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Lumpinee Stadium: A spectators view

16 Sep Posted by in Blog | 2 comments

As I write this I’m actually sat by my hotel’s infinity pool on the beautiful island of Koh Samui. The pool over looks the beach and from the right angle you’d swear it goes straight in to the ocean.

I’ve been pondering what to write about for a couple of days and as i’m laying here enjoying the peaceful island life I keep reminiscing of the event that I attended at Lumpinee stadium back in Bangkok a few days ago.

Just to clarify this blog isn’t a write up of the event but more about the experience of being a spectator in one of the worlds most famous Muay Thai stadiums.

I’d first heard of the event back in July and had been excited about it ever since. There were five Lumpinee titles up for grabs with matches such as Sarm-A vs Penek, Damien Alamos vs Arunchai and of course the main event Saenchai vs Singdam.

The main event was mouth watering for me as I am a huge fan of both fighters, although I have to admit I was routing for Singdam to win on this occasion. Singdam was the first big Thai name I saw compete in Lumpinee back in 2003 when he took on Sarmkor Kiatmontep.

If you have never been to Luminee stadium the easiest way to describe it is that it’s a circular building with a what looks like a corrugated iron roof (it’s probably made of something else but just so you get the idea). The ring is situated in the centre of the stadium with the first class seats being on the flat ground nearest the ring. The second class seats are teared and separated from the first class by a caged wall about waist height with third class being right in the rafters. Third class seating is separated with a cage wall which almost resembles a batting cage.

We arrived at the stadium early as I wanted to get a good seat and see the action in full flow. The stadium was still pretty empty inside at this time but outside, on the other hand, was very hectic and you were barely able to move without bumping in to someone. There were food vendors, ticket touts, tourists and of course the regular gamblers catching up with friends who they probably saw only the day before at the last stadium event in Rajadamnern.

Even though not everyone was in the stadium yet you could feel a real buzz around the place; either that or it was just my own excitement I could feel.

We were seated near the red corner, second row from the ring. I checked the program to see who would be in the red corner to know who i’d be able to take a few good pictures of.

As I was talking to Michelle she pointed behind me and I turned around to see the first fight already waiting in the fighters area next to the ring. You see in Thailand you don’t get the big fancy entrances you would back home, more often than not the boxer will be brought out and sat ringside while the fight before is still going. They will wait patiently until the decision is given then once it’s announced the fighters will exit while the next two climb in.

The first fight was Wanchai vs Sarawut, this match was a Lumpinee title defence with Wanchai being the current champion. This was the third time these two had met, i’m not sure what happened on the previous two but as Thailand likes to watch close fought bouts I was guessing it was going to be a cracker. Wanchai’s face reminded me a little of a pocket sized Wangchannoi.

It was time for the show to get underway and the stadium was now almost packed. Before anything started everybody had to stand up for Thailand’s royal anthem to be played in honour of the king. This is also done in all cinemas before the main feature starts and, if I remember correctly, is played in all parks at 8am and 6pm. If you happen to be jogging along when it’s played you have to stop and stand to attention when it comes on otherwise you get a few riffy looks off the Thai people as you run past.

Muay Thai is often known for having a steady first couple of rounds, however this wasn’t the case in this bout and Wanchai took the fight straight to Sarawut. At a guess i’d say this was due to the fact they knew each other well enough to not bother testing the water.

As soon as round one ended the gamblers were underway, waving their hands around trying to get someone to take their bet on the odds they were offering. There isn’t a bookie in the stadiums as such so it’s mainly the spectators betting amongst themselves. You do, however, get some people talking constantly on a telephone while taking bets off everyone so I suppose you could class them as bookies, just not quite the same as back home.

Sarawut remained calm while Wanchai pressed the action early on in the contest, however, mid way through Sarawut changed the way fight was going and threw Wanchai to the ground a couple of times; stunning him with an elbow.

Once this happened the gamblers went crazy! It’s likely that the ones who bet on Wanchai were trying to place a second bet on sarawout with someone else to try and even it out if they lost.

Sarawut was now just edging the fight so whenever he did something that pushed him further ahead on the scorecards you would hear the gamblers shout “Yoot, Yoot!” which means stop.

I would say that the gamblers who had betted on Sarawut wanted to make sure they would get their winnings so began telling Sarawout to stop fighting and play it safe by going on the back foot. By just jabbing and front kicking he would prevent Wanchai from getting back in to the fight thus securing himself the win.

Mid way through the 5th round all the cheering had stopped because the gamblers knew who had won the contest. This is because they are at so many fights they know the scoring system as well as the judges do and most of the bets are paid out before the end of the bout.

Sarawut was crowned the new 100lbs lumpinee champion. As soon as he received his belt and a small amount of glory he was out and the next fighters were in.

The next fight that really entertained the crowd was the Lumpinee title between Muangthai and Superlek.

Muangthai was in the red corner and I was intrigued to see that he had brought a whole load of people to support him into the fighters area. There were so many people in there that they could barley move, but just behind all his noisy fans was a middle aged woman sat on the floor.

She had her hands together in a bowing motion with head down and eyes closed, I believed it to be his mother.

The fight was fast paced, really going one way then the other. Every time there was a huge cheer from the crowd Muangthai’s mum would look up from her praying position in shock then, unable to see who it was that was scoring, would bow her head further and pray more determinedly then before. It was actually quite emotional to see this and made think of what my own family go through when I climb through the ropes.

