He’s gone by many names – Chatchai Dutchboy Gym, Chatchai Krating Daeng Gym and now Chatchai Singwancha. He defeated Russian-born, Japanese-based fighter Yuri Arbachakov in 1995 handing him the only loss of his career, he’s fought in the Olympics and he is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest boxers to ever come out of Thailand.
We met late in the evening, at the outdoor restaurant of the former champion, World Champion Chatchai Sasakul’s Korean BBQ or as it’s more commonly known, Champion of the World. When not training and fighting, he’s working in his restaurant, singing at the karaoke bar and greeting and speaking with the customers, much like Khaosai Galaxy does in his own nearby restaurant. There are musicians, comedians and all sorts of guests who help lend atmosphere to the place. It’s a fun place, with lots of banter between the patrons and those on stage.
TSS: Like most boxers from Thailand, you started off fighting in Muay Thai. How old were you?
Chatchai Sasakul: I started in Muay Thai when I was seven years old and I was fifteen or sixteen when I started boxing. Fighting is something I’ve done all my life.
TSS: How many fights did you have in Muay Thai and did you win any championships?
Chatchai Sasakul: I had more than a hundred fights, I don’t remember exactly, and I won around eighty of them. I didn’t win any big championships like Lumpini or Rajdamnern though.
TSS: So what made you decide to stop fighting in Muay Thai and begin boxing?
Chatchai Sasakul: We had a boxing tournament in school. I was the champion of my school. I kept boxing and ended up being the champion of all the Thai high schools in my level. Later I competed in the Asian Games and SEA Games and also the 1988 Olympics. I got to the quarterfinals in the Olympics.
TSS: Ahhh…in Korea, Roy Jones.
Chatchai Sasakul: Yes, Roy Jones, I remember. I also was in a fight most people thought I very clearly had won. I lost to a fighter from Hungary. Well, I don’t think anyone there, including the Hungarian fighter, thought I lost. It was given to him and taken away from me. That year there were many bad decisions and many problems with the judges. Communists.
Chatchai Sasakul (shaking his head): Many communist countries won because of bad judging.
TSS: You defeated Yuri Arbachakov to win the 112-pound belt and retired him. Was that your proudest moment in your boxing career?
Chatchai Sasakul: It was, yes. I didn’t retire him though, his wife did! He beat me in our first fight, and then I beat him. He wanted a rematch but I guess he made a promise to his wife so he retired. His punches were not hard but he had good skill.
TSS: You’ve fought in both boxing and Muay Thai and fought more than 150 times. Who would you rate as the best puncher you’ve faced?
Chatchai Sasakul: Manny Pacquiao!!! One good punch from him and I was out. He has very heavy hands.
TSS: What happened in that fight? You were schooling him until you got caught with a few good shots.
Chatchai Sasakul: I lost my focus I guess and he took advantage of it. I don’t remember much about that fight (laughing)! Actually, I trained for ten days for the Pacquiao fight. Normally I train two months for a fight. I was having problems with my girlfriend and we were in the middle of a break-up. I let it affect my training. But Pacquaio is a very, very good fighter. He was quick and very strong.
TSS: After you lost the title to Pacquiao, you were supposed to fight the then undefeated Alex Baba in a title eliminator. At the last minute the fight was cancelled though. Tell me about this.
Chatchai Sasakul: The fight was in America, in Florida. I was getting ready for the fight, having my hands wrapped. Someone comes in and says I can’t fight. When they checked my blood the found I had a problem, Hepatitis B. I didn’t know I had it.
TSS: So not fighting the fight with Baba cost you a shot at the title.
Chatchai Sasakul: Yes.
TSS: So how are you now?
Chatchai Sasakul: I’m fine. I don’t feel sick. I don’t drink or smoke and I take good care of myself.
TSS: In 2000 you stopped fighting and didn’t come back until 2003. What was the reason for your layoff and why did you come back?
Chatchai Sasakul: I got bored with training and fighting. I just grew tired of it. I had become champion and had fought many times in my life. So I took a break.
TSS: It didn’t have anything to do with your finding out you had Hepatitis B?
Chatchai Sasakul: No, not at all. I didn’t get the title shot though and I was a little bored with boxing.
