Archive for January, 2013

….as Muay Thai commentator, pt 2

Posted on: January 30th, 2013 by Philip

As I advised in my previous article, Rob and I understand that some of our audience will not have knowledge or understanding of Muay Thai so we try to explain the action to them. That said there is no point in saying’kick, punch, block, kick’-it’s not radio. What we can try to do is point out which techniques a boxer might use to gain an advantage bearing in mind his/her strengths and also his/her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. The timing in the fight is also very important; what the fighter needs to do to press home or regain an advantage; we use our experience to advise how we think the judges are viewing the action and thus what the boxers need to do to impress them and gain the points needed to win the fight. The nature of Muay Thai means that there are always ways to counter the opponent’s strengths/attacks, we try and explain some of these……
As we both have experience of fighting in the ring Rob and I understand that saying what needs to be done is a lot easier than actually being able to do it when cms and split seconds away from the highly tuned skills of a fighting machine. Commentating though is not without its perils; I have learnt to sympathise with commentators such as David Coleman and Murray Walker who have become famous for, in the heat of the moment getting a fact badly wrong, or coming out with lines that in the cold light of day are absolute nonsense. For us, dealing with names can be quite an issue; I recall one very tricky show when a group of Thais, most of whom were not so well known took on a team of Russians;that really had us wondering about ordering new sets of teeth!!Occassionally the boxers’ histories we have been provided with is obviously out of synch with who is in the ring above us leading us to exchange querying glances and double checking our information but we have always been able to get round such small hitches.
I view my commentating work as a pleasure and a privilege;having the best seat in the house and being paid for that honour!We have witnessed some great bouts and some magical moments. I think the standout for myself was Buakhaow’s appearance at the THAIFIGHT Extreme show in Pattaya in April 2012. In the lead-up to the show Buakhaow’s dispute with his former management Por Pramuk had surfaced and the word was that Por Pramuk had taken out a writ to prevent the Surin native from fighting.The lead upto the show was dominated by the question would he or wouldn’t he appear?on the day, rumour and counter rumour of sightings and otherwise whizzed round. The THAIFIGHT organisers are excellent at using this kind of drama though…….. A fight ended, the lights dimmed, the sound faded, everyone craned to get a better view, what was stirring on the distant stage? then a spotlight picked out a figure…..superb drama……it was him, Buakhaow, he played the part superbly; the Thai Warrior, here to do what he has to do…to fight for his people……He entered the ring, the sport and the nation’s hero, proud, with the Thai flag round his shoulders and a portrait of His Majesty the King above his head. He then showed his true professionalism, putting all the fuss to one side and putting on a show of superbly controlled and timed aggression to overcome the dangerous Russian, Zarapov. He won with a 2nd Round k.o and how the crowd roared their appreciation. Then….the THAIFIGHT’s eye for the moment…….Buakhaow was interviewed immediately in the ring, fighting for his breath and fighting to keep on top of the tumult of emotions he was feeling, he made an impassioned speech from the heart that had the thousands in attendance and millions watching on tv mesmerised. He said that he was fighting for his village, for Surin and for Thailand and for the THAIFIGHT organisers who had treated him well-he said that he had given them his word many months before that he would fight, and he was a man of his word; if he had to go to jail the next day so be it…the crowd, many of whom knew all too well the injustices wrought by the Thai class system roared their approval, then the theatre was ratched up another notch, but it was never maudling, because it was real, sincere, true; Buakhaow’s father was brought into the ring, the son bowed at his father’s feet, father looked a humble man but the pride he must have felt seeing his son perform and speak in this way must have been huge. In doing this Buakhaow showed the watching Thai society and the watching world a part of the sport that followers such as myself find so fascinating, the insight it gives us into Thai society and culture and the capacity it has for the noblest of emotions to be expressed…from the heart….it was real;it all made for an unforgettable experience.Real emotion, real people real Thai culture for the world to share and appreciate.
So there you have it, the realisation that we aren’t just talking about another exciting sport, we are talking about a culture which can fascinate and thrill. Here’s looking forward to the next time……
Philip Wilson
January 2013
Footnote; since writing this piece THAIFIGHT have announced 2 shows, in Ayuddhaya in February and again in Pattaya in April and have advised they would like us to continue as commentators.

