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The period of the invincible Thai boxers

The period of the invincible Thai boxers
(Source David Leonardo Bárcena and Alex Tsui, experts in the history of Muay Thai, Thai articles from the 70s)

Westerners really discovered the Art of Muay Thai in the 1970s. At that time, around the world, martial arts and fist and foot boxing sports had become very popular.

In Europe and the United States, the films of the legendary little Dragon Bruce Lee were N° 1 at the Box Office in cinemas. «Big Boss», Bruce Lee’s first film (released in 1971) was shot in Thailand in the north to Pak Chong.

During this period, young people drank Kung Fu Made in Hong Kong films, Samurai warriors from Japan and fights from the street of Harlem version Jim Kelly, the Black Dragon of the Bronx.

The gyms of Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Judo, Wrestling, English boxing, French boxing were packed full of practitioners. And American boxing (Full Contact) was developing enormously on the European continent.

It was a time when the challenges between fighting styles were important. Many fighters wanted to prove that his fighting art was the best. Great martial arts champions from all continents wanted to challenge the terrible Thai boxers. Because the fighters of the Siam kingdom were renowned for having a formidable martial art, the Muay Thai!

In the 1970s, Thailand experienced one of its most prosperous decades with immense champions such as Huasai Sittiboonlert (N°1 of the Lumpinee stadium and Radja stadium), Sirimongkol Loogsiriphat (Lumpinee champion in 126 lbs and in 135 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1973), Fahsai Taweechai (Champion of Radja in 112 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1970), Muangchol Jeeraphan (N° 1 of the Lumpinee stadium and the stadium of Radja in 135 lbs), Sichang Sakornpitaks (Champion of Lumpinee in 130 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1971), Vicharnoi Porntawee (Champion of Lumpinee in 112 lbs, Champion of Radja in 112 lbs and in 130 lbs, “Best Boxer of the Year” in 1977), Saensak Muangsurin (Lumpinee Champion in 140 lbs, WBC English Boxing World Champion in 140 lbs, “Best Boxer of the Year” in 1973), Poot Lorlek (Champion of Lumpinee in 122 lbs “Best Boxer of the Year” in 1974), Pud Pad Noi Worawut (Lumpinee Champion in 112 lbs, in 122 lbs and 130 lbs, “Best Boxer of the Year” in 1975), Jockey Sitkunpai (Champion of Radja in 118 lbs), Rerngsak Porntavee (Champion of Lumpinee in 112 lbs and 130 lbs, Champion of Radja in 112 lbs) , Posai Sittiboonlert (N° 1 of the Stadium Lumpinee in 135 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1976), Neth Saknarong (N° 1 of the Stadium Lumpinee and the stadium of Radja in 135 lbs), Nongkhai Sor Prapassorn (Champion du Radja in 126 lbs and 130 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1980), Kongtoranee Payakaroon (Lumpinee Champion in 102 lbs, 108 lbs, 112 lbs, 115 lbs and 118 lbs, “Best boxer of the year” in 1978), Narongnoi Keatbandit (Champion of Radja in 126 lbs and in 130 lbs)!

The best foreign champions wanted to challenge these great Thai champions on their land. Only a handful managed to defeat the invincible Thai fighters…

In 1972, a delegation of seven Japanese champions came to challenge the Thai at home. These Japanese masters Karate Kyokushinkai (Karate in KO) and a Thai boxing style, the Japanese Kick Boxing.

Seven TBC (Thailand Boxing Council) world titles were put on the line for this event, which was held at Hua Mark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok. The Thai fighters won six world championship titles with five KO victories and one points victory.

Only the great champion Mitsuo Shima defeated Thai Sakdah Pinsinchai in the third round. He is, in 1972, the first foreigner to beat a Thai for a world title in Thailand!

