top King World Series show in Hong Kong against Khayal Dzhaniev, losing the bout after 3 rounds. Nobody is perfect and losses happen, but he has not since redeemed himself with those losses against the same opponents.
#4: Prince of Muay Thai?
Buakaw used Muay Thai techniques and proved to be very effective even under kickboxing rules, but please don’t get it confused with thinking that he is the best in Muay Thai. When the facts are laid bare, it is apparent he was a decent fighter under Muay Thai rules but not phenomenal.
His success as a fighter did not come from him fighting in Muay Thai. It would be one thing if he wasn’t matched up with Thais, but he and his management actively refuse to fight other Thais. Yodsanklai Fairtex called him out a few years ago, and it would’ve been a great fight as they’re similar in age.
Kem Sitsongpeenong called him out as well, but it fell on deaf ears. Kem’s teammate from Sitsongpeenong, Sittichai, called out Buakaw as well, although unofficially (Sittichai said he would love to fight Buakaw, but Buakaw does not fight Thais).
All three of these match-ups would have challenged his Prince of Muay Thai nickname and would’ve given him the chance to prove to the world that he is truly deserving of the title. He is not the best and has never been, period. Overall, he is a top kick boxer, but not deserving of being called the Prince of Muay Thai.
When it comes to disputing him as the best, we do have to cut Buakaw some slack. He rose to fame and gained a legendary status – why would he risk that status to fight top Thai talent?
He is into his 30’s and still fighting, while a lot of the newer blood in the game are in their prime age (20’s). Because so many people around the world respect him for bringing light to Muay Thai while fighting under K-1 rules, it was in his own interest as well as the Thais to make sure he kept bringing excitement (and wins) when he fights.
So is Buakaw the best? As we’ve laid out, no. But he is a great fighter in his own right and deserves respect for continuing to do what he does, and for giving us fight fans something to look forward to every time he steps into the ring.
- Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.