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Top 5 Muay Thai fighters who succeeded in International Boxing.

By Marco De Cesaris

In 1929 a Thai Government’s Act ordered that Muay Thai had to be changed from fighting with hands wrapped with raw cotton ropes (Kard Chiek) to fighting with Western Boxing gloves. In other words, the ancient fighting style devised to be used in battle had to be transformed into a sport. This epochal change was structured following the guidelines of Western Boxing, the oldest combat sport (along with Wrestling). The Thai reigning King was Rama VII (King Somdet Prajadhipok) the young monarch educated at the prestigious British institutions of Eton College and the Woolwich Military Academy. Great Britain set the cultural standard at the time and Sports were no exception.

In fact, the new-born combat sport (Muay Thai) combined the ancient warfare of Siamese warriors with the scientific skills of English Boxing. The new rules didn’t imply the use of padded gloves, only; in fact, a standard ring with a canvas floor, encircled with ropes was also introduced. A referee operating inside the ring and two ringside judges were part of the new setting. As a consequence it quickly became clear that the fighting techniques used by Kard Chiek boxers were partially obsolete and had to be integrated with the scientific fistic style coming from the West. The Thai teachers of Muay were incredibly fast to understand the technical value of Western Boxing and with their great knowledge of all combat situations, created a new fighting style that fitted well into the new context. When the situation changes, the tools must be changed accordingly. In the new-born Muay Thai there was no place for a lot of traditional maneuvers that so many times proved their worthiness in all-out combat. Now, the updated rules had to be followed and some the old habits could actually hinder the evolution of this new fighting system.

Moreover, the technical frame of ancient Muay (presently known as Muay Boran) was so well structured that Thai fighters had no great difficulty adapting to the Western system. In a few years some Siamese athletes became so good at Western Boxing that they started to be considered a force to be reckoned with on the international scene.

As the years went by, the “Thai Style” of International Boxing become more and more appreciated worldwide and since the 70’s, some exceptionally gifted boxers from Thailand broke into the sport scene coming from a solid Muay Thai background. Among the many who ascended to the top positions in their weight classes, some, in my opinion, deserve greatest credit. All of these Champions started a professional Boxing career after reaching top rank in professional Muay Thai. Their Thai Boxing style emphasized the use of punches but this didn’t imply that their overall Muay Thai skill was limited.

On the contrary, all of them possessed a rich technical background made of solid kicks, knee and elbow tactics. However, when they started to devote all their time and effort to the fistic Science, they reached a technical specialization that quickly brought them to the top of Professional Boxing’s rankings. Each one of these fighters interpreted Western Boxing in a personal way: some relied on power, others on perfect timing. Some developed an aggressive footwork to cut the ring and corner the opponents while others waited for the attack and counter attacked with poisonous stabs. All in all, in the hands of great fighters, Muay proved once more to be an incredibly flexible Martial Art. In fact, in a few decades the fighting Art from Thailand absorbed Western Boxing’s principles so well that some Nak Muay without a single Amateur fight, went so far as to become Professional World Boxing Champions.

Here are the Thai fighters who, in my opinion, made the transition from Muay Thai to Western Boxing with the best results. There are others who also proved their worth in the Sweet Science but, while I know well the ones cited here, I have no direct experience with the others.
Before we analyse the records and technical characteristics of the best Thai Champions, it must be understood how each boxer’s style differs from all the others’. In fact, while the Sweet Science of Boxing doesn’t change, the way it is interpreted by elite athletes can vary definitely. Let’s introduce now the concept of Boxing Styles. According to great World Heavyweight Champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier the 3 basic Boxing Styles are the following: Boxer, Slugger,Volume puncher. In recent times more categories and sub-categories have been added to the 3basic ones mentioned by Frazier such as the Swarmer, Out-boxer, Pressure Fighter, Counter Puncher, and so on. According to Smokin’ Joe, a boxer can also be a combination of two of the three main styles. For example he considered himself a Slugger and Volume puncher. Some of the most dangerous fighters in Boxing’s history are a combination of the Boxer and the Slugger (the so called Boxer-puncher). The best example of this style is universally considered Sugar Ray Robinson.