Mitsuo Shima was a student of Master Kenji Kurosaki and a training buddy of the legendary Toshio Fujiwara. Toshio Fujiwara was one of the few foreign fighters to defeat the best Thai champions in the 1970s. He was the first foreigner to beat a Thai at Radja stadium for a world title in 1977 and the first foreigner to win the belt of the mythical Radja stadium in 1978!

This year 1972, the American Raymond Edler (Kick Boxing and Full Contact Champion) also made a big battle against the Thai Songkiat Kiatpracharat for a world TBC title. The American champion was knocked out in the fourth round by Songkiat.

In 1973, two Chinese Kung Fu masters came to challenge Thai champions at the Lumpinee stadium. They were great champions of their discipline in Hong Kong. The two Chinese fighters were knocked out…

After these scathing defeats, the officials of the Hong Kong Kung Fu Federation asked for revenge. They felt that their fighter was not used to fighting with gloves and in the rules of Muay Thai.

For the revenge matches, five Chinese boxers fought with bare hands with their own style (Kung Fu with projection and hitting on the ground, a style of Free Fight) against five Thai boxers of Muay Thai. The five Chinese champions lost in the first round!

In 1974, the great karate Katsuhiro Monoe made a memorable match in the stadium of Lumpinee. The Japanese champion faced the terror of the time, Nongkhai Sor Prapassorn (Radja champion in 126 lbs and 130 lbs, «Best boxer of the year» in 1980). Katsuhiro Monoe fought in kimono clothing using her fighting style, Kyokushinkai karate. Nongkhai Sor Prapassorn has knocked out the Japanese champion!

On 14 March 1974, at the Radja stadium, a delegation of Cambodian champions came to face five Thai champions.

The fighters from Cambodia all lost their matches. Cambodian stars of the moment Chea Sarak and Chith Salim failed to defeat the Thai champions. Chea Sarak lost by KO and Chith Salim lost on points in five rounds…

In 1977, a great Japanese champion again challenged a Thai boxing star in the Lumpinee stadium in Bangkok. Kenshu Igari faced the legendary Poot Lorlek (Lumpinee Champion in 122 lbs “Best Boxer of the Year” in 1974). Poot Lorlek knocked out the Japanese in the first round!

In 1978, the famous Dutch coach Thom Harinck created a team of Dutch fighters who went to challenge the Thais at home. The Dutch practiced Japanese Kick Boxing, at the time, they were the most feared fighters in Europe.

It was the first European foreign team to fight at the famous Lumpinee stadium in Bangkok. The Dutch team, led by Thom Harinck, was composed of boxers Imro Hetten, Faizel Karakus, Ron Kuyt, Kenneth Ramkisoen and Robbie Schumann.

All the Dutch fighters lost by KO in the 1st and 2nd round against great Thai champions. The Art of Muay Thai was not yet well mastered by Europeans, especially elbows and knee blows. The Dutch boxers were the first Europeans to undergo the lightning techniques of the Thai champions.

Imro Hetten, in 70 Kg, lost in the first round against Sriprai Kiatsompob, Faizel Karakus, in 70 Kg, lost against Satanfah Sor Prathip by KO in the second round, Ron Kuyt, in 70 Kg, was knocked out in the second round by the formidable Porsai Sittiboonlert (Best boxer of the year 1976), Kenneth Ramkisoen, in 60 kg, lost in the first round against Ekachai Sitmorart and Robbie Schumann, in 60 kg, did not hold more than one round, he was knocked out by Sakata Porntawe.

The Dutch fighters learned from this severe defeat by training harder and learning techniques they had seen in Thailand. Another team of Dutch boxers went to challenge Thai champions in Bangkok. They came from Johan Vos Gym and Jan Plas Mejiro Gym. All the Dutch fighters lost again against the Thai fighters. But this time, the Dutch only lost by points…

It was not until the 1980s, and especially in the 1990s, that foreign champions were able to compete on an equal level with Thai champions. Many European, Japanese, Australian champions have managed to beat the best Thai champions. The period of invincibility of Thai boxers was over…

By Serge Trefeu