Boxing (Muai Thai), the national sport of Thailand, is hugely
popular in Southeast Asia. There are some 20,000 registered
boxing schools in Thailand alone. In the south, on the remote, predominantly Muslim
Ko Yao Noi
Island in Phang Nga
Bay, monthly fights are one of the few organized community events.
are a family spectator's sport. Fighters, who often come from
low-income families, start their arduous training early in life. Many local fighters
enjoy celebrity status and have family members and devoted fans in
The evening usually begins
with fights of very young fighters (some 5-6 years old),
progressing to the duels of professional boxers, typically
in their early 20's, representing boxing
schools from out of town. Before each fight the fighters perform Ram Muai,
a lengthy ritual in which contestants consecrate the ring and prepare for
the fight to the sound of traditional fighting music.
The attraction of the
night were two semi-retired Thai Boxing masters (42 and
56) whose fight, while lacking some of the stamina
of the youngsters, energized and polarized the audience.
net proceedings from the evening were distributed as prizes
to the winners.