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Pictorial: Thai Boxing
by Maciej Tomczak, October 2005

Thai 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.

The fights 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 audience.

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. 

The net proceedings from the evening were distributed as prizes to the winners.




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