I wanted Muangthai to win so badly just because of how much I saw his mom worry. Not at any stage did she watch the fight and had no idea who was ahead on the score cards. When the fight was all over and the decision was given to Superlek the sigh of relief really showed in his moms face. It was obvious she was more concerned for her son’s welfare than whether or no he won the bout; she was also the first to greet him as he got out of the ring.

Some people have this idea that parents push their children in to fighting in Thailand to help them get out of poverty. This isn’t the case with a lot of families and seeing how this mother was acting really showed that she would much rather he chose a different career path.

One of the fights I was really looking forward to was Damien Alamos against Arunchai. Alamos is the second western fighter to win the Lumpinee title and the first to defend it. In my opinion he is the best non-Thai fighter at the moment due to his performances against top level thai fighters and his ability to beat them at their preferred weight.

Damien looked very nervous while he waited for his fight. Michelle had said he’d looked over at me a couple of times but I said I don’t think he knows me. When I looked over at his direction I noticed he was looking over so I smiled and stuck my thumb up to wish him luck. He seemed to recognise me and said thank you.

The first round was very tit for tat with no fighter seeming to have any real advantage, until just before the bell when Alamos landed a huge left hook sending Arunchai to the canvas. I let out a loud cheer and was hoping for Alamos to finish it. However, Arunchai rose to his feet before the referee got to the count of eight and the fight continued. Just as Damien was about to try and finish it, the bell sounded.

I didn’t really notice it till this American guy sitting next to us said “They aren’t making much noise now are they?” I glanced over to the where all the main gamblers were and he was right, I didn’t see many hands in the air trying to make a bet with anyone.

Arunchai came back a little in the second and third but Damien took complete control from there onwards to secure the win. The scores were 49/46 on all the judges scorecards.

After the match I went around the back as I wanted a picture with this young man who had just made history.

As I approached to get my picture with the champion he looked at me and said “Damien, I know you, you are good fighter!” I said thank you and praised him on his performance. The guy who offered to take the picture for me was Charlie Peters from Semtex gym back in the UK, he’s been over here for 13 months training at the same gym as Damien. I’ve heard many good things about him so I’m looking forward to seeing him compete on home soil.

I have to say I was very flattered that Damien Alamos had heard and recognised me, it’s nice to know that I am not just known in my own country.

I’d missed a vast majority of the next bout while waiting in the back which was a shame cos when I came to sit back down Diesellek fired about five repetitive kicks to F16’s arm to finish the bout. I thought that F16 had broken his arm but he limped back to his corner after he got up off the canvas, so I’m a little unsure what actually happened.

Sagetdao vs Phetboonchu was a great fight and interesting to see Sagetdao use his hands in the later rounds but unfortunately he lost the bout.

Finally came the main event; Singdam vs Saenchai.

Saenchai as usual had to give away some weight to Singdam to make it a fairer match. Singdam was allowed to be three pounds heavier which is about 1.5kgs.

After a rather long presentation in which Saenchai received some flowers and a rather large TV, the fight was ready to go.

I expected to see Saenchai do his usual swaying of the hips to show boat to the crowd and his opponent but there was none of that this time round. Singdam kept firing front kicks to the lead leg of Saenchai forcing him to constantly reassess what he had planed.

All of a sudden Singdam let off a huge head kick from close range but somehow, like a professional limbo dancer, Saenchai leant right out of the way of it.

Singdam let out a huge laugh as he sailed past Saenchai’s head, he gave his glove out in acknowledgement to Saenchai on how impressed he was that he avoided that strike.

After that though Singdam’s kicks were thrown a little lower making it a bit more difficult for Saenchai to avoid.

Right body kick after right body kick whip through Saenchai’s defence, the crowd let off a huge roar every time it landed. If Saenchai managed to grab hold of Singdam’s leg in a hope to sweep him to the floor Singdam would simply force his leg straight down, securing both feet on the floor. I was really impressed with this tactic. In my opinion he didn’t look like the confident Saenchai that I’m used to seeing

Round three Saenchai caught Singdam with some solid punches which seemed to shake Singdam, I thought from here that Saenchai would try and go for the knockout. However, Singdam managed to keep him at a safe distance and if they did end up in a clinch Singdam simply applied his weight low making sure that Saenchai could not throw him to the ground.

Saenchai really tried to press the action towards the end but Singdam had pushed too far ahead on the scorecards. As in the other fights the gamblers had stopped betting before the final bell and were already paying out.

Singdam retained his Lumpinee title beating the pound for pound king. If I remember correctly the score were 49/47 on the scorecards.

Me and Michelle both went round to get a picture, we wanted to get one with both of these stars but Saenchai wasn’t in a taking picture mood and didn’t stay around for long.

Singdam on the other hand lapped up the glory by having pictures with everyone who asked.

As I said this wasn’t intended as a write up of the fights but more on how I saw the event from all aspects that took my interest. I know it was a little long but I hope you have enjoyed it.

Please feel free to comment or add your own experiences similar to these.

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  • John Steed says:

    NIce report of the night! not only for the desciption of fights but making us feeling the ambiance, the gamblers excitment, the incredible noise. Thanks for all. And You seems to be a very good fighter as damien said too, hope the best for you.

  • howard says:

    Lol it made me chuckle when you said Samkor as he is amongt my all time favorite thai fighters and past 3 years have trained with one of his wins Wilfried Montagne Check out that fight.

  • howard says:

    As I approached to get my picture with the champion he looked at me and said “Damien, I know you, you are good

    As did Petcheak (sp) from Ao Nang Krabbi when he showed me a poster from wolverhampton 2006 and commented on you more than anyone ‘he a.k.a. you very good elbows’
    Better result imho.

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