How Was Your Day … Thai Boxing Champ?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Cheiyb Khad (บเฉียบขาด ป)
It starts with the clucking chickens that roam the streets going bawk bawk bawk as loudly as they can, it seems. Outside, the air is still cool and not yet heavy with heat. I get up from my cot and run 12 kilometers as fast as I can, as I do every day. I jog alongside the mototaxi drivers taking kids to school; sometimes I beat them.The smells of khanom bueang, or tiny Thai crepes, tempt me with their deliciousness as I go by. But when I see Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy, I start sprinting, burning the last of my energy for the final kick. Although I was born in the countryside province of Nong Bua Lamphu, the fighting ring is my true home.
I’ve been living at the muay Thai gym for the past five months, but I’ve been practicing muay Thai since I was 6 years old. I’m 19 now and this is what I live for. I was born with it. My father was a muay Thai fighter too, and he taught me how to swing swift punches and throw strong knee kicks and sharp elbow strikes. My older brother is another role model. He’s a retired muay Thai fighter; by the time he turned 23, he had two championship belts.
They call me the ‘firebolt.’ I have no fear. When I fight, I don’t feel anything.
Muay Thai fighters have to be nimble. Being slow is the greatest weakness. It’s the art of eight limbs; it’s elegant. You strike light, but you hit hard. Your heart has to be in it. You have to understand muay Thai deeply — it’s not all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon stuff. That’s why I train day in and day out, seven days a week, spending six hours a day on jumping rope, pad work, shadowboxing and weights. I count in my head: 300 situps, 400 knee kicks, over and over and over. Neck exercises are the most painful because the weights sit heavy on the neck. I also eat clean, simple food: two meals of fried rice with egg, pork and chicken. I weigh 116 pounds, because the heavier you are, the slower you are.
They call me the “firebolt.” I have no fear. When I fight, I don’t feel anything. Every punch and kick, I throw it back harder. My last match was a victory against my toughest opponent yet. No one thought I would make it past the first round. But I knocked out three guys, bloody faces and all. My battle scars, which I wear with pride, are two huge gashes on my forehead. There’s rarely a fight that doesn’t end in blood, that’s just the name of the game. My trainers apply Tiger Balm on my arms, legs and face every day to help heat up my muscles and reduce the soreness from previous beatings.
I’m looking forward to my next match. It will be televised live and the stakes are high, with a one million baht prize. If I win, I will buy a house for my parents. At times, I miss the quiet, small village that I grew up in. On a tough training day at the gym, I would rather give up the busy city life of Bangkok. But I want to support my family. What motivates me? My mom, my dad and my brother. I will win. I have to win.