An enormous crowd, estimated at around 10,000 people, gathered in Phattalung to witness hometown hero and reigning fighter of the year Peneak Sitnumnoi take on Saketdao Petphayathai on June 7th.
The top fighters don't venture outside of the Bangkok stadiums too often so this was a rare treat and it was standing room only as people from all over the South of Thailand travelled to see two of Thailand's top fighters go toe to toe.
After a nine fight undercard which showed that there is plenty of quality in the South of Thailand to rival the dominance of more traditional Muay Thai strongholds such as Buriram the big fights got underway.
Up first was Sittisak Petchphyathai and Pechmongkol Thor Thepsutin in what proved to be a one sided fight with Sittisak's dominance in the clinch causing the referee to wave off the fight in the third round.
Chalongchai Kayradajraychai went up against King Wor Woypakdee next and after an uneventful first round the fight came to life in the second with Chalongchai connecting with straight punches and King firing back with kicks and elbows.
King looked to land more elbows and was more aggressive in the third but Chalongchai controlled the ring and swept him repeatedly to take the lead. In rounds four and five King was continually the aggressor but Chalongchai was able to frustrate him by knocking him off balance time and time again to cruise to a comfortable decision win.
Chalongchik Kayradajraychai faced Saneam Or Wan in a well matched affair which saw Saneam start to land solid body kicks in the second round which Chalongchik answered with some quickfire combinations of punches and low kicks. In round three the fighters matched each other kick for kick while the following round saw Saneam land some straight knees although Chalongchik did manage to dump him on the ground a couple of times.
Going into the final round Chalongchik was offered a 50,000 Baht tip to turn the fight around and he did just that, sweeping Saneam and upsetting his balance a few more times before standing off and taking his chances with the judges who all felt he had done enough to win the fight and take home the extra 50,000 in the process.
The final three fights all provided outstanding entertainment with the rematch between Pentai Sitnumnoi and Palongphon Watcharachaigym probably the highlight of the night. Pentai was knocked out the first time these two fought but he looked to be the sharper and stronger of the two fighters in the opening rounds.
Penthai was pressing forward and landing punches and body kicks as well as solid looking low kicks to the lead leg of his southpaw opponent but towards the end of round two Palangphon began to come to life and answered back with a big body kick of his own right on the bell.
The action intensified at the start of the third round with Penthai getting the better of the early exhanges but Palongphon came back strongly and spun him off balance before landing an eye catching kick. Sensing he was behind Penthai started the fourth round fast backing Palongphon up and looking to land punches as, for the first time in the fight, Palongphon began to utilize his elbows.
Penthai fired back with some strikes of his own and a left elbow cut Palongphon above the rigth eye. The younger fighter appeared to be in the ascendancy but towards the end of the round Palongphon seized the initiative again by sweeping Penthai and then taking advantage of his opponent's momentary loss of balance to land a kick which knocked him to the floor.
A 50,000 tip was offered to Penthai if he cound turn the fight around and he surged forward in the final round looking to hurt Palongphon with punches. A few ot them got through and a head kick also appeared to land clean but Palongphon laughed it off and continued to cover up and counter with the ocassional body kick to take a decision win and with it the WPMF flyweight belt.
Wanchalerm Chor.Chernkamon vs Seksun Or.Kwanmuang was another fun fight although it didn't last long. Wanchalerm looked to land left hooks in the opening round but Seksun's high guard prevented any of them from getting through, the second started fast as both exchanged punches and a head kick from Wanchalerm landed flush but Seksun just shook it off.
A big right hand from Seksun rocked Wanchalerm who tried to cover up but sensing blood Seksun moved in for the kill and threw a combination of vicious punches that put Wanchalerm down for a count which he never looked like beating. It set the scene nicely for the final fight of the night and the one which the majority of spectators in attendance were most interested in.
Peneak became the first fighter in a year to defeat the seemingly invincible Sam-A Gaiyanghadao earlier this year and the win was enough to secure him the coveted fighter of the year award. He currently holds the Featherweight titles of Thailand and Lumpini Stadium and the Super Featherweight title at the Channel 7 stadium and people in Phattalung are understandably proud of him.
He had to weigh in with a full stomach in order to get up to 130 lbs and Saketdao looked to have a significant size advantage. In the first two rounds Peneak boxed beautifully, hammering away at Saketdao's left leg with low kicks and looking very confident as he fired in combinations of straight punches and easily evaded Saketdao's attempted body kicks.
In round three Saketdao came out with a solid left body kick right from the bell and looked to use his size and strength in the clinch. Peneak coped admirably with the onslaught but Saketdao was overwhelming him and by the end of the round the local fighter was being offered 50,000 baht to turn the fight around.
It was more of the same in the fourth as Saketdao landed the cleaner knees in the clinch and emphasized his dominance by throwing Peneak to the ground a few times. At the end of the round Peneak was offered another 100,000 baht by the increasingly desperate gamblers who had backed him and he did mount a comeback of sorts, cutting Saketdao above the eye with an elbow.
Peneak felt he had done enough to claw his way back into the lead and somewhat optimistically sat back looking to take his chances with the judges but, to the displeasure of the majority of the crowd, all three did the right thing and correctly awarded the fight to Saketdao.
Another show is scheduled to take place in Phattalung on August 11th with a possible fight between Peneak and Petboonchu FA Group in the works. It was his second successive defeat after dropping a decision to Saenchai Sor Kingstar but Peneak is still one of the top fighters in Thailand and evidently a huge draw in his hometown of Phattalung.