I'd always wanted to see some live muay thai (usually translated as Thai kickboxing) fights at Lumpinee Stadium. I refer to the OLD stadium that used to be on Rama IV Road near Lumpinee Park. Though I knew nothing about muay thai at the time, I became aware of the stadium as soon as I arrived in Bangkok. When I first moved to Thailand's capital in late 1999, I stayed in Soi Ngam Duphlee, the mouth of which debouches into Rama IV diagonally opposite where the stadium stood. I tried to interest someone, anyone, in going with me, but no one wanted to. It wasn't until years after I left Bangkok that I persuaded my friends Michael S (who lives in Bangkok) and Michael T (my co-worker at the time) to accompany me to fight night while I was on one of my more than 30 return visits to the City of Angels. This particular visit was in March, 2012. I can't remember whether fight night was Friday or Saturday.
Michael S was a bit reluctant, so to sweeten the pot I offered to pay for his ticket. In the event, I went so far as to get us VIP tickets. There were those who said that the real fun was in the cheap seats, but VIP seats were ringside and also allowed "backstage" access. After a quick recce "backstage," I decided that the concept for my photo-taking would be to follow a young fighter through his fight night experience.
I didn't write down his name, and I've forgotten what his weight category was, but he couldn't have been more than a flyweight. At a guess, I would say he was not yet 20. When I started snapping, he was just having his pre-fight rubdown with what I assume is oil (see below).
I didn't realize it at the time, but it was his opponent who was having HIS rub-down in the background. My young man was in red shorts, and the other one in blue shorts, which is how things are done.
In the picture below, the young fighter is performing his ram muay, the dance of homage to his fight master. The fighters customarily adopt the name of their master's fight camp as the surname of their nom de guerre. They might use their own first name or adopt a symbolic one. For instance, one of the most legendary current fighters uses the name Buakaw, which means White Lotus.
The ram muay is always performed to live accompaniment on traditional instruments.
While watching the fights -- there are numerous bouts on the card, with the biggest names and heaviest weight categories at the end -- I realized that action photography is quite difficult, especially when you're using a camera phone. My phone at the time was a Samsung Galaxy 3. The action shot below, of my young man landing a blow, was the only halfway decent one that I managed to capture.
Apart from head-butting and blows to the groin, almost any kind of strike is legal, including those using knees and elbows. Kicks are preferred.
I'm happy to report that Red Shorts won his bout. He looked exhausted but happy as he cooled down "backstage" (see below).
I was a bit shocked at the shower arrangements. Old-school Thai bathing, in which you never remove your loin wrap, was something I had seen before, but I was surprised to see the fighters bathing in full view of everyone in the "backstage" area, not to mention the cameras. I did not photograph Red Shorts at his ablutions.
The picture below will give you an idea of what the old Lumpinee Stadium looked like on fight night.
No doubt the new stadium, which opened in 2014 on Ram Intara Road, is much spiffier. Have you been to fight night at the new stadium? If so, please share your impressions!
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