Philip as Muay Thai commentator pt 1

Posted on: January 26th, 2013 by Philip

As a child growing up in the 1970’s (in England), tv sport was an everpresent, and a big influence; I recall most sportsminded kids accompanying playground games with hysterical shrieks copied from our favourite commentators…….’he shoots, he scores….’ for football……….’and he’s bowled him……’ for cricket….’and there’s the kick….’ as one of those Kenyans started overtaking everyone on the last lap of the 10,000 metres……
I was thus delighted when, in a rather later life, my good friend Rob Cox invited me to join him at ringside providing commentaries for Muay Thai. In the interim Muay Thai had become a big part of my life. I’d trained for many years in Thailand and competed, I had also watched thousands of bouts, sometimes ‘live’, sometimes via Thai tv’s weekly broadcasts; I felt qualified to do the job……perhaps somewhere deeper down there was also a bit of pride and excitement as I felt some emulation of my boyhood commentating heroes.
I’d first met Rob at a Muay Thai gym in London in 1989. He shared my love, not just of Muay Thai but also of Thailand and has similarly spent many years here (Thailand). Rob has spent many many nights ringside at the Bangkok stadiums, taking pictures and writing reports so he has great knowledge of the local scene.
At the outset we spoke with show producers, particularly about the likely audience for the fights and our commentaries. We realised that much of the audience, possibly viewing on cable channnels or via the internet in Europe or indeed anywhere else in the world may know little about Muay Thai, for many our show would be their first experience of the sport. So, Rob and I have always sought to educate and explain, particularly important in a sport like Muay Thai which has much ritual-the prefight ‘ram muay’, the wearing of the ‘mongkon’ headband, indeed the rhythm of the fight and the way that it is likely to be scored by the judges.
We also realise that much of our audience will not necessarily be native English speakers so we try to keep our language understandable and clear. Also bearing the international nature of our audience in mind, we don’t play for laughs, our English sense of humour might be lost on an international audience-some might say it is also lost on our compatriots!!
Commentating demands real concentration, a blink may literally mean missing a knock out or a pivotal moment in a fight. I feel that I have the best seat in the house-and I am being paid to be there so try to follow the action and report and comment appropriately.
Concentrating as we have to brings home some truths about the sport of Muay Thai, making all the more impressive the skills and split second timing of the best and the courage of the fighters who go toe to toe with them. Assessing the fights gives us real insight and proves some recurring points. Perhaps the biggest one for me is the need for a fighter to have confidence, he(or she) must have the confidence to commit strength and power into their shots so that their opponent really has to deal with them. Time and time again we have seen fit, strong, tough international boxers fall backwards as they throw technique so that no weight goes into their attack, their momentum is going away from the opponent, it thus does not worry him, indeed, to the contrary he is delighted to see this retreat, it allows him to size up his reply, to step in and deliver it with maximum force and timing thus the talented Thai fighter appears able to steamroller through many opponents.
Over theyears Rob and I have worked for most of the big promoters, particulatly when Thai and international fighters have been matched, among them have been the Elite series, THAIFIGHT and the various events promoted by the World Muay Thai Council. As lovers of the sport Rob and I are delighted to play a part in promoting Muay Thai to a new global audience.

On Aekpreecha Meenayoathin

Posted on: January 3rd, 2013 by Philip

On Aekpreecha Meenayoathin
In these times of instant gratification, when too often the fake and the phoney, can, often with the aid of ‘new media’ masquerade as something they are not, many of us are attracted to Muay Thai as we search for something ‘real’. Regular readers will recall my choice of this adjective to describe my friends, the boxers and trainers at 96 Penang Gym, but it may be used in relation to pretty much all the competitive boxers and their trainers in Thailand. Their realness is based on the fact that fighting is their lives; they are preparing for fights and therein the chance to make money and alleviate family poverty, and, the possibility of giving themselves some sort of a future. The economic element of the fighter’s reality means that for them fighting is work, their relaxed attitude to it the same as the checkout assistant to her job at Asda, they are similarly ‘matter of fact’ …..sometimes they win, sometimes they lose….apart from a few seconds around the final raising of the victor’s arm no emotion- joy or disappointment, is shown…..the Thai boxer just gets on with it……
Of course, the Thai boxer comes in all shapes and sizes, some look as innocent as choirboys, so that one is genuinely amazed by the power and fury they can unleash and the punishment they can take, others are unmistakably boxers, they couldn’t be anything else…….Aekpreecha Meenayoathin fits into the second category. Everything about him confirms that he must be a fighter. Every part of his body looks hard and tough, when he fights he is uncompromising, constantly stalking forward Iooking for the opening to attack with maximum power. He has a stare, not a ‘bad-ass’ Las Vegas type stare, more a focus; he is cool and ruthless, looking to finish the fight whenever he wants, he seems to be able to brush off his opponents’ attacks as a mere mortal swats an annoying fly. This approach has brought him great and deserved success, he is the current Lumpinee Champion, Thailand Champion, WMC World Champion and 2 time Toyota Vigo Cup Champion.
If one looks carefully though one will see that Aek is a lot more than just a strong, aggressive fighter. His success, like any champion sportsman, is based on a mastery of technique. He keeps a tight defence with his hands high, his chin tucked in. He constantly moves forward not just to attack but also to neutralise the effect of his opponent’s attack, he does this by moving with fleet of foot and subtly changing angles, he is usually inside his opponents range so he (the opponent) can’t land solid shots on him, sometimes he will move out of range to evade but he retaliates in a split second, using classic counter fighting technique to regain the advantage. He fights with total confidence, this confidence borne of the fact that he has drilled the same techniques thousands and thousands of times and they have worked as he has put them into practice as he has worked his way up from his beginnings on small, local shows in his native Sisaket province. Along with this confidence is the feeling that Aekpreecha really loves to fight, if he takes a shot then he is all the more determined to weather it, retain or merely maintain his composure then to counter and regain the advantage.
Aek’s mix of the physical and mental is one few opponents, Thai or International, can resist, many are intimidated by his uncompromising style and shut up shop, few can cope with him………..One man who has recently stood up to him and actually competed throughout their 5 round showdown on the recent Muay Thai Warrior Spirit show in Bangkok was the Englishman Jordan Watson. I was fortunate to be at ringside commentating; what a fight it was! Watson and Aek traded shot for shot with Jordan showing his own toughness and also often surprising the Thai with some unpredictable shots , it was a great match though one sensed that Aek always had a little bit more. His shots landed a little cleaner, he kept himself out of trouble. When the fight went to the clinch Aek really showed his skill, repea ng the Leeds boy around and thus getting the ticks on the judges’ scorecards. Watching the fight at close quarters one could see that Aek really enjoyed being pushed by Watson, Watson should be proud, he brought the best out of a great fighter.
Lots of Aek’s fights are on Youtube. In recent times he has fought overseas against many of the West’s best fighters and this is sure to be the route he will take in the future as his size and style are ideal for the Western audience. Any contender would do well to study Jordan Watson’s approach to fighting him. Anybody interested in Muay Thai should go and buy their tickets now………..!
Philip Wilson, Dec 2012