An unforgettable Muay Thai Experience

For a Muay Thai devotee, one of the main benefits of living in Thailand is the seemingly endless variety of venues to watch Muay Thai fights. These venues range from the traditional Lumpini and Rajadamnern stadiums to the crowded and intense Channel 7 Boxing Stadium, tourist-friendly Bangla Boxing Stadium in Phuket, Loi Kroh and Thapae beer bars in Chiang Mai, rural temple fairs, and numerous other rings in provincial locations.

Last week I had my first opportunity to watch Muay Thai at the Jitmuangnon Stadium in Or Tor Kor 3 Market, Nonthaburi. The Jitmuangnon team are well-known for having a stable of strong fighters (including Petkarat, Panpayak and Peemai), and recently held their first large promotion at Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium. Their Sunday night event at Or Tor Kor is, I believe, also relatively new, but is covered by Thailand’s Muay Thai press and broadcast live on cable TV also.

I was attending to cheer on American fighter Ognjen Topic, who trained for 3 weeks at Eminent Air Boxing Gym during October. Ognjen is widely regarded as one of the hottest prospects in US Muay Thai, after wins against Thai fighters Paowarit Sasiprapa and Coke Chunhawat in his most recent bouts stateside. He had been matched to fight a Thai of equal weight (in the 60 kg category), though we nothing more about his opponent prior to fight night.

I, Ognjen and two of the gym’s trainers—Sila and Ajarn Dam—travelled to the stadium by taxi, arriving sometime after 7 in the evening. Although the daytime scene might be quite different, at night the market much resembled a bus terminal, with dozens of city buses parked in rows. Signs directed us to the small stadium inside. At the stadium entrance, the ticket booth displayed two prices: 100 baht and 200 baht. I was charged 100 baht for entry. The fighters and cornermen, of course, entered for free.

Once inside, it became apparent that the stadium has an alternative use as a cockfighting venue. The boxing ring was situated on one side of the arena; on the opposite side were four or five small circular cockfighting rings, each surrounded by low-seated benches, with digital timers overhead. Cockfighting is legal in Thailand. However, gambling on cockfighting is not strictly legal, although police raids on cockfighting venues are said to be rare. As no cockfights were to be held that night the rings were redundant, and I noticed several empty circular wooden cages stacked up at the back of the arena, presumably to contain roosters on the designated fight nights.

There was a plethora that happened. I am sure words wont be able to do justice with the excitement abound involved.

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