Sia Bo had more tattoos, more street cred. He also outweighed his opponent by over 15kgs but even still the promoter had the odds at even going into the fight. To the left of him stood Gong, a semi-tattooed ex-fighter who had stepped in the ring nearly 40 times before. But that was over 10 years ago already, would his previous ring experience show in the fight? Those who put money down held their breath and waited.
Despite these staggered statistics, a 500,000 Baht (17,000 USD) deposit was put down by both teams. The fight would be only one four minute round, with a stipulation that one must win by KO or the fight would be declared a draw. No weigh-ins were required and the fighters wore MMA gloves instead of boxing gloves. Bets collected at ringside amassed a whopping 5 million Baht (170,000 USD). All of this for a 'no-rules' fight.
It all started about a month ago when Sia Bo and Gong, two small time gangsters in competing neighbourhood's got into an argument on Facebook. As opposed to taking the fight to the streets they decided to make it official. Training approximately 10 days a side, the fight was booked for Ruamkonbpaetrew promotion at Lumpini Stadium. That's right, you heard correctly. Two small time gangsters weren't going to lace up, but instead don fingerless gloves for a one round brawl at one of Thailand's most prestigious stadiums.
As of late, crazy match-ups like this, do happen. Back in August two chicken-fighting-mafiosos decided to settle a score on national TV, but the fight was held at a smaller stadium. It still created a lot of hype in the Muay Thai community but didn't have the same draw as the gangsters.
Big time Lumpini promoters, Boat Petchyindee, and Numnoi Singpathong both had their reservations about the fight, feeling that it was a joke and had no place in a ring so sacred. Their sentiment was shared throughout the Muay Thai community, but not enough to put a stop to such a spectacle for it seems the fight had just as any many supporters as it did naysayers. The fighters, Sia Bo and Gong had a lot to say and felt overall they were setting a good example for young children. In an interview for ThaiRat TV,
"We're showing young kids that it's not ok to fight on the streets, and we're bringing a lot of attention to the sport of Muay Thai. Win or draw we are still going to be donating money to a local charity that helps out street kids who don't have parents."
Despite its mixed reviews, one thing is for sure: the event made over 1 million Baht in ticket sales. Golden Era Rajadamnern Champion Rotnarong felt he was somewhere in the middle,
"The fight didn't need to happen at Lumpini, it could have been held at a local fight ring instead. But you know, they made a lot of money. So when you have a sell out crowd, what can you say about that? And they donated money to charity, so it's all good."
So was this it? A fight for charity? Yes, and no. It was evident during their wai kru, that the animosity between these two thugs was legit. As they tried to seal the ring and pay respects to their teachers, they were simultaneously pushing each other around. Sia Bo even made a disrespectful remark in Gong's corner, something never seen in Muay Thai, especially at a place so profane as Lumpini Stadium. The fight itself was fairly lacklustre. Sia Bo's inexperience showed, as he tried to choke out his opponent to no avail. Gong's ring time however was evident as he moved, kicked, and out scored his overweight opponent, but four minutes wasn't enough to inflict any real damage. 5 million Baht, 4 minutes, a lucky shot was all that was needed to settle the deal. Sia Bo was visually gassed two minutes in, desperately trying to hold the ropes to catch his breath. The referee, requiring more effort than usual, pulled the fighters back to the center of the ring, and then it happened…Sia Bo went down. Not because of an attack by Gong, instead he went down on his own accord via exhaustion. It appears that 10 days of training with Muay Thai elite like Phrayak Samui wasn't enough to wash away the damage of smoking two packs a day since he was a kid. Then the bell went, and Gong thought he won, the crowd thought he won. But this was Lumpini Stadium, where you can't be saved by the bell. The referee started to count and Sia Bo confused and disoriented figured out that he had to stand up, so he did. And that was it, the fight was declared a draw.
Gong and Sia Bo went from small time soi mafia to Muay Thai fighters in a brief instant of mutual respect. The bad blood was gone as both men embraced and paid respect to each other after the fight. So, was this Muay Thai? A sport that could unite these two thugs and wash away the enmity that had accumulated over the last month?
Leading up to the fight, social media exploded. News of the fight was picked up by multiple Thai media outlets, with the official announcement even being aired live on Channel NBT. The actual fight wasn't aired on national TV, but instead streamed live on multiple Facebook accounts. One of those live streams, Champ Muay Thai, had nearly 300,0000 viewers. Despise the many reservations about the fight, it can't be denied; this generation of Muay Thai fighters in Thailand just isn't producing the same draw that the young gangsters did. But what new spectators to the sport learnt is that Muay Thai is the real deal. The training required to make it through five rounds borders on sadistic, and the fighters that regularly compete at major stadiums like LumpinI are at a whole other level. But, let's not forget about the kids. Despite not actually making any money, Sia Bo and Gong personally went and donated 300,000 Baht (10,000 USD) to a local charity for orphaned street kids. So for a day, each was a gangster with a heart of gold.