Three Fighters at Lumpinee – 2 June 2017

On the 2nd of June we have three of our top fighters on a single show at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. It’s always exciting to have a few of the fighters getting ready together, so their training is amplified as a team and influences the energy of the whole gym.

 

 

(Fight #5) Thongchai is charging toward his 17th birthday in August and this fight will be his first in over 3 months in Bangkok. There was a misunderstanding and false accusation against him in a televised fight at Omnoi – Thonchai was cleared of any wrong doing and the referee was subsequently suspended (for wrong doing) – so this is a bit of a big fight for him coming back after a long lay off.

 

 

(Fight #6) Yod PT has had a busy year with a few tournaments in the Bangkok stadia. He’s steady when he’s training and looks fit and healthy for his upcoming match, a very experienced and slick fighter. He’s the pre-Main Event for the show.

(Fight #1) Alex was the youngest westerner to fight at Lumpinee when he debuted the night before his 13th birthday a couple years ago. He has over 50 fights under his belt at the age of 15 and maybe a dozen or so of those at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok.

Kru Den helping Alex with his situps after training

 

 

 

 

Running for Muay Thai – Every Day

Running is an important part of Muay Thai, especially for fighters. Having strong legs and good stamina can be the deciding factor in a gueling, 5 round fight. At Petchrungruang, our boys run every morning, rain or shine.

For the last two weeks Kru Nu has been offering a special run on the weekends, when the boys aren’t in school. We meet at 5:00 AM at the gym and pile into the gym van, Kru Nu in the driver’s seat and we head out for about 20 minutes into an area between Pattaya and Sattahip. The rural roads are quiet, without a great deal of traffic, and we start running before the sun is up. It’s dark, so Kru Nu drives the van slowly behind the group of runners and his headlights illuminate enough of the road for us to keep our footing. There are enormous fields and vinyards on either side, and as the sun rises there is mist on the fields with the enormous, gold Buddha painted on the side of the Khao Cheetjan mountain.

Khao Cheetjan mountain behind the group

 

On the first excursion the group ran from Silver Lake to the Chinese temple, took a photo (below) and then continued on to the right, down some narrow country roads to find another temple a few kilometers away.

Chinese Temple behind the group, from left: Sylvie, Alex, Ouan, Team, Gaengat, Bank and Carabao

Running to the second temple down the narrow country roads

 

On our second trip out, the following weekend, Kru Nu changed the course. After reaching the Chinese Temple we headed off to the left (instead of right) and ran halfway around a lake. The sun rose as the group rounded the last bit, the pink sky reflected in the still, mirrored surface of the lake. Truly beautiful. We stopped to take a photo as we headed back to our starting point to complete the run.

Bigger group the second weekend out! By the lake.

 

 

In all this second run was 11 kilometers, from Khao Cheetjan to the edge of the lake and back again. The next day a few of the boys woke up at 2 AM (on a Sunday) in order to drive out to Rayong for a mini-marathon, 10.5 km:

The group before the start of the race, wearing the Royal Thai Residence shirts made by Sun’s father, from left: Pi Nok, Ouan, Gaengat, Bank, Alex and Sun

 

The boys were entered into a few different age categories but a number of our fighters took trophies as they placed in the top of their groups. When you start each day with an 8-11 km run, a 10K is easy. It’s all part of Muay Thai.

Thongchai at Omnoi – A Correction

Petchrungruang specializes in raising young Thai boys to be Bangkok Stadium fighters. It’s a small, family style gym that grows champions, rather than purchasing them for a stable of elite fighters like some of the bigger-name gyms. It’s just a different business. Head trainer Kru Nu is very proud of his fighters and never over- or under-sells them. He knows everyone is on a different road and he is patient in figuring out what each fighter wants out of his own path. This is especially challenging with his own son, Bank, who fights with the name Thongchai and has been steadily building his career at Lumpinee and Omnoi in Bangkok.

This past Saturday Thongchai fought on TV at Omnoi stadium. He faced a strong opponent who appeared to be a slow starter in the fight, not taking out his very well-timed throws until the third round. Thongchai, on the other hand, started out strong and perhaps erred in bringing out his weapons too early, showing good punches and kicks in the first two rounds and then facing greater difficulty in round three. Lots of fights show reversals in round 3, which is the first real “scoring round” of a fight. After a very dominant turn in the clinch which landed Thongchai in the ropes, his opponent took a lead and Thongchai became more hesitant in the clinch, choosing a waist grab that doesn’t score well but is more stable. Watching from home on the TV, there was a definite shift in how Thongchai approached the fight in rounds 3 and 4, but it wasn’t difficult to explain. He just wasn’t making good choices.

