Yodsaenklai: The Pride Of Muay Thai

Monday, June 16, 2008

The pride of Muay Thai Yodsaenklai Fairtex has made a huge contribution to promoting Muay Thai worldwide after becoming the first winner of Contender Asia.

Yodsaenklai Fairtex became the first champion of the Contender Asia - the world's first Muay Thai reality show - last week. The victory is a huge boost for both the Thai traiditonal martial art and the fighter himself. The show, which was filmed in Singapore for two months, has helped promote Muay Thai worldwide and made Yodsaenklai famous on the international stage.

"Foreigners know me better now," said the 158-pound Yodsaenklai who took the winner's cheque of 5 million baht. The 22-year-old boxer adds the Contender Asia trophy to his collection of titles which include three Lumpini championship belts in 105, 147 and 154 pounds and WBC Muay Thai 154 pound belt. "Joining the Contender Asia was a great experience for me. I can now speak English a bit after staying there for two months," said the fighter who normally speaks Northeastern dialect as he is a native of Nong Bua Lam Phu's Nonsang district.

It was his older brother Yodkangwan, a former Muay Thai fighter, who inspired him to take. Because of his big physique compared to Thai standards, he stands 171cm and weighs 72kg - it is difficult for Yodsaenklai to find a Thai opponent.

"I have not fought a Thai opponent for about one year," he said. "There are few Thais at my weight."But he has turned this obstacle into opportunity. He has fought abroad and also tried K-1. "Taking on foreigners is not that tough, but can be difficult. up the sport. Because their family was so poor, Yodsaenklai had no choice but follow in the footstep of his brother to make a living.

"I took up Muay Thai when I was eight because of my brother and poverty," he said. Yodsaenklai has fought for four camps - Saknipaporn, Sith-Khru-Od, Petchyindee and now Fairtex. His technique is second to none with his powerful hands and elbows his most dangerous weapons. "I can fight them but sometimes the referee does not understand Muay Thai rules,"he said. He says K-1 is difficult for him because the knee and elbow are not allowed. However, the sport is much more lucrative than Muay Thai. He also earns more when he takes on a foreigner in Muay Thai.

The Pattaya-based boxer receives around 85,000 baht per fight against a Thai opponent but gets in the region of US$10,000 (about 320,000 baht) against a foreigner.

With the Contender Asia title under his belt, he believes his handlers can ask for higher fees. His promoter Banjong Busarakamwong agrees. He says his boxer could get up to US$15,000 from his next fight against a Russian opponent in a World Muay Thai Boxing Council (WMC) championship in Sweden.

A fee is split 50-50 between Yodsaenklai and the Fairtex camp (50% goes to Yodsaenklai, 20% to his camp, 20% to his promoter and 10% to his trainer), and the boxer himself is satisfied with the share. "It is not a problem for me because I stay at the camp for free," he said. After all, each fight fee is huge compared to a mere 20 baht he received from his first fight at a temple fair in Ban Na Dee in his hometown.

Yodsaenklai has fought 213 fights with a record of 163-44-6 (45KOs). He plans to box for another seven years. By that time, he will be 29 which may be too old for the sport.

Understandably, he feels grateful to Muay Thai which has given him and his family a better life. He has given most of his prize money to his mother who has lived in Bangkok since she divorced his father many years ago. With the Contender Asia crown, his life will certainly become better.