The Cinderella SportMuaythai Goes Elite

After years of living in the shadows of Thai people’s minds, muaythai in Thailand finally put on its glass slippers and went to the ball last Saturday as the sport threw off its raggedy image at the Grand Opening of the Thailand vs Challenger Series in Bangkok’s Royal Paragon Hall on January 16th.

Sanctioned by the World Muaythai Council (WMC) and supported by the legendary Songchai Ratansuban, the Thailand vs Challenger (TVC) Series is Elite Boxing’s flagship creation in its bid to take muaythai to the next level and attract a whole new generation of fans to the sport by combining the best international muaythai fights with quality entertainment at luxury venues across Thailand.

Although the concept has worked well in the West, there were mixed feelings about whether the sport could shake off its deep-rooted image amongst Thais of being a sport watched by gambling tuk-tuk drivers in run-down, sweaty venues.

With FashionTV providing both the lounge bar at the TVC Grand Opening and the after party venue at their new FBar, and with popular all-round local celebrity Piyawat Khempetch (PK) together with Miss Thailand World 2009 runner-up Carla (Nathida) Porter acting as hosts, Elite Boxing pulled out all the stops in their efforts to raise the profile of muaythai and make it fashionable amongst Bangkok’s rich, famous and trendy.

Their efforts were rewarded with a sold-out crowd of both foreigners and Thais that included such celebrities as Sonia Cooling, (Tui) Teerapat Sajakul, Namcha Sheranut Yusananda, (Beam) Saranyu Prachakit and Michael Pupartcame.

One and all were treated to a full evening of entertainment that kicked off with a live performance by Thai hip-hop superstars Thaitanium performing the song they wrote as the TVC anthem, Defending National Pride. Further entertainment was provided by muay boran (ancient muaythai) demonstrations, a martial arts show, and a Chinese dragon dance.

And while the traditional wong pee muay musicians played during the fights – at one time even breaking into an amusing rendition of Jingle Bells – DJ Charly Templar ensured the tempo was kept high between rounds and fights.

And then there was the muaythai. After an opening ceremony presided over by no lesser figure than His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya, Privy Councillor of His Majesty the King of Thailand and Honorary President of the WMC, new converts and connoisseurs alike were treated to some world class action from the heavy card of 7 fights.

While the evening started badly for the hosts as Malaysian superstar Ali Yakuub beat his Thai opponent in the opening bout, it was to be Thailand’s night. Kaoklai Kaennorasing, Madsue Tum, Nopparat Kiatamtorn and Nonsai Sor. Sanyakorn all scoring victories over Erik Kosztanko (Germany), Robbie Filiponi (Australia), Antoine Pinto (France) and crowd favourite Dzabhar Askerov (Russia) respectively.

Zaza Sor. Aree beat Ploysuay in the all-Thai female bout while the evening ended with a bang when Russia’s super heavyweight Ramazan Ramazanov knocked out his hefty Brazilian opponent Eduardo in the last match of what was a very successful event.

“Overall,” explained Elite Boxing’s founder Toli Makris, “I’m delighted with the way things went tonight. What we’re trying to do here is create something very special and we know it’s going to take time to achieve our goals and get everything right,” he continued.

Referring to the success of the Grand Opening but with one eye clearly on the future Toli told us, “This was a good start and it’s pleasing to see the support that we got here tonight from both Thais and foreigners. But we’re already gearing up to round two in March, and for that, we want to really take it to the next level”.