With the formation of the Muay Thai premier league, shows starting to pop up in the U.S, and notable events happening almost every week in Europe, boxing in Thailand seems to have taken a backseat. Buakaw Por. Pramuk, Kem Sitsongpeenong, Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee, Yodsanklai Fairtex etc... are the Thai fighters that get most of the attention because they frequently fight outside of the country. However they are nowhere near the best fighters in Thailand. I don't know if its because the best fighters are genetically smaller than "international level" fighters, or because people stereotype stadium boxing as a type of sameness, but for some reason or another Muay Thai in Thailand is viewed as something that is just... there, and nothing more for a lot of people. The best Thai boxers in the world are all 132 pound and under Thai's. I'm not bitter, just perplexed as to why the best fighters minus Saenchai aren't getting a fair shake, or even attention.
1. Saenchai Sinbimuaythai: It's impossible to not have Saenchai at #1. The guy has proven time and time again that he is the best stand up fighter on the planet. One week he'll go to another country at 140 pounds and dominate, 2 weeks later he'll get down to 127 and teach the hottest fighter in Thailand a boxing lesson. Vision, speed, balance, technique, he has it all. At 31 and 300 fights to his name you'd think the decline would have started by now, but if anything he's getting better and plans to fight for 4 or 5 more years. Next month he's scheduled to fight F16 Rajanont at the Lumpinee birthday show where he'll be giving up a full weight class to F16.
2. Sam-A Kaiyanghadaogym: In a recent interview from mymuaythai Ponsaneh Sitmonchai was asked who his hardest opponent has been, and without pausing he said Sam-A. Not surprising as Sam-A has beaten him 3/4 times with the reason for the loan loss being from a slip that was ruled a count. Sam-A is old for a Thai boxer at 28, but its not surprising to see him still at such a high level. He's a technical master who now very rarely ever gets hit with a clean shot. Pad's don't hit back, but you can generally get a good idea of what level a fighter is at by the speed and balance a fighter has when kicking pads. This video came out just before his fight with Kongsak earlier this year and I don't know that I've ever seen someone kick pads as good as Sam-A. His next fight is also scheduled for the Lumpinee birthday card next month against Rittidej Wor. Wanthavee. If he wins he'll end the year with an 8-0-1 record.
3. Kongsak Sitboonmee: From February of 2010 to March of 2011 Kongsak went 9-0 to claim the sports writers of Thailand fighter of the year. All nine of those wins we're against top level fighters and in the process earned the featherweight championship at Lumpinee. Since getting that award he's gone 3-2-1 with wins over Nong-O Kaiyanghadaogym, Pakon Sakyothin and F16 Rajanont. The losses we're to Saenchai Sinbimuaythai, F16 Rajanont, and the draw was to Sam-A Kaiyanghadaogym. The hard kicking fighter will surely be around for many more years as he's still just 21.
4. Pakon Sakyothin: If it weren't for Kongsak Sitboonmee than Pakon Sakyothin would be the current fighter of the year in Thailand. Outside of 2 losses this year to Kongsak, Pakon has managed to outclass his opposition. The 21 year old is probably most well known for being in the 2010 Lumpinee fight of the year with Ponsaneh Sitmonchai where they went toe-to-toe in round 4 in what was one of the most violent rounds the sport has ever seen. In that fight he brawled with Ponsaneh, but his strong suit is definitely knees and clinch fighting. Recently he's been fighting in Southern Thailand and in his most recent fight he once again beat Singtongnoi Por. Telakoon.
5. Wanchalong Sitzornong: Wanchalong Sitzornong has been a quality fighter for some time, but he didn't become an elite fighter until recently. In June he fought 115 champ Chokprecha Kor. Sakooncher in a non title fight and won. A few months later he was awarded with a title shot and again beat the aggressive Chokprecha to take the title. In his most recent bout he only needed 1 round to destroy former ace fighter Nueangthep Eminentair at Lumpinee stadium. His next bout is scheduled for this Tuesday at Lumpinee against Rataket Teded99.
