Thailand – home of the world’s greatest boxers? These three two-sport champions make the case. . .
NAK MUAY WITH BOXING CROSSOVER BRILLIANCE
For some reason, and maybe in some ways justifiably so, the myth of “Thais can’t punch” is stuck in the minds of many Western martial arts fans. Often, European fighters are credited with sporting a punch-heavy style that is considered by many as a rather entertaining and “alpha” one, while the Thai fighters are left with “oh, they’re good in the clinch and can kick, that’s all they need under Thai rules.”
As someone who watches a lot of fights, chronologically ranging from back in the 1960s to the most recent ones, I can understand where many impatient fans can get the aforementioned idea. My aim with this article is to bust some of these myths and give you some watching and learning material along the way.
Well, first of all, I’ll say it loud and clear: Thailand, as much as it is known as the home of our beloved art of Muay Thai, is a Western boxing powerhouse. Decades before the first European Kickboxers began to make names for themselves with their fast-paced, boxing combo -based style, Thai nak muay were executing the “punch, low kick” style in an almost perfect Dutch style. (A great example of this: Kongtoranee Payakaroon, brother of the great Samart).
To this day, Thailand produces a steady flow of Queensbury rules boxers who prove themselves in both the amateur and pro ranks. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to some of the greatest two-sport champions in the history of combat sports.
TWO-SPORT CHAMP: YOKTHAI SITHOAR
Yokthai Sithoar (real name – Manit Klinmee), was a Channel 5 star back in the early 1990s, perhaps even more accomplished than Pichitnoi (see below) in the sport of Muay Thai. Yokthai rose up the ranks with some spectacular KO’s, perhaps the best known one being against clinch specialist, Lamnamoon Sor Sumalee.
Making his boxing debut at just 20 years old after already having a successful Muay Thai career that included winning a Lumpinee title, Yokthai became a WBA and PABA world champion in the Super Flyweight division. Yokthai retired in 2004 with a record of 28-6-3, but returned to the pro combat sport scene in 2010, when he faced MMA submission ace Shinya Aoki in an MMA bout, losing by submission.
BELOW: Yokthai’s 3rd title defense, this time against the Japanese boxer Satoshi Iida. Sithoar would be successful here, but the Thai would be defeated in his 5th title defense by none other than Satoshi Iida.
TWO-SPORT CHAMP: PICHITNOI SITBANGPRACHAN
Born Sompoch Harnvichachai on January 31, 1975, Pichitnoi Sitbangprachan was another prominent Channel 5 fighter in the Golden Era of Muay Thai. (For reference, the Channel 5 Saturday shows were probably as big in Thailand back then as the UFC shows in the US or Brazil today, at least in terms of raw popularity).Pichitnoi beat names like Parnpet Muangsurin and Kompayak Singmanee (by KO), as well as brutally finishing a young Samkor Kiatmontep.
Pichitnoi began his boxing career in 1993 and won the WBA Jr. Flyweight world title in 1996, keeping it all the way until 2002. Pichitnoi retired from competitive fighting in 2005, after losing just three times in boxing. His brother, Pichit, was also a successful Western Boxer but unlike Pichitnoi, he didn’t make many waves on the Muay Thai scene.
TWO-SPORT CHAMP: PONGSAKLEK WONJONGKAM
Perhaps one of the greatest boxers that ever came out of Thailand, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (born August 11, 1977) was not as accomplished in Muay Thai as the previous two men on this list. However, while already being a national amateur boxing champ, Pongsaklek Sitkanongsak (his Muay Thai in-ring name) was showing great promise as a nak muay even before hitting his 18th birthday. According to numerous sources, Pongsaklek began his Muay Thai training at 11 and appeared in one of the respected Channel 7 shows (which mostly showed fights from Rajadamnern stadium back then, if I’m not mistaken, even though Pongsaklek also fought at Lumpinee).
Showing quite unusual pugilistic talents at a very young age in his Muay Thai fights, Pongsaklek made the transition to boxing around 1994 (at age 17), where he became the WBC world flyweight champion twice, being retired in 2013 by his manager. He finished with a boxing record of 90-5-2, with a streak early in his career of 55 perfect fights.
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.