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Give Me One Reason
Tracy Chapman & Eric Clapton

Saint 2.0

Friday, July 25, 2008
Muay Thai - Bangkok #3 | 5:40 PM

...float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Those were the consuming thoughts I had when I took a picture with the 2 beauties. The quote was of course taken from the boxing context and what I believed to be spoken by Mohammad Ali.

The last time I had been to a Thai Boxing Ring was almost 10 years ago. Back then, I did not get to watch any matches but only the boxers training with their instructors.

On this trip, upon my friend's insistence - and I was glad I had gone along - I got to catch the intriguing sport of Muay Thai, what I would describe as "the beautiful meltdown".

After a brief dinner at Suan Lam Night Market, we took a metered cab to Lumpines Boxing Stadium. The journey took less than 5 minutes.

I thought these were the boxers for the evening but the publicity poster was for another event which featured participants of different nationalities. That would be really interesting to watch!

While waiting to enter the ring, each of us received a schedule of the matches. This was probably to facilitate those who were placing bets on specific matches.

Certainly NOT your geek in the pink.

Soon the crowd - comprising mostly of tourists - started to form at the RINGSIDE entrance.

Billboards featuring sponsors flood the stadium.

The matches are accompanied by a live band as well. My friend jokingly suggested to use a soundtrack on CD to cut down on operating costs...a typical Singaporean mentality obssessed with efficiency of course.

Here begins the "beautiful" segment of the meltdown. Allow me to explain.

At the start of each match, both boxers will pay a tribute to all four posts.

Dorning a floral arrangement worn around the neck and elaborate head, arm and leg cufflings, they begin their graceful dance in the ring.

The emcee mentioned that the ritual dance, Wai Khru, is performed by the boxers to thank their trainers and also to ask their gods for their blessings for the fight. (Thanks to Marcus for this information!).

The meltdown begins with junior boxers. The youngest lot are probably in their early teens.

I've watched an episode of "Taboo", a series on National Geographic, which depicts the physcial, psychological and emotional demands of the violent sport on the young bodies of teenagers. On top of that, parents of these young boxers bet their entire year's worth of earnings on that finale match in the hope to break out of poverty's grip.

One teen boxer had to be wheelchaired out because he was kicked in the stomach and groin area.

When the timekeeper rings the bell, the boxers will retire to their corners. Two assistants will come forward to give the participants a sponge and rub down of the limbs. The purpose is to loosen up their muscles.

Watching the entire procedure added another dimension of entertainment in this sporting event.

The head coach will never fail to come forward to offer his tips and the boxers will always listen intently and respectfully. Sometimes, other supporters, caught up in their enthusiasm, also shout their numerous advice to the boxer. The cacophony of voices add more confusion rather than enlightenment.

As the matches progressed, the ages of the boxers also increase and inevitably, so do the skill level and intensity of violence.

In this special match featuring really very skilful boxers, a set of film crew descended upon the ring to perform their Hollywood magic.

Finally, the winner gets to bask in the full glory of the media...

...while the losing party receives silent consolatory smiles and nods from his teammates and coaches in the background.

I leave the stadium with these two souveniors and a heart full of conflicting feelings for the boxers and the sport. Nevertheless, I was truly glad to have attended the event.



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