Kru Nu, Thongchai, and Peter – disappointed after the fight

With one minute left in the 4th round the referee suddenly stopped the fight, sent the two opponents to their corners and then took a microphone at the corner of the ring and announced he was ending the fight. He said that the red corner (Thongchai) was throwing the fight and he was officially canceling the match. Thongchai looked totally confused as he heard this; then he climbed out of the ring, as did his opponent, while the crowd murmured and moaned. This happens sometimes; in some cases, a fighter is, indeed, intentionally losing a fight for gambling purposes and a referee is trained to identify it and call the fight a “no contest,” in which case all gambling is also nulled. In Thai it’s called “lom,” in English we say “throwing a fight,” or “taking a fall.” There was no further discussion or explanation. The broadcast cut to commercial and when it came back two different fighters were climbing into the ring.

What happened off-camera was that Kru Nu and Alim (Royal Thai Residence owner and patron of many of Petchrungruang’s fighters) waited in the conference room to speak with the promoter. If Thongchai was found to be throwing a fight, “muay lom,” he could be arrested, fined, and suspended or banned from fighting in Bangkok. It’s a very serious accusation, and a very serious transgression. But the promoter walked in and said that everyone could leave, implying that the claim made in the ring was not being upheld as an official accusation. In many ways that’s good, because Thongchai was not, in fact, throwing the fight. But in many ways this is also very bad, because despite the referee having made an error and a mistaken call in ending the fight, he was never put at fault for it. The only part that was broadcast was Thongchai being accused of cheating. There was no public apology or correction. On the records, Thongchai – a 16-year-old fighter at the beginning of his career in the big pool of Bangkok stadium fighting – remains at fault, although he did nothing wrong.

A clipping from Muay Siam the day after the fight, a statement by Witsanuchai (Kru Nu)

 

Anyone who knows Kru Nu is well-aware of how ridiculous the idea is that his own son would be throwing a fight for money. “We don’t do this for money,” Kru Nu explains, “we do this because we love Muay Thai. I love Muay Thai, it is my life. All my life.” The national publication Muay Siam printed a short statement from Kru Nu, fight name “Witsanuchai Petchrungruang”, where he says that if anyone shows him proof that his son was throwing a fight, he’ll shut the doors to his gym immediately. The Muay Thai community in Bangkok and in Pattaya know Kru Nu and admire him; he has a good reputation and that has been earned through 30 years of real Muay Thai. The difficulty is that this error on public broadcast television reaches many people who don’t know Kru Nu, and this accusation – even though it is false – is an unjustified blemish on the Petchrungruang name. Thongchai is still developing as a fighter and at times he can be slow, but because he is so physically strong, his physicality carries with it a kind of promise for affect that just might not play out in his current fighting style. That’s just part of the growing pains of becoming a good fighter. But the consequences of that style have been thrown out of context with this unfortunate call from the referee on Saturday. There are countless imaginable reasons why this call could have been made, ranging from the innocent: a referee just misinterpreting a “bad day at the office,” to the more nefarious complaints, which are floated frequently to explain any unusual moment in officiating Muay Thai, that gambling and big money is involved in influencing stadium fights; those possibilities are also baseless, so to make them against the referee is as unfair and unfounded as it was to make them against Thongchai.

The purpose of this post is to lay clear the events of what happened on Saturday. Many people watching on TV, or those westerners in the audience who do not speak Thai and therefore didn’t understand what the referee was accusing Thongchai of, have no context for what happened in that moment, why that call was made, or what happened after. This post is for explanation and clarification. Thongchai was not wrong. He absolutely was not throwing the fight – “for what?” Kru Nu shakes his head when he thinks about it; he doesn’t even gamble himself – and while a public apology may not be in the cards for how these things are handled, at the very least what Kru Nu wants laid out clearly is that the blame does not belong to Thongchai. It was a bad call, an unfortunate mistake by the referee. The honor and prestige of fighting in the big stadia of Bangkok means a lot to young fighters, but it also means high-stakes. The consequences for this bad call could have been very serious and the aftermath has been a solemn face on Bank back home and frustration and disbelief from Kru Nu. Training continues, the sweat and sounds of shins hitting pads fill the gym. A few of the nakmuay wear Petchrungruang T-shirts, on the back is written “We Are Muay Thai.” As the air clears, that’s the message that remains.

