story and photos by Jamie Rector
Rain on a hot tin roof only adds to all the cheering and excitable noise you’ll find at a Muay Thai Boxing event at Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok, one of the top venues for Muay Thai. Excited fans spread throughout the stadium. Money changes hands as bets are made and people cheer before the boxers have even made their first hit.
Evidence of the ritual and spiritual connection within this sport accompanies the fighters into the ring. They often have a cord, called a Mongkol, wrapped around their head that their coaches take off while blessing them for the fight. Arm bands adorned with a small Buddha figures give them divine protection.
Each fighter also performs a custom dance called the Wai Khru. The athletes give thanks and celebrate their parents, ancestors and mentors. With their movements, they incorporate the direction of their home with the corners of the compass to honor their training camp, teachers and other influences on them.
When the fight begins, you’ll notice it is a little different than traditional boxing in the United States. Thai boxers can use just about all parts of their bodies both as weapons and as targets. Fighters can hit or kick anywhere they wish, even the more delicate parts of the anatomy.
While the contenders are steaming it up in the ring, you’ll feel like you are right in the action as the humid, hot air, gives your senses a test of their own stamina. You get to be sweaty without the injuries. The wobbly, wooden ceiling fans spin valiantly but offer little relief.
If you enjoy the boxing, there is ample opportunity to experience more of it. The sport has become much more popular in the last few decades. As a result there are now plenty of opportunities for fans to watch the action as well as for the fighters to participate in international tournaments.
At Lumpini, 500 Baht, or roughly $12.50 US, will get you a seat in the back of the arena. The middle seating area is 800 Baht or around $20. If you want to get a good close-up view you can sit ringside for approximately $35 or 1500 Baht. Other boxing arenas include Rangsit, Omnoi and the famous Rajdamnoen Stadium, near Democracy Monument.
Lumpini Stadium is located to the east of Lumpini Park on Rama IV Road, Bangkok 10500 in Sathorn. Phone: 66 2 251 4303. Fights are scheduled Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.