Carly and I enjoyed a night at the Patong Muay Thai Boxing Stadium on Thursday night.  There were 8 bouts in all and it was a great cultural experience as well as a chance to see 16 guys grapple, punch, elbow, kick and knee each other into submission.

Our ticket price of 1500 baht ($50) included hotel pick-up and return, ring-side seats and free T-shirts.  That’s if you call a one size only, luminescent yellow singlet, covered in advertising for their stadium, a T-shirt.  I’m gonna need to bulk up!  Half a dozen others were in our mini-van for the ride and we arrived at the stadium well before the 9 o’clock start.

All 8 bouts were entertaining.  It was an international fight card featuring mainly Thais but an Aussie and a couple of French guys thrown in for good measure.

They do a good job hyping up the Muay Thai.  A truck travels around town blaring out announcements over the loud speakers and featuring a bunch of fighters on top of the truck.  At the stadium they give a good English introduction and show the action as well as feature videos on the big screen.  Snacks and drinks are available and bookies take bets on ‘Blue’ corner or ‘Red’ corner.

To my untrained eye, Blue corner won most of the fights, but Red was given most fights by the judges. With money riding on the fights this led to booing on one occasion and almost a fight between the Red corner assistants and the referee on another.  A second referee had to intervene to prevent a real fight.  Although unlike the wrestling, these fights were real too, featuring real blood and real pain.

The pre-match rituals were entertaining.  They did bows, special exercises and various grovels in each corner of the ring.  Throughout the fights there was Thai musical accompaniment featuring drumming, bell-ringing and a mystery whiney sounding instrument.  I am not sure if this added much but we became oblivious after a while.

The Thai fighters were enthusiastic and respectful in their fighting.  The foreigners seemed a bit more gung-ho.  One of the Frenchmen was punished by his Thai opponent for 2 rounds before conceding.  He eventually hobbled off sheepishly with his ‘Fight Factory’ entourage in tow. He was kicked mercilessly in the thighs and the calves, was toppled on to his back and was begging for mercy after only 6 minutes of action.

The other Frenchman, in his first professional fight, was brutal against the Aussie, just about knocking him senseless in the first round before knocking him out late in the 2nd.  All of the all-Thai fights went the full distance of 5 rounds, with lots of kneeing to the stomach region.

It was funny seeing the referees intervening, grabbing the fighters in the crotch to check their protective equipment and wiping down both fighters with the same towel: plenty of blood and sweat and perhaps a few tears!  One referee even pulled up a fighter’s pants at one stage during a fight.  It’s OK to beat the crap out of someone but you can’t have a bit of bum crack showing!

We were treated to two and a half hours of entertainment before we piled back into our mini-van for the drop-off back at our hotels.  Everybody on board agreed it had been a fun night.