Muay Thai fighting as a sport has seen its popularity drastically increase in recent years, but it has a long and storied history that predates its contemporary international exposure,
Here we take a brief look at 15 of the best fighters to have graced the ring both past and present.
Many of the famous kick boxers in the sport of Muay Thai Boxing are, of course, Thai fighters, but there have been some particularly notable individuals who made their name as outsiders. Of these international import, few if any are held in as high esteem as Ramon Dekkers, a Dutchman whose fiercely confrontational fighting style led him to eight world titles, cementing his status as a fan favourite.
Rolling back the years to the heady days of the 1970s, we find a man who was considered one of the finest Muay Thai fighters. Lorlek was known for popularising the ‘femur’ style of fighting, technique which allowed him to easily knock more aggressive opponents off balance. Following his retirement he stepped into the world of coaching, educating future generations on the importance of legwork.
Karuhat Sor Supawan
They say it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters most, and during his time in the ring Supawan, embodied this sentiment wholeheartedly. Refusing to allow his diminutive stature to impede his stride towards greatness, he ended his Muay Thai Boxing career with a 163-23 record, including a none-too-shabby 20 wins by way of knockout.
Winning his first Lumpinee title at the tender age of 18, Jomhod would go on to add an astonishing 18 more titles over a career that saw him give 110% in the ring each and every time he stepped up to fight. This boundless enthusiasm meant that his bouts were always hugely entertaining to watch, so much so that even some notorious struggles with gambling weren’t enough to turn the crowds against him.
Just missing out on a place in the top 10 we have a man who – despite having never won a Lumpinee title – has contributed hugely to the worldwide exposure of Muay Thai. A lustrous combination of star power and rugged enthusiasm, it’s little surprise that Buakaw has become so well-known on the international stage, and will doubtlessly be remembered for his services to the sport long after retirement.
Buakaw might have drawn the world’s attention to the Por Pramuk gym, but long before he was plying his trade it was Namsaknoi who was their most prized asset. His nickname of “The Emperor” should tell you all you need to know about a dominating fighter who finished up with an incredible 285-15 record before transitioning into the world of coaching out in Singapore.
Pud Pad Noy Worawoot
Worawoot was just 14 when he made his debut, and this eagerness and enthusiasm carried him throughout a career that saw his devastating left leg technique rack up a 135-15 professional record that culminated in recognition from the King of Thailand himself. Not bad at all from the man nicknamed “The Golden Leg”.
Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth
“The Ring Genius”, as he was more commonly known, brought a refreshing style of tactical thinking into all of his fights; his focus was more often technique than raw power (although he was certainly lacking in neither) as he held the Lumpinee title belt for six consecutive years. Also beat number 15 on this list, Ramon Dekkers, despite being ill in the lead-up to their bout.
Kaensak Sor Ploenchit
Racking up a not-inconsiderable 200 wins during the golden age of Muay Thai, Kaensak was renowned for his fine technical prowess. With both Lumpinee and Ratchadamnern titles under his belt, and the fact that his wins came against some of the most formidable opponents in the sport, it’s little surprise that this in-ring tactician is held in such high regard.
Thongchai Tor Silacha
Being the only fighter who can list knocking out Saenchai (more on him a little later) in the ring, Tongchai is also able to lay claim to 8 titles and 3 boxer of the year awards. Although his in-ring accomplishments have doubtlessly been marred by a 2008 drug dealing conviction, there is no disputing the fact that when he goes toe-to-toe, he usually comes out on top.
Sting. Madonna. Prince. If someone is known universally by a single name they’ve usually earnt the right through contributions to their field and Saenchai is no different. Commentators have likened his fighting style to a magician performing a disappearing act; his blistering agility in the ring made it notoriously difficult to land a hit on him, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down at 34 years old.
Somrak will forever be remembered as the pride of Thailand by virtue of becoming the first man from the country to win a gold medal at the Olympics. The fact that, despite being ranked #1 at both the Lumpinee and the Ratchadamnoern, he was never allowed to compete for the title because the promoters felt he was too gifted a fighter should tell you all you need to know.
Apidej Sit Hirun
The Golden Leg might have been recognised by the King of Thailand for his fighting prowess, but the fact that his highness dubbed Apidej “fighter of the century” surely trumps that accomplishment. A hard-hitting combatant if there ever was one, he is perhaps best renowned for delivering a kick so brutal it shattered an opponent’s arm and forced him into an early retirement.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
An undefeated Lumpinee champion at the opposite end of the height spectrum to Karuhat above, the gangly Dieselnoi took full advantage of his imposing stature to deliver some of the fiercest knee strikes ever witnessed within the sport. Strikes so fierce, in fact, that many fighters outright refused to challenge him on their basis alone.
Number 1 – “Greatest Muay Thai Fighter Ever”
And finally, we arrive at the coveted number 1 spot on this list – a spot belonging to a man that has been dubbed “The Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai”. Those most educated on the sport frequently rank the gifted boxer as the best the sport has ever seen, and with good reason – such a level of technical mastery had never been seen before or, arguably, since.
OUR RECOMMENDED PLACES TO SEE SOME MORE OF THE BEST MUAY THAI FIGHTERS EVER:
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