Record: 51-2-2, 36 KOs
Rankings: WBC #1, IBF #6, WBO #14
Real name: Teerapol Samranklang
Date of Birth: Novemer 16, 1968
Birthplace: Nakornrachisima (Korat), Thailand
Titles: WBC International Super Flyweight, WBA Bantamweight (1995-1996), WBC Bantamweight (1998-2005)
For the majority of Veeraphol Sahaprom’s boxing career, he’s been a winner and a champion. Sahaprom held the WBC bantamweight title for seven, long years, reeling off forty-three straight wins without a loss. All good things must come to an end though. In April of last year, Sahaprom traveled to Japan to defend his title and was surprisingly defeated by the light-hitting and unheralded Hozumi Hasegawa.
On March 25th, Sahaprom travels to Japan once again, this time to try and regain the title he lost to Hasegawa. The Sweet Science spent the afternoon with Sahaprom; first photographing his training regiment and then talking about his long career and upcoming fight with Hasegawa. The entire interview was done in Thai as Sahaprom speaks no English.
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TSS: Thanks for speaking with me and allowing me into your gym.
Veeraphol Sahaprom: No problem.
TSS: Like most Thai fighters, you first fought in Muay Thai. How old were you when you had your first Muay Thai fight and why did you decide to fight?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I was ten years old. My family needed the money and I was a pretty good fighter so I decided to try and make some money to help out.
TSS: Most boxing fans aren’t aware that you were actually quite accomplished in the sport of Muay Thai.
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Well, I won many championships.
TSS: How many Muay Thai fights did you have before making the switch to boxing?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I had somewhere around 180 fights. I won 150, lost 30 and had 30 KOs.
TSS: So after a long and successful career in Muay Thai, what made you change to boxing? Was it the lack of money in Muay Thai?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: No, it really wasn’t about money. I fought everyone who was anyone in Muay Thai and had nothing left to prove.
TSS: So you ran out of people to fight?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I ran out of challenges. I won the Rajdamnern stadium championship three times and felt I had done all I could do in Muay Thai so boxing was a new challenge.
(Rajdamnern and Lumpini stadiums are the two main stadiums in Thailand. Winning a title at one of these stadiums is considered a major achievement)
TSS: You were 29 years old when you started your boxing career. That’s quite old to start a career in boxing don’t you think?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I’m 37 years old now and still don’t feel old.
TSS: On March 25 you get your rematch against Hasegawa. Have you been in training?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I’m always in training.
TSS: How’s the training going?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I train the same way every day and everything is good. In Thailand we do not train the same as boxers in some other parts of the world. In America, for instance, fighters train six to eight weeks before they fight. We train six days a week, all year round and rarely change this routine.
TSS: Before the Hasegawa rematch was confirmed, you had been scheduled to fight on Feb. 17th. Has this changed or is this fight still on? Who is your opponent?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Nothing has changed. The fight is a warm-up (tune-up) for the Hasegawa fight. All I know is my opponent is from Africa and the fight will be six rounds. It’s just to stay busy.
TSS: You fight at 118, how is your weight now and what is your walking around weight?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Like I said, I train year-round so I don’t gain much weight. If I do, the most I’ll gain is 4-5 kilos.
TSS: Any injuries?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Truthfully, the only time I have injuries is after a tough fight. Usually I’m ok a few days afterwards though.
TSS: You’ve fought over fifty times in boxing. Who was your toughest opponent?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Nana Kanadu and Adan Vargas were both strong. Kanadu was very experienced when I fought him and I was not. It was only my fifth fight in boxing when I fought him. Vargas hit hard and was a tough fighter.
TSS: Who hit the hardest?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Nana Kanadu and also Ricardo Barajas. When Kanadu knocked me out I didn’t know what happened. I thought I had him beat and he surprised me. If I had fought him later in my career I might not have made the mistakes I made. I learned to be more cautious from that fight.
TSS: Ok, let’s talk about the Hasegawa. How many days will you be in Japan before the fight?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I think five days before the fight. I don’t want to be in Japan for long. I don’t like the air.
TSS: Were you surprised Hasegawa defeated you?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Yes, very much so. I didn’t think he had much of a chance of beating me.
TSS: So what happened and what do you now think about Hasegawa? How do you feel about fighting him again and what are his strengths and weaknesses?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I took him lightly and wasn’t at my best physically or mentally. I’m sure I will beat him this time. He is quick and has good basic skill but he doesn’t have a very hard punch.
(Sahaprom’s trainer Monsawan Laemfapah chimes in, “Veeraphol will be champion again on March 25. Sure. I’m very sure he will beat Hasegawa.”)
TSS: Do you think Hasegawa believes since he beat you once he can beat you again or do you think he is going to give you respect?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I think he is scared. He knows I wasn’t at my best the first fight and now he has to fight me again. He should be worried.
TSS: If you lose to Hasegawa, will you retire?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Probably.
TSS: How much longer do you plan on fighting if you win?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: As long as my body feels good. If I start to have problems recuperating from my fights, then I’ll know it’s time to retire. Right now though, my body feels good and I’m not ready to stop fighting.
TSS: What do you plan on doing once you do retire?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I’m not sure yet. Maybe open a restaurant back home.
TSS: If you could say anything to Hozumi Hasegawa, what would it be?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Be ready for me because I will be much better than I was in our first fight! Be ready!
TSS: If you win, is there anyone in particular you would like to fight?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Marquez…Rafael Marquez.
TSS: Where do you think you belong among the best Thai fighters of all-time?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: I think somewhere in the top ten.
(Sahaprom smiled when I showed him my own list. I have him ranked number three or four, behind Khaosai Galaxy, his own favorite Pone Kingpetch, and possibly Chatchai Sasakul or Sot Chitlada.)
TSS: Who do you think deserves the number one spot?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Khaosai Galaxy, definitely, but my favorite Thai fighter of all time is Pone Kingpetch.
TSS: Who is your favorite non-Thai fighter who is still active?
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Oscar De La Hoya.
TSS: Oscar De La Hoya?! Is he even fighting anymore? He does everything but fight nowadays!
Veeraphol Sahaprom: When he fights though, I like his technique, I like his style.
TSS: Well it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me and good luck against Hasegawa on March 25th!
Veeraphol Sahaprom: Thank you
Interesting facts about Veeraphol Sahaprom
Fought former undefeated, WBF champion Samson Dutchboygym (Kratingdaenggym) twice in Muay Thai. In the first bout he was knocked out in two rounds. In the rematch, he knocked out Dutchboygym out in the second round.
Unlike most gyms in Thailand which are outside, the Nakornluang gym where Sahaprom trains is inside, above a movie theatre.
Sahaprom, his wife and two children live at the gym / movie theatre year-round as do many of the other Nakornluang fighters. His wife runs a nearby restaurant during the day.