Another clipping from Muay Siam, disputing the call made against Thongchai yesterday

Lumpinee Fights – Three Boys Win on 31 January, 2017

Last night on 31st of January we had three young fighters at Lumpinee.

Nabil made his debut on the legendary Bangkok ring at 35 kg (77 lbs) and defeated his opponent, the Southern Thailand Champion, in the 5 round decision.

 

Team, or Hahahaeng Petchrungruang, has fought at Lumpinee a couple times now. His fight was a rematch against a boy he lost to last time and the gamblers were very excited by the match. Team pulled out the win on points.

 

And 15 year old Alex was the star of the night. Alex was the youngest westerner ever to fight at Lumpinee when he debuted at 12 years old. Since then he’s fought a handful of times and is building his name and reputation with solid performances. He gave up 2 lbs at weigh in for this fight, stepping on the scale at 50 kg with his opponent at 51 kg, and the excitement over a westerner giving up weight to a Thai was spread all over the grapevine. (Thais frequently give up weight to westerners, but rarely the other way around.)

Alex had a tough fight and won by 3rd round TKO with a beautiful “siap” straight knee, exactly the kind that Kru Den has him drilling all day, every day when he’s training for a fight.

Alex and his opponent at weigh in

Kru Den preparing Alex for the ring

Moments after Alex landed the KO knee in round 3

Blessing Ceremony for Good Luck

This past year has been an exceptionally good year for Petchrungruang’s star fighter, 19-year-old PTT. In March he won the 26th Isuzu Tournament at Omnoi Stadium against a very experienced fellow finalist, Diesellek Pengkongprai. PTT walked away with the Isuzu Champion title belt, 1 million Baht, and a brand new Isuzu truck. By winning the tournament he was given the opportunity to fight for Thai Fight, winning his debut match against another very experienced fighter for that promotion, Payak-Samui Lukjaoparongtom. PTT was signed to Thai Fight and has gained greater visibility and reputation as he tears through his competition, his last two fights ending in very quick KO victories and winning yet another tournament for the Thai Fight title and another 1 million Baht. Two titles and two million Baht in one year. Good year.

Left and far right are the Isuzu belt and Thai Fight belt. In the middle is the Omnoi Stadium title, which PTT won a few years ago.

 

Tamboon, or blessing ceremonies, are special occasions but also very common in Thailand for businesses, new buildings or homes, and involve a combination of Buddhist temple practices and family/friend get-together feasting. Monks are brought in to conduct the blessing, which includes a white string spanning all through the space to be blessed. The monks all hold the string as they chant, which charges the string and the space all at once. The gym members, fighters, friends and family all sit facing the monks during the chanting. Then the monks are offered a spread of food, everyone takes part in putting the rice into the bowls so that everyone shares the merit. The monks eat and then there’s a blessing with water being sprinkled over everyone in attendance, the monks are given offerings and gifts for the temple (usually necessities like soap, toothbrushes, matches, etc. for the monks), and once the monks are headed back to the temple everyone else sits together to eat a massive array of really amazing food.

 

Last year Kru Nu held a blessing ceremony on his birthday, as a way to kind of “reset” the gym after a spell of bad luck. This year is a celebration of all the good luck the gym and PTT have had over the past year. This year there was a special treat of traditional Thai dancers in the small ring.

Traditional Thai dancers in the small ring (the original ring from when Kru Nu was a kid)

 

Traditional dancers, PTT with his 3 belts and a very proud Kru Nu

 

7 Year Old Chitert – First Fight

Chitert started training at Petchrungruang about a month ago. His father was a regular many years ago when the current weight room was a Snooker Club. Fast forward to now and he knew exactly where to bring his son when it was time to teach him Muay Thai.

Kru Nu has been working with Tert (for short) as the sun is setting and the gym is quieting down from all the fighters finishing up their work. By the time he gets to hit pads with Kru Nu, he has already waied to the shrine above the ring, bounced on the tire for 20 minutes, and held his fight poses for several rounds at a time. Tert does all these things with some repeated nudging from Kru Nu, but his favorite thing – and the reason he goes through all of the other parts – is hitting the pads. His face lights up when he gets to punch and kick.

