A question I hear often is “Why do they stop fighting and just walk around in the last round?”
To a lot of people this could seem very pointless and in the west could potentially put people off coming to the shows. They have after all paid to see a fight and want to see both parties giving it their all.
However, this isn’t a western sport remember and over the years gambling has played a huge part in how the game is played in Thailand.
More often than not the first two rounds are a feeling out process, so not much really happens. Also on some occasions the boxers are told to take it steady as they are trying to get the betting in the favour of their opponent, making the odds better for themselves.
Round three is generally where the fight will really begin and both boxers are really trying to take the advantage.
The fourth as I’ve always been told is the unofficial money round. If you can win this big then the fight is yours.
Now we come to the round in question.
If the fight has been very close in the third and fourth then the fifth will be fought at the same intensity as the last two rounds.
However, if one boxer is clearly in the lead then he will be told to stay back from his opponent so as to not let the victory slip out of his hands.
This advice will come from his corner and from the gamblers who have money on him to win. This can become very annoying when you’re trying to listen to your corner and you have random people coming up and shouting at you in a language that you barely understand.
His opponent will possibly try and go for him for about the first minute of the round; if he has no success then he will back off.
Often at this point the boxer in the lead will offer his glove to his opponent, asking him to acknowledge defeat.
Here you will usually get the losing boxer accepting defeat and not going for broke to try and change the fight around. While the winning boxer knowing he has won agrees not to beat up on his opponent anymore.
This is a very different mind set to fighters in the west; over here the losing boxer will still fight until the bitter end as a knockout could change everything. Likewise, the winning boxer will still be trying to KO his opponent even though he is already sure of his victory.
To be honest the gambling is slowly killing Muay Thai in Thailand as the gamblers have so much power now in the big stadiums.
If you have watched many of the videos that I have posted up from what is classed as the golden era of Muay Thai (90’s) you will have noticed how packed the stadiums were back then.
Nowadays it is rare that you will see the likes of Lumpinee or Rajadamnern filled to that capacity because of how the game is so heavily influenced.
Out in the provinces though, Muay Thai is still popular with big crowds coming to watch and enjoying the fights. Muay Thai is also growing around the rest of the world with the standard getting better all of the time and so many fighters spending long stints in Thailand.
If you haven’t seen it already here is a great interview with Rob Cox talking about Muay Thai in Thailand and explains in a little more detail the effect gambling is having on the sport. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask and I’ll gladly take the time out to answer as best I can.