Sportsmanship Thai Style

Sportsmanship Thai Style

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Muay Thai boxing has for some reason always been held up as a flag bearer in the West for sportsmanship and the true spirit of the fight game. My experience of it is far from that. The first time I came across it, was in Pattaya and it was one of those street bars that has a ring. Fighters come in and take part in exhibition bouts, before inviting drunken holidaymakers to “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. Watching some fat drunken Brit with misspelt tattoos and a bad sunburn, wobbling around the ring before being dumped on his arse, is not, in my opinion, sport. It was like some sick form of bear baiting. Testosterone fuelled Brits, Aussies, Yanks and Canadians thinking they are hard, are no match for a Thai guy at this, or indeed any other kind of fighting. Beer in, brains out.

I then saw it in Phuket and it was a similar theme, though at least here they had proper bouts which seemed to salvage a morsel of sporting prowess, though not much. Knowing the Thais as I do, it doesn’t surprise me that some of them take losing very badly indeed. How, being laid out flat on your back, quite reconciles with their obsession at not losing “face” is beyond me. So recently when a fighter fell out of the ring and people laughed, it was never going to end well. Quite what happened next was, though, something of a surprise for the gathered crowd of enthusiasts.

Then there is the rather pathetic spectacle of drunken blindfold Muay Thai, I kid you not. What this has to do with sport is beyond me. It makes American wrestlers look like athletes. It just frankly embarrassing and the genuine protagonists of the ancient Thai sport must be mortified to see it.

The sport is a mess and the more that drunken spectators pay to indulge themselves, the more the Thais will continue to denigrate, what used to be a genuine sport. Young kids coming into the game now, must look at some of these videos and wonder just what the hell they are getting into.

I’ve never been a fight fan, and as cage fighting and this nonsense grows in popularity I can’t help but think, that surely they could just sit round a table and sort it out, over a few beers, without the bloodshed.

Following a highly successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Keith pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, he moved to Cambodia and then relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in early 2013. He started the highly successful Saigon Districts website, turning it into the fastest growing site in Vietnam. After careful consideration, he decided to cover not just Vietnam but the whole region that he loves so dearly. Keith has had work published in magazines and websites in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. He has written for the BBC and has appeared on TV and radio in many different countries. His great loves are music and travel, but he writes on a whole range of subjects. is a labour of love as Keith travels round the region garnering subject matter. Read more about the website here.


  • David Demartin

    Hi there! While I enjoyed reading your article, I definitely think that you are giving a very limited view on Muay Thai.
    Phuket, Pattaya, drunken foreigners and blind fold muay thai…..not really a solid sampling of the sport or the sportsmanship is it? I wouldn’t denigrate this traditional sport or the dedication and metal of all the people who really give it their all to make their living out of it. Sure, sore losers, crooked gamblers, dirty tricks will be around as in all sports but those three videos/incidents are not at all a representation of muay thai or thai sportsmanship.

  • Keith Hancock

    Hi David, I never said this was all that was happening in the sport, but it is happening nonetheless. I have a friend who fought seriously and his daughter even fought at the Royal Palace for the King. Sadly though, it is this nonsense and these types of incidents that are getting the publicity. I would have thought that the serious sportsmen and women would be trying to get this rubbish banned. Allowing drunken foreigners to enter a ring and try to fight is a ridiculous thing to encourage. Any civilised country should surely, never allow such a thing. It belongs in the travel circus shows of history.

    • David Demartin

      Ok, my mistake then. 100% with you on the nonsense fights involving drunken foreigners.
      When I read about some crazy things going on in bar crawls in Ibiza, in Europe, it is even worse, some drunken foreigners don’t know when low is low enough.