Bangkok is one of the best cities in the world. It is known for many things: some beautiful and artistic, while some are dubious and downright nasty. That’s the thing that’s cool about Bangkok-it has something for everyone. One thing Bangkok offers is Muay Thai Boxing. So on my last night in Asia, thanks to the fine people at the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok, I got a ringside seat to the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium and checked out several Muay Thai matches.
The Rajadamnern Stadium is an indoor arena and along with Lumpinee Stadium, make up the two venues where famous Muay Thai fights are held in Bangkok. Fights are held at Rajadamnern Stadium Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Fights start around 6:30pm and go until about 10pm or so. There are usually 9 fights and they go a maximum of 5 rounds. Rocky Marciano once guest refereed a title fight here in 1969.
Tourists usually buy ringside seats. They cost 2000 Baht or about $60. The locals and the gamblers sit or stand in the second and third tiers and can get pretty rowdy.
Gambling on Boxing is legal in Bangkok and the gamblers do their gambling by hand signals like you’d see in a stock market. It is pretty cool to watch. However, these signals are often misunderstood and I was told that more fights break out in the stands and outside because of these misinterpretations.
Muay Thai itself is a martial art and combat sport that uses stand up striking and various clinching techniques. Forms of Muay Thai are popular with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Champion Anderson Silva.
Muay Thai is known for eight points of contact. Meaning two hands, feet, elbows and knees. It is also known for being a brutal offensive art. People ribs are often broken from repeated knees to the ribcage. It was first used in a western film in the 1989 film ‘Kickboxer’ starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (remember him?)
Being live at the Rajadamnern Stadium was a great experience. Watching how it works is so cool. There are three judges who sit in little boxes (literally) on three different sides of the ring. There are also some guys in the stands who play snake charming music during the fight and only take breaks in between rounds. They also play the same song over and over. It is pretty funny to watch.
Many of the fights that we saw were five round decisions and only one was a knockout. I think they guy actually broke his ribs because he was having a lot of trouble breathing after a vicious knee to the ribcage.
As we had ringside seats, we had a good view of the fight obviously but also a good view of the degenerate gamblers behind us screaming and yelling. I really enjoyed watching them give their hand signals but at times I am pretty sure they may have dictated how some fights went. Like many things in Bangkok, you never really know what’s going on as a foreigner and there’s a lot of shady stuff!
That said, it was a great experience and after more than a dozen times in Bangkok I finally got to the Rajadamnern Stadium. It’s a great and quintessential Bangkok experience. Check it out next time you’re in Thailand!