Kru Nu and Tert before his fight

A month into his training Tert was scheduled to have his first fight at the bar. That sounds more sordid than it is – there is a Muay Thai ring set up in the center of a long stretch of bench-bars and many young fighters get their initial experience fighting there. The fights are akin to what in the West are called “smokers,” in that they are mostly informal and there are adjustments to the rules (usually no elbows), as well as only being 3 rounds with very long rest in between. The fights are not professional and are as “real” as any two fighters make them, but for the little kids it’s pretty indistinguishable between fighting and sparring. Kru Nu fought at the bar when he was a kid and any given night there is a reunion between numerous Pattaya gyms, bringing their young and promising students to get some ring experience. The fights aren’t paid, but the kids can walk through and get tips if they are inclined.

Kru Nu offering advice in the corner, Podee acting as the Second

These bar fights aren’t everywhere, but they aren’t entirely unique to Pattaya. Many young fighters in the provinces get the same kind of experience at temple fights, festivals and rural fight cards as the first bouts before the proper fight card begins. This is where every fighter you’ve ever admired – Buakaw, Saenchai, Samart, Pornsanae, at al – they all started like this. Tert put forth a valiant effort in his fight against a slightly more experienced boy. There was a great deal of support from the Petchrungruang gym, which had two fighters that night, and it’s a great opportunity for team building, practicing how to coach and be coached in the corner, and get used to the often disorganized and very long experiences of fight nights. Tert’s fight ended in a draw and he’s scheduled to fight again in 11 days. One month of training, about to have two fights already. This is the life of a nakmuay.

House Next to Petchrungruang Gym – 7000 Baht Rent

If you are planning to train at Petchrungruang for a few months, there is a house for rent right next door.  It’s one bedroom, one bathroom, a common area with a counter that can accommodate a propane stove (or you can buy a hot plate, which is common) for cooking. There’s a small yard surrounding the house with trees for shade and a fence around the perimeter that can be locked at the gate. It’s a cute, small house tucked behind the gym and your neighbors will be some trainers, fighters and their families. The house is currently partially furnished with a Queen Sized bed, large cabinet for clothing, and an air-con unit in the bedroom.

The house can comfortably accommodate a couple or even a group if you want to put a folding mattress in the common room (Thai style). There is an outlet mall just two streets up from the property and a Big C down the other direction, so you can easily access shopping for amenities, sheets and small furnishings, and groceries.

Video Walk Through

This is a walk from the street just outside the gym to the house. You can hear the chicken farm near the back, there’s laundry on the way in/out, and the door isn’t as hard to open as Bank (one of our Lumpini fighters) makes it seem.

Cost for Rent

7,000 baht/ month

8 baht per unit electric
water 100 baht/ person
or
3,000 baht/week with water and electric included
deposit one month (7,000 Baht) to be returned if no damages are incurred
no contract, but copy of passport required

1 Queen Size bed, 1 dresser, 1 air-con

1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, small yard and encompassing fence

If you are interested in renting this house please contact

sylvie8limbs@outlook.com 

 

Meet Alessandro Sara – Alex Petchrungruang


Alex is from Italy. He has been living at Petchrungruang Gym, under the guardianship and care of Kru Nu and his family, for 3 years already. He came to the camp as a 11 year old boy almost entirely encased in his own shell, very shy but incredibly sweet. He was in Thailand with his father after the tragic death of his mother and was just trying to find his way as a young boy.

In these three years he’s been raised with the Thai boys at the gym. He sleeps in a small room at the corner of the ring along with a few of the other boys and has become fluent in Thai. He speaks English quite well but over the years at the camp he’s come to prefer Thai for nearly all exchanges, sometimes acting as interpreter between the trainers and Italian visitors to the camp.

What’s truly remarkable about Alex is how he’s transitioned from that little kid in his shell to the young man he is on the precipus of becoming now. Alex had his first fight at Lumpinee the day before he turned 13 years old, making him at the time the youngest westerner ever to take the stage at the National Stadium. He has amassed over 50 fights and gained a confidence in the ring that is awe inspiring. The lanky little boy who was very shy has become a long-limbed kneeing machine, growing in height like a weed and fighting at a competitive 108 lbs at Lumpinee and Max Muay Thai. Alex’s confidence is expressed in his interaction with the other fighters, now taking a leadership role over the younger boys who are additions to the gym, but he retains his sweetness. And when you put a camera on him, the shyness comes out a bit as well.

We are excited to see what Alex has in store for the coming years. He’s growing so fast and his Muay Thai is becoming an expression of the young man he is. Chok dee to Alex.