Loud cheers erupt as two boys trade punches at a boxing ring in Thailand’s northeastern province of Buriram.
After dominating five rounds, the winner is declared: 11-year-old Nanthawat Promsod, who is better known by his boxing name — Super Big Saksandee.
He earned 3,000 baht (US$95.16) for winning the fight and earns 1,500 baht for each match-up that he takes part in.
He is one of at least 10 boxers aged 15 or less in the district of Satuk, where nearly every village has a boxing camp.
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is said to be 2,000 years old. Known as “the art of eight limbs,” it makes extensive use of elbows, hands, knees and feet.
Thailand’s national sport is increasingly popular overseas too, but in this Southeast Asian country it can provide a way out of poverty, as those who climb to the top of the sport can earn a lot of money.
The country’s rural northeast is home to most star boxers who have gone on to win international recognition, such as welterweight Buakaw Banchamek, a two-time K-1 World MAX champion.
Hailing from Surin Province, Buakaw, 35, started fighting when he was eight years old, and won his first international kickboxing tournament in 2004 in Tokyo.
Nanthawat wants to follow in his footsteps.
“I want to become a champion,” said Nanthawat, who has had 40 fights over a two-year career and in recent months has won more than 10 consecutive fights. “I will be proud if I win at least one championship belt.”
However, as more Thai children, even some preschoolers, flock to Muay Thai, physicians and children’s rights bodies warn the sport could cause chronic health problems, such as neurological disorders.
Jiraporn Laothamatas, a neuroradiologist and director of Thailand’s Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Center (AIMC), said a five-year study she conducted showed patterns of brain damage and memory loss in young fighters, compared to their non-boxing peers.
“There’s no safe boxing, because you can see that when even adult boxers get old, they also get Parkinson’s disease because of the brain damage caused,” Jiraporn said.
More than 10,000 Muay Thai fighters are younger than 15, the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) said last year, but experts say that figure could be 20 times higher because not all child boxers are registered.
Still, some parents and trainers argue that Muay Thai teaches children discipline and is a valuable source of income.
“The money Nanthawat earns from boxing, we save for him,” said his father and trainer, Ong-arj Promsod, 36. “Whenever we are short of money, I give him that money as daily allowance for school.”
A businessman who received millions of dollars for his work on Tokyo’s successful campaign to host the 2020 Olympic Games has said that he played a key role in securing the support of a former Olympics powerbroker suspected by French prosecutors of taking bribes to help Japan’s bid. Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive at the advertising agency Dentsu, was paid US$8.2 million by the committee that spearheaded Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Games, financial records showed. Takahashi said the work included lobbying International Olympic Committee (IOC) members such as Lamine Diack, the ex-Olympics powerbroker, and that he gave Diack gifts, including digital
BITING THE BULLET: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi said that top players would make contributions so that the club’s employees can collect 100 percent of their salary Three-quarters of Rugby Australia’s staff were temporarily laid off yesterday amid huge financial losses from the sport’s coronavirus-enforced shutdown, while Lionel Messi confirmed on Monday that Barcelona’s players would take a 70 percent pay cut to ensure that the club’s other employees are paid. The cuts to rugby staff were “the toughest decision in the game’s history,” governing body CEO Raelene Castle said. “Although extremely painful, they are necessary to ensure ... we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild.” The sport has been hit hard by
If British industry succeeds in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, it would in part be thanks to the pioneering role played by Formula One (F1) racing teams in the country. Seven of F1’s 10 teams have joined forces with leading aerospace and engineering firms to ramp up production of ventilators, while Mercedes has also worked with medics and academics to produce an alternative breathing aid. Normally obsessed with improving the performance of cars that race at more than 320kph, the teams are stripping back lifesaving devices and using computer simulation to test whether more simplified models can be mass produced. The seven
DECREASED TENSION: The US players’ lawyers said that the soccer federation no longer disputes that the jobs of the women’s and men’s national teams require equal skill Women players suing the US Soccer Federation (USSF) said in in court documents filed on Tuesday that the federation has acknowledged that the jobs of male and female soccer players require equal skill. The language seemed to signal a decrease in tension between the parties after language in documents filed by the federation’s lawyers earlier last month provoked widespread outrage in saying that playing on the men’s national team required a higher level of skill based on speed and strength and carried greater responsibility. The fierce backlash — not only from the women players, but also from sponsors such as Coca-Cola —