The Muay Thai Legends of the Golden Era
Just one “Forgotten Legends” article was never going to even begin to be a tip (or should I say, Teep – Oee?) of the iceberg concerning the whole story about the Thai stadium scene in the beginning of the 90’s. So after introducing the general topic of the series in the first article, we’ll get straight to business this time.
1. Pongsiri Por Ruamrudee (“Rambo”)
Every once in a while in Thailand, comes along a fan friendly slugger that puts butts in seats. In the early 90’s, that man went under the nickname “Rambo”, like the Stallone movie character.
Easily recognized by the “skull & bones” image on his shorts, Rambo was not quite the most successful fighter in terms of belts or the way in which a fighter is revered for his finesse and tactical mind, but nevertheless managed to become one of the most popular fighters in Thailand and one of the favorite fighters of the famous promoter Songchai Rattanasuban!
Rambo often gets credit for renovations made at Lumpinee Stadium in his day, because it couldn’t hold the crowd that came to see Rambo fight from bell to bell (he was quite an unusuall fast starter for a Thai).
Rambo made history when ever he fought in the main event at Lumpinee stadium and the promoters earned a staggering 3.2 million Baht from the gate. Like most tough, hard nosed fighters, Rambo didn’t finish his career with his health in its best condition.
Bovy Sor Udomson is known to have modeled his early career after Rambo and even being known as “Rambo 2” back in the day.
Rambo vs. Luangsuan
Recommended fights: anything and everything, just make sure it’s Rambo out there!
2. Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai (born: May 30, 1967)
As you may have noticed already, I kind of have a soft spot for punchers (probably a western culture thing, what can you do).
One of the most feared punchers of the golden era (and the winner of the “fighter of the year” award in one of the most intense years in the history of Muay Thai, 1993) was Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai, who began training with his brother at home at age 10.
After moving to Bangkok at age 15, Wangchannoi started to fight for the OneSongchai promotion and that’s when he became a legend in the sport, earning more than 40 victories via KO!
While relying heavily on his hand speed and power, Wangchannoi was also known for his knee strikes and low kicks, and was one of the only fighters to ever beat the legendary Samart Payakaroon, whom Wangchannoi still considers to be his hardest opponent.
Like Rambo, Wangchannoi was a fan favorite, and like Rambo – he made quite a successful international run, culminating in his fight against Englishman Damien Trainor.
Wangjannoi Sor Palangchai vs. Samart Payakaroon
Recommended fights: Namkabuan, Chatchai, Hansek, Matee, Charoensap, Langsuan, Karuhat… Again, like Rambo, pretty much any fight he took part in.
3. Hippy Singmanee (born: August 14, 1967)
The arsenal of techniques allowed in Muay Thai can make for some brutal and often chaotic encounters. But one man who pretty much always displayed picture-perfect technique and composure was Hippy Singmanee.
Hippy is often overlooked by fans, probably because he fought mostly before the big boom of the “Golden Era” in the early 90’s. One of the all time greats of the lower weight classes, Hippy was a technician and a masterful kicker rather than a brawler, but according to his interview with Siam Fight Magazine, he won more than 70 fights by KO/TKO!
Hippy’s prime was spent in the 105 and 108 lbs categories, probably not a very common fighting weight in the mind of most western fans, but his form and ringcraft is something that I would recommend to any fan of the sport to see at least once (a day).
Hippy Singmanee vs. Karuhas Sor Supawan
Recommended fights: Toto, Paluhadlek, Karuhat, Rambo.
4. Boonlai Sor Thanikul (born: circa 1970)
Most of what I know about Boonlai I learned from similar articles to this one that you can find on the web, but one of the greatest technicians of all time definitely deserves a spot on this list, regardless.
Boonlai and his twin brother Boonlung (who tragically died in a car accident) began training under their father and did so until they were 13 years old, when both left to Bangkok, to train under the famous Sor Ploenchit gym and then under the Sor Thanikul gym, which made Boonlai a star.
People who saw Boonlai train and fight often say that he’s one of the most skilled Nak Muays ever, and it’s not hard to see why.
Boonlai, in my humble opinion, has one of the best jabs in Muay Thai history, a jab that was way too quick even for competent pugilists like Superlek Sornesarn and Jongsanan Fairtex, whom Boonlai pretty much outclassed when they fought.
While NOT being known as a KO artist, Boonlai had a type of dynamic movement that was a bit different from many Nak Muays, which helped him to beat pretty much all the greats of his era, including Chatchai, Wangchannoi, Langsuan and others, despite often putting himself in tough positions agaisnt technically inferior opponents.
Unfortunately, Boonlai was involved in a fight fixing scandal near the end of his career and that pretty much killed off his reputation in the eyes of the big fight promoters in Thailand, cutting his career at the top ranks short (Boonlai still fought close to 400 times in his career, however)!
Boonlai vs. Superlek
Recommended fights: Chatchai, Karuhat, Chamuekpet, Superlek, Jongsanan, Charoensap.
That’s it for now, folks! Sorry for putting only 4 names on the list this time… to be continued!
I'm Anton, a Latvian-born physical education college student from Israel and an avid Muay Thai practitioner/student of the history of the sport.
Also the face behind the "Muay Thai Nerd" page on Facebook.