I’ve recently been spending a lot of time watching Youtube videos of old Roberto Duran fights.
I was quite surprised to see the similarities between Mr. Duran’s style and a Muay Thai fighter’s boxing style. Duran was described as an inside fighter as well as a technical brawler which I feel is the perfect way to describe a Muay Thai fighter’s boxing style.
Even though I’ve put the boxer and the puncher together, by no means are the puncher and boxer one in the same. This is something that I feel is up for interpretation.
Some fighters are not the most technically sound boxers, but they were born with the gift of natural punching power or hands made of stone. There are also those fighters who are technically sound or precise and use that to their advantage.
The Evolution Of Muay Thai
Like any other sport, Muay Thai has gone through it’s own evolution. Evolution is often a cause of many factors – one major one being your environment.
The world of Muay Thai is deep rooted around a complex scoring system as well as a gambling culture. In Muay Thai punches tend to score less points (unless it’s a knockdown) than kicks or a dominating clinch. Compared to the fighters of the past who seem to just dominate with one skill, present day fighters tend to be more well rounded relying on a variety of weapons to score points.
Punching Technique in Muay Thai
Let’s begin by discussing punching technique in Muay Thai. I find it quite interesting when I hear the comment “Muay Thai fighters can’t punch.”
That statement needs to be examined a little. There are several factors that might lead the traditional western boxer to assume that, but I personally don’t believe it to be true.
First off, a traditional western boxer has a more side stance which allows them to pivot their hips more thus driving power into their punch.
In Muay Thai you must have a more squared stance approximately at a 45-degree angle. A side stance would leave your backside vulnerable to your opponent’s kick. It would also make your attack one sided thus telegraphing your attack.
Most Thai boxers tend to be ambidextrous therefore they can attack with both sides.
One Muay Thai fighter who did fight out of a somewhat more sideward stance was Samart Payakaroon, but he was able to do this because of his incredible teep that he would use to defend himself. Because of his stance, his teep could almost be called a sidekick.
Since a Muay Thai fighter’s stance does not allow them to put as much pivot into their punches they compensate by using more force from their shoulder, in Thai they call this “Kau” or translated as knock. Technique wise this can mostly commonly be seen in the cross which looks more like overhead punch that you see a lot of MMA fighters also using because it doesn’t leave them as vulnerable take downs.
Another obvious difference is just the plain fact that there’s other options available so often instead of seeing a long punching combination you may often see one punch followed by another attack such as a kick, clinch, or elbow.
Let’s further examine the Muay Thai fighter by discussing some famous boxers and punchers in Muay Thai history.
The first fighter is the legendary Somluck Kamsing who I would categorize under the “boxer” category.
He was a Muay Thai fighter who made the transition to amateur boxing and later won the gold medal in the 1996 summer Olympics. An interesting fact is Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought in the same weight class that year and won the bronze medal, they never faced each other, though but it would no doubt have been interesting to see that fight.
Somluck fought a style that was quite similar to Floyd. He was known as a very technical fighter who relied a lot on his IQ and defense. Most fight fans would describe him as a counter fighter often waiting for his opponent to attack. Even during his years as a Muay Thai fighter, Somluck was known to be an extremely frustrating fighter to both fight and watch.
Does that sound like anyone?
The next fighter is Anuwat Kaewsamrit, who I would categorize under the “puncher” category. He earned the nickname “Iron Hands of Siam” for his extreme punching power.
Born in 1981, he was a former Lumpinee and 4-time Rajadamnern champ. Anuwat’s fights were always action packed.
This leads to an interesting detail about punchers in Muay Thai. Most punchers such as Anuwat, Coban, Bovy, Porsanae, and many more are known to be exciting aggressive fighters. This is due to the fact that because punches do not score as many points, if you’re going to throw punches they better be knock out punches!
With that mentality in mind, to be a puncher in Muay Thai you have to have somewhat of a kamikaze mentality. Not only are you going in for the kill, you also have to accept the fact that you will also take a lot of hits.
You must be aggressive and have a charging mentality in order to get yourself into punching range. Everyone knows kicks cover more distance, so as a puncher you have to be ready to take your share of them.
One of Anuwat’s most devastating punches was probably his left hook; he’s knocked out many fighters with that punch. Some great fights to watch are the fights between Anuwat and Bovy both heavy hitters and exciting fighters.
The Role of Thai Fighters in Western Boxing
All Thai boxers come from a Muay Thai background. This is due to the fact that fighters in Thailand fight to survive and raise their family. Boxing is far less popular in Thailand than Muay Thai is because of this fact as a Muay Thai fighter you could possibly fight everyday if you were up for it – some young fighters are known to fight every week. More fights means more money.
Where as boxing matches are far and few, thus making it less financially rewarding.
Many Muay Thai fighters who have transitioned into boxing either fight both or they go into boxing after their Muay Thai careers are over.
Another transition that has become increasingly popular is going into amateur boxing. By going into amateur boxing, fighters have the chance of competing in world competitions such as the Asian games or Olympics. Fighting for your country is considered very honorable and prestigious.
Also winning a medal is such events can bring much fame and fortune to a fighter, Somluck being a prime example.
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