Bickering like an old married couple, the pair couldn't even seem to keep it together long enough to get changed into their Muay Thai shorts for the live broadcast.
"Orono, what the hell are you doing? Hurry up, they need us out there!"
"If you're in such a hurry, then go. Why do you care about me so much?"
The unlikely pair are golden era fighters, Orono Por. Muang Ubon and Rotnarong Daowbpaetrew. Orono is a three time Lumpini Champion whose fights with John Wayne Parr and Ramon Dekkers popularized him in the West. Rotnarong is a Rajadamnern champion who made the cartwheel kick famous back when Saenchai was just a kid.
Friends for years, Orono and Rotnarong trained together at 13 Coins in Bangkok before Rotnarong headed back to Isaan to work as a police officer in his hometown of Phutthaisong. Orono has been retired for years, but for Rotnarong the passion to compete remained and in 2012 he returned to the ring as part of the 'Yon-Yuk' or retro revolution of fighters in Thailand.and has stayed active since then. Fighting mainly in the countryside, he also managed to pick up a fight at Rajadamnern Stadium and fought as part of the last ever birthday show for the original Lumpini Stadium. Middle aged and balding but still able to live up to his nicknames "King of the Face-Teep" and "The Effervescent Kid", as of late it's appearing like he's run out of opponents.
It was Rotnarong that first dropped Orono's name to promoters, hoping they would take the bait. Soon after the pair started taking jabs at each other via Facebook until the fight was finally made official. Sor. Jor. Wichitbpaetrew Promotions picked up the fight and set the date; August 11th at Lumpini Stadium. With a minimum side bet of 500,000 Baht (18,000 USD) required per team the fighters were called in to Rangsit Stadium to put down a ten percent deposit on the side bet and go over the rules and details of the fight with the promoter himself. The official announcement, that required these aging legends to don Muay Thai shorts, was then broadcast live on Thai TV. It's unclear if the pair have been taking notes from Mayweather vs McGregor or not, but when they were first reunited they just couldn't keep their mouths shut.
"Hey Rot, you get all that money together yet? You know, the money you're going to give me on the 11th?"
"Go get your brain checked Orono. You're crazy."
"Crazy is as crazy does. I'm just here to take your money."
Just a year younger than Rotnarong, 45-year-old Orono was Lumpini champion at 135 lbs. In addition he won fighter of the year in 1994. Standing side by side, it is difficult to understand why Rotnarong picked a fight with someone of Orono's size and build. Taller by approximately four inches, Orono appears to tower over his opponent. Rotnarong, in comparison was Rajadamnern Champion at 118 lbs and the first fighter in the history of the sport to win the Royal Cup two years running. Now Rotnarong's beer belly hangs over the elastic of his Muay Thai shorts, so much so you can't even tell what brand he is wearing. His appearance, opposed to calm, cool, and classic is more comedic than anything else. But according to the legend, it's just part of his facade in an effort to to sway the gamblers. Come fight day Rotnarong is looking to be a lean mean fighting machine. Orono on the other hand has managed to maintain his physique, and looks fairly decent for his age. He even manages to pull off a number of bizarre outfits despite the fact he drags around nearly everything he owns in his fanny pack and messenger bag.
Regardless of the obvious size and weight advantage the pair are still required to weigh-in the morning of the fight and must not exceed 165 lbs. If either side fails to collect the required side bet or make weight, the deposit will be forfeited. It's high unlikely however that either of these fighters won't be able to collect the 500,000 Baht required at ringside, with some speculating that it could reach up to 1 million a side. Fight aside, the fact that these two still have this kind of star power and draw is quite the marvel in itself.
Orono is being backed by the younger brother of former Thai prime minister, politician Wanchalerm, as well as gangster Gong who recently put up four million Baht for his fight at Lumpini. In Rotnarong's case however, it is more of a collective effort. Once the fight was made public on live TV Rotnarong's phone didn't stop ringing. Members of the Muay Thai community, specifically ex-fighters from the golden era are looking to make some quick cash. To put in bluntly, weight difference aside they feel that Rotnarong is just on another level in comparison to his possibly punch drunk foe. Additionally Rotnarong has been keeping fairly active, or as active as a middle aged, overweight, ex-champion can be in Thailand. It's been years since Orno scraped the ring rust off. So even though Orono has the size advantage, it's Rotnarong's fighter IQ and activity in the ring that are giving him the edge going into the fight. High kick specialist Hippy Singmanee personally pledged 200,000 Baht of his side bet.
With Orono reiterating that the pair are in fact good friends, some wonder if he still truly has the fight left in him. Rotnarong however hasn't lost his spark, and despite the paunch can still pull off a cartwheel kick. So will size prevail? Or will Rotnarong, who has fought men far larger than Orono, be able to out score his fashion forward opponent? Only time will tell when the two golden era legends face each other. In the meantime, Orono will finish out his camp at 13 Coins whereas Rotnarong will head back to Isaan to train with the kids at Wor. Watthana.