Savvas Michael: The Greek Hero of Muay Thai Boxing
Could 18-year-old Savvas Michael be the next Ramon Dekkers? It's in the hands of the Muay Thai Gods...
Photos by Lek Simm
The Greek heroes of the ancient world are the stuff of myth and legend. But what about the modern age that we live in – are there any sons of Zeus lurking in the shadows of the right here and now? One likely candidate is the professional Muay Thai fighter Savvas Michael. Living and boxing under the banner of the Petchyindee Gym in Bangkok, the 18-year-old boy wonder is a 130lb talent to look out for, and a latter-day Greek hero made flesh in the ring.
A farang (foreigner) beating on badass Thais is big news in the fighting press of the Free West. Could Savvas Petchyindee be the next Ramon Dekkers? After the drubbing metered out to Suanluang TBM Gym at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, you don't have to consult the Oracle of Delphi for the future odds on that. It's more than doable for the kid from Cyprus.
Let's be perfectly clear. For a nak muay farang (foreign kickboxer) to fight on the sacred canvas of Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok is a big deal. For a nak muay farang to win, and win big, at Lumpinee is cause for the Gods to have a bacchanalian party up on Mount Olympus. Over five rounds Savvas Michael was the daddy of the yard in this 132lb contest. Stepping on the Thai tough nut with the speed of Hermes, and the boxing brain of a war god, the teen sensation had an answer for every swarm and blow.
Setting the pace from the off, Savvas used his height and reach advantage in rounds 1 and 2 to decimate Suanluang with triple jabs, concussive knees and cheekbone cracking round kicks from either leg.
Then came the inevitable Round 3 Thai hail storm. With fury in the blood and venom in the limbs, Suanlong, way behind on points, upped the pace with a dogged salvo of knees and round kicks. Blood rained down on the punters but there was no Achilles heel to be found or exposed. Savvas responded in kind and it sent the Thai crowd of knee-jerk cheerleaders into a wild and squalling din.
The Gods like to test those who go to war with the Thais in a boxing ring. The breakneck pace of the bout began to tell and the boxing duo began to show tinges of fatigue during Round 4. But Hermes protects the sportsman and there would be no ignominious fate for Savvas the outsider. Boxing behind the left jab, he shot down Suanluang with the arrows of his limbs and opened up his face with Scythian elbows.
Bloodied but unbowed, Suanluang desperately chased the knock out with a plague of shots to little effect in Round 5. Buoyed up by the roaring Bangkok crowd, and fighting like a fearless beast, Savvas countered with precision boxing and a barrage of lightning round kicks that found their mark on the side of Suanluang's head. It was all-out war and hardly a teep (front kick) was thrown by either man during the five round knee fest.
At the end of the contest there was neither pause nor deliberation from the three Thai judges at ringside. Savvas was the unanimous winner. It was a performance worthy of Ares that no speech could afford. Critics, doubters and naysayers at ringside were gelded into silence because no one expected it to happen.
"The white boy did good," said one Thai punter at ringside.
"I bet on the wrong guy," said another.
For his opponent, the formidable Suanluang, there was only the sad but honorable reward of a points defeat. There was no fit of pique from the square-jawed Thai, but he'll be more fearful of Greeks via Cyprus bearing gifts next time round.
As for Savvas, the teen prizefighter from the island of Aphrodite, Adonis, Humus and Taramasalata, his eye is on big time bouts with the best-of-the-best and the glory of deathless fame.
"My ambition is to win the Rajadamnern and Lumpinee belt."
Winning a Rajadamnern and Lumpinee belt is a labour worthy of Heracles. He might be 18 (only just!) but Savvas is realistic and practical about his vision quest.
"I will fight one fight at a time," he says, "and take it from there. My dream is to become the best farang fighter and win the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern belt. It's been my dream ever since I was a child."
This isn't teenage braggadocio. Savvas has been living "one fight at a time" ever since he was a kid and is even sponsored by a leading forex broker.
"I turned professional when I was 13 and won my first title not long after."
Living in Thailand as a fighter in a Thai camp, Savvas has emerged as a rival now to all the Thais who fight.
"I just want to be known as the best foreign fighter out there at 130lbs. I want to be top dog."
130lbs, or thereabouts, is a happy medium for warfare. 135lbs is, after all, Thailand's hardest weight class.
This bout wasn't just a flash in the pan. This is his second prominent victory on the Bangkok stage, and Savvas wants to cement his rep as a fighter of worth.
"I want to fight the top Thais and to be able to fight them just like you would see a Thai fight a Thai."
Most guys would be resting on their laurels after big victory at Lumpinee Stadium. Not Savvas. It's back to home turf for a busman's holiday and a big ruck with Italian champ Yuri Gentile on June 25th.
"This guy's a tough nut but I'm a different breed of fighter."
After that bout, win, lose or draw, it's back to Thailand and Petchyindee Gym's munitions factory in Bangkok where Savvas now lives.
"I train hard and live in the gym like a monk. It's a strict regimen but I'm just one of the boys. This place is my home from home."
There's just one nagging problem for the young warhorse at Petchyindee Gym. His boxing might be fluent but his lingo isn't.
"It's Thailand. No one speaks much English here at the gym and I am the only farang. I'm learning Thai but it's really fucking hard."
Age denies glory for some but not the young. The greater the glory, the great the risk; but will the thirst for it cost him dear? Perhaps. But if the goal is victorious belts obtained, like Odysseus, another Greek hero from antiquity, he's going to be away from home for a very long time indeed.