TSS: So I understand Mr. Virat Vajiratanawongse is your manager, but you don’t have a trainer?
Chatchai Sasakul: I have a few trainers in my gym. One person who helps me is a Muay Thai fighter known as Superman (Narong Pholsongkram) here in Thailand. So it’s not like I have no one to train me.
It should be noted – many Thai’s use a variety of pad holders. These pad holders are in effect their trainer. There may be one elderly trainer in the gym who gives pointers, but for the most part the pad holder is the trainer.
TSS: The last time you fought, you lost a close decision to Kuniyuki Aizawa. What happened? He was a prospect and was relatively inexperienced compared to you. Why do you think you lost?
Chatchai Sasakul: The fight with Aizawa was not a big fight. I’m getting old and really, I only want to fight for big money and a world title, or if it’s a fight I need to win to get the title shot.
TSS: If you’re trying to get a shot at the title, you need to win every fight, don’t you.
Chatchai Sasakul: I should have won the fight. I got tired at the end of the fight. I’m getting too old to fight. In the past, I never got tired.
TSS: So are you going to fight again? What could make you train hard again?
Chatchai Sasakul: I have a fight scheduled for next month. I don’t know who I’ll fight though.
TSS: So are you training now and if you could choose one person to fight, who would it be?
Chatchai Sasakul: Yes, I’m training now, running every morning and at the gym in the afternoons. I’d like to fight Tokuyama (Masamori Tokuyama – WBC Super Flyweight Champion). I have seen him fight and I think I can beat him. He doesn’t scare me at all and I would beat him.
TSS: Who is your favorite fighter of all-time?
Chatchai Sasakul: Sugar Ray Leonard. He was very fast, very smooth. I would like to fight like him.
TSS: And favorite Thai fighter?
Chatchai Sasakul: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. He has so much skill.
TSS: Yes, he’s very skilled…but many fans are disappointed he hasn’t fought Jorge Arce. Why not?
Chatchai Sasakul: He wants to be in the Hall of Fame.
TSS: So he doesn’t want to fight him because he doesn’t want to take a chance on losing to Arce?
Chatchai Sasakul: If Arce fights him in Thailand, maybe Pongsaklek will beat him. If they fight outside Thailand, it will be more difficult for Pongsaklek to win. Fighting outside Thailand is always hard for Thais.
TSS: I think if he can beat someone like Arce, or Parra or even Alvarez, he’ll rate higher on the list of great fighters from Thailand.
Chatchai Sasakul: Yes, definitely. But those are difficult fights for him and difficult to make.
TSS: What do you think about the sport of boxing and the state it’s in?
Chatchai Sasakul: Where? Do you mean in Thailand or in the world?
TSS: Both, worldwide and also Thailand.
Chatchai Sasakul: It’s gone down. Fighters are not as good as they used to be. Before, we had so many champions who worked very, very hard to be champion. Sot Chitlada, Khaosai Galaxy, Samart Payakarun….Now…it’s just not the same.
TSS: Where do you think you rank among the twenty all-time greatest Thai boxers?
Chatchai Sasakul (laughing): Number twenty.
All of his friends quickly chimed in, “number one, number one.”
Chatchai Sasakul: Khaosai is number one, for sure. Khaosai was very strong and had a big punch. I am more of a classic boxer. Everyone likes to see a knockout and Khaosai was good at knocking people out.
TSS: What will you do when your career is over? Any plans?
Chatchai Sasakul: No, no plans. I’ll do the same thing I’m doing now, work here in the restaurant. I like it. I talk to different people every night, I sing a little and make money having fun. It’s a lot of fun here.
TSS: Chatchai, thanks for meeting with me and talking boxing. Good luck in your fight next month.
Chatchai Sasakul: You're welcome. See you at the fight.
Name: Chatchai Sasakul (Singwancha)
Current Record: 55-3-0, 33 KO’s
Gym: Huamark Stadium Gym
Sponsor: Naris Singwancha
Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand
Birthplace: Bangkok, Thailand
Date of Birth: Feb. 5, 1970
Weight: 115 – 118 lbs. (Super Flyweight – Bantamweight)
Manager: Virat Vajiratanawongse
Titles Won: WBC International Flyweight Title, WBC Flyweight World Title, ABCO Bantamweight Title