Thai Boxing in Phuket

Muay Thai at Patong Boxing Stadium

Basically, there are two types of Thai boxing in Patong: the staged stuff and the real McCoy. For the real article look no further than Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road.

Talk about an atmosphere. The stadium is filling up with macho-looking types with their Thai girlfriends, middle-aged, broad-shouldered Thai guys and a large contingent of Muslims from neighbouring province Phang Nga, there to cheer on their relatives.

Surrounding the ring are the more expensive seats and further out are blue-painted bleachers providing a bird's eye view of the proceedings.

The stadium's buzzing with fight talk and a video on the large screen is explaining the history of Muay Thai – Thai boxing. Dubbed 'The Art of the Eight Limbs', the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art, although if you're on the receiving end of such a body arsenal you probably won't think of it much as art. 

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The first fight is between two youngsters from Phang Nga and it really hots up in the last round when there's all to go for. But the fickle crowd wants hardcore action and they certainly get it in the next bout between a reputable red-trunked teenager and a not-very-fierce-looking guy in blue trunks.

Despite his killer reputation and in spite of mauling blue trunks for two rounds, red trunks gets knocked out cold in the third.

This is the inherent attraction of Patong Boxing Stadium – there's no pretense and the fighters have everything to box for – from a few thousand baht a match to over a million baht for a stab at a national title. 

And yes, there's a lot of money invested in a genuine bout. During the third match, a man casually walks past asking if punters want to bet on the outcome.

He's not aggressive, just suggestive but as gambling is technically illegal in Thailand I refrain and it's a good job I do as my red trunks choice has his eyebrow opened by an elbow jab seconds later and then thuds to the canvas, out stone cold by a follow up punch. 

Five, three-minute rounds make up a Muay Thai bout with three scorers and a referee. It's rare for boxers to show much emotion and even if they win decisively or wake up on the floor with the referee yelling at them they display little or no elation or disappointment.

The stadium itself seats 350 people and is well ventilated by big wall fans. There's a bar to one side with a large range of beers and a concession selling popcorn and French fries. On the wall is a screen showing the fight in progress and expert English-language commentary comes over the stadium's PA system as fights proceed.

The fighters themselves are not uniquely Thai as many foreigners come to train here and are often successful against native combatants but for sheer elegance and artistry you cannot beat two Thai top fighters in the ring. It's been quite a night: four out of the seven fights came to an abrupt end with KO's and the sheer physicality of it all has been impressive to say the very least. 

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