Kaosai Galaxi

1. Kaosai- Galaxi

Boxing Style: Slugger (gifted with absolute KO power, southpaw with a very heavy left hand).
A true knock-out artist. He could take an opponent out with a single punch from every position. Ranked number 19 on Ring Magazine’s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time, pound for pound.
The power of his body shots was legendary. In fact, his nickname was:The Left Hand That Drills Intestines.

Boxing record:
1984 WBA super flyweight Champion (19 defences)
51 fights-50 wins (with 44 ko)
Muay Thai Record:
54 fights, 43 wins (30 knockouts), 8 losses and 3 draws

Verapol Sahaprom


Boxing Style: Boxer-puncher (very skilled fighter, gifted with a knock-out punch)
With an impressive record of 47 wins by ko, this fighter can be considered one of the best of Thailand of all times. Equally strong in Muay Thai and in Western Boxing, he combined great skill with extremely hard strikes with both hands.

Boxing record:
1994 WBC International Super Flyweight Champion (115 lbs)
1995 WBA Bantamweight World Champion (118 lbs)
1998 WBC Bantamweight World Champion
Total fights 72 – Wins 66 (47 by KO)
Muay Thai record:
1987 Junior Flyweight Rajadamnern title (108 lbs)
1988Flyweight Rajadamnern title (112 lbs)
1993Super Flyweight Rajadamnern title (115 lbs)
1993 Rajadamnern Fighter of the Year

Samson Isarn


Boxing Style: Volume puncher (relentless offensive in-fighter, demolition man)
Samson’s style resembled the way a pit bull attacks his prey, never stopping, never retreating. In Muay Thai he cleverly combined his hard punches with a rain of knee strikes. When he switched to Boxing he concentrated on in-fighting and terrific body/head combinations.
His fight name in Boxing was Samson Dutch Boy Gym

Boxing record:
1994–2002 WBF Super Flyweight World Champion (38 defences)
Muay Thai record:
1991 Lumpinee Stadium Bantamweight Champion
1992 Rajadamnern Stadium Super Flyweight Champion
1991 Sports Writers Association of Thailand Fighter of the Year

Samart Payakaroon

4. Samart -Payakaroon

Boxing Style: Boxer (skilled, gifted with superior ring craft, possessed a very good Defense and Counter strategy)
Samart is considered by many the best Muay Fi Meu (all around fighter) of all time. Along with a legendary career in Muay Thai, he chose to enter the Boxing world and thanks to his flawless technique he quickly reached the top in the professional rankings. His fight for the Super Bantam crown against the great Mexican puncher Guadalupe “Lupe” Pintor was a masterpiece of ring skill.

Boxing record:
1986 WBC Super Bantamweight Champion
Muay Thai record:
Lumpini Stadium Champion in 4 different weight classes (since 1980):
Pinweight (105 pounds),
junior flyweight (108 pounds),
Super Flyweight (115 lbs),
Featherweight (126 lbs.)

Sot Chitalada


Boxing Style: Counter puncher (possessed a very heavy rear hand Uppercut, in his fights he showed very good timing)
Chitalada won the title after only 7 professional fights by upsetting the strong Mexican champion Gabriel Bernal. In his career he also defeated other excellent fighters such as British Charlie Magri. This great Thai fighter surely deserves more recognition for his skill and achievements in Boxing.

Boxing record:
1984 (6 defences) and 1989 (4defences) WBC Flyweight Champion
Muay Thai record:
Fought under the ring name Chaovalit Sithphraphrom. He faced several times Muay Thai legend Samart Payakaroon.

As a final note, one more Thai champion I had the honour to meet made a very successful transition from Muay Thai to the Olympic form of Boxing (Amateur Boxing); this great athlete is Somluk Khamsing. His prowess will be analysed in a future article devoted to his flamboyant style.