6. F16 Rajanont: I'm not convinced that F16 is one of the six best Thai boxers in the world, but you can't argue results. The 20 year old is 6-1 in his last 7 with the only loss being a razor close decision to Kongsak Sitboonmee. The fight was so close they had an immediate rematch just over a month later. In the rematch F16 scored two knockdowns in R2 and had he had ten more seconds probably would have finished the fight. Prior to the two bouts with Kongsak he capped off five in a row with a win over Nong-O Kaiyanghadaogym.
7. Jomthong Chuwattana: Though he's just 22 Jomthong Chuwattana is a name that fans of Muay Thai have known about for many years. He won the sports writers of Thailand fighter of the year award at 16 and has captured several stadium titles in the ensuing years. He's the current super featherweight champion of Rajadamnern Stadium but has recently been fighting in stay busy fights where he took a wide UD over Japanese fighter Tetsuya Yamato, and earlier this month scored a second round KO over Hiromasa Masuda. He should be back to fighting top competition soon.
8. Penaik Sitnumnoi: Penaik is the current featherweight champion of Lumpinee stadium, and just won the Channel 7 super featherweight championship in a rematch against Sitisak Siangsimaewgym. He's clearly undersized at 130, but time after time is winning fights thanks to his great work in the clinch where he's amazing at controlling and turning his opponents. He just turned 22 and is only getting better.
9. Nong-O Kaiyanghadaogym: When Nong-O is fighting to the best of his abilities he is as good as any fighter in the world. His techniques flow effortlessly and beautifully. He used to be a very consistent fighter and up until recently was top 3 for several years running. Lately he's turned into a wild card. He lost six fights in a row at one point, though some were very close and highly questionable, and all were against the best competition. Then he won 4 in a row, and most recently gassed out to F16 Rajanont. Even with inconsistency he's one of the best, and though he's 25 he still can fight and beat the best.
10. Sagetdao Petpaiyathai: There is nothing flashy or unique to how the 24 year old Sagetdao fights, he just goes in there looking to score and get the win. Recently he traveled to the U.S to take on arguably the best American Thai boxer, Kevin Ross. Even though Sagetdao is the lightweight champion of Lumpinee stadium he never weighs in above 132 pounds. The fight with Ross was at 140 pounds, and by fight time Ross had supposedly rehydrated to 156. Nonetheless he used superior technique to win the fight after a massive elbow at the end of R3 opened Ross up. He has also traveled to England and beat one of the better foreign fighters, Liam Harrison. In Thailand he has beaten all the best fighters at or close to his best weight. His next fight will also be at the big show in December against Singdam Kiatmuu9.
11. Chokprecha Kor. Sakooncher: Every few years to a lustrum a wild fan friendly brawler will emerge in Thailand. We've seen Bovy, Ponsaneh and now there is Chokprecha. The hard hitting 20 year old has been a part of many thrilling fights this year and was in the fight of the month at Lumpinee in July. Because of his short frame he often gets scored upon by the taller clinch and strong kick fighters. This does not phase him at all as he often scores come from behind KO's in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rounds. Regardless of what people say about him in terms of skill he's usually on the winning end, and thats what counts.
12. The-Lek Wor. Sangprapai: The term "he wants it more" or "he wanted it more" is often thrown around after a fighter is victorious. For the most part I've always scoffed at this saying, but with The-Lek Wor. Sangprapai it just might be true. As is the case with many Thai boxers he was born into a poor family, and started fighting at an early age. By the time he was 13 he was frequently overwhelming his competition at Rajadamnern and Lumpinee with a feverish pace, and is now commonly in main events and collecting large purses from side bets his gym places on him. Also at 13 he had 200+ fights to his name. Incredible in itself, but adding in that he fights with such a brutal and violent style its even more amazing, and in my opinion it makes him the most extraordinary fighter in all of combat sports. What he lacks in skill (for now) he definitely makes up for in heart. Today he is still very young at just 15.