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I have been fortunate enough to receive generous support from some of the biggest ambassadors in combat sports. This little clip from Buakaw is truly one of my most treasured testimonials, all because of who he is and what he’s done.
Most of you already know of Buakaw from his achievements in K-1, but I’d like to take a bit of time to elaborate on why he’s so great. In contrast with what many people think, Buakaw was not the best Muay Thai fighter. He did fight for the prestigious Lumpinee Stadium title but fell short. In fact, the best fighter during that time may have been his camp senior and mentor, Namsaknoi, who reigned at the top for six years.
Prior to his entry in the 2004 K-1 MAX tournament, Buakaw was an elite fighter and had meaningful wins and titles, but he was not part of the cream of the crop within the elites. He was apparently not even an original pick for the K-1 tournament, but a replacement due to injury.
However, when he reached the tournament, Buakaw split decisioned the legendary western Muay Thai champion John Wayne Parr in the quarter-finals and then angrily embarrassed the Japanese champion Takayuki Kohiruimaki in the semi-finals.
In the finals, he was to face megastar Masato, the greatest Japanese kickboxer of all time and the previous K-1 MAX tournament champion. Buakaw would dominate the fight using traditional Muay Thai techniques, but the judges somehow let it go an extra round. Once again, Buakaw was dominant and became the first Thai to win the prestigious K-1 MAX title. Unfair rules and unfavourable judging didn’t matter: it was his destiny. Buakaw became an instant superstar.
From there on out, he no longer fought Thais (with exception of Jomhod), but won bouts against nearly all of the top international kickboxers. Huge names such as Andy Souwer, Mike Zambidis, and Nieky Holtzken. In terms of Muay Thai, he faced and beat Kozo Takeda (former Rajadamnern Champion) and Jean Charles Skarbowsky (formerly #1 Rajadamnern) and John Wayne Parr again for good measure.
But all of this fame and glory resulted in a tragedy: he was unfairly treated by his gym’s owner and was not given his promised dues as a fighter, leaving him without his fight purses. When he tried to leave the gym and continue fighting, he was threatened with litigation and barred from fighting, nearly forcing him into retirement!
But like any hero would, he persevered through his legal struggles and through his nearly career ending injuries. From there, the Banchamek gym was born – a gym building top Thai fighters from the impoverished regions of Isaan.
Buakaw shined a light onto Muay Thai at a time when the sport was on its last legs. At a time when gamblers had gained overbearing prominence in the sport, and stadium attendances dwindling, Buakaw was an essential catalyst for the new age of big Muay Thai organizations such as Thai Fight, Max Muay Thai, and now Super Muay Thai.
His exposure and story has brought an entire sport to new heights in a time when someone like him was needed. Now, he is without a doubt the most famous Muay Thai fighter to ever live; in Thailand, he can’t go anywhere without being overwhelmed with adoration. So many around the world train Muay Thai because of him; this is why he is such an inspiration and my hero.
Buakaw’s story is a huge part of why I wanted to start featuring the amazing athletes and coaches of combat sports. Thanks to you guys, I’ve been able to continue this endeavor, and I’m constantly working hard to help feature these amazing people. I spent a significant portion of my year writing a book, the stories of which frame an elite fighter and the camp from which he hails.
If you have supported my work in the past, give this book a chance. www.StrikingTechniques.com