The big news out of Thailand, of course, is the bloodless coup that took place in the early morning hours of September 20th. For the eighteenth time since WWII, the Thai government has been overthrown, this time by the “Political Reform Council for Democracy.”

“We have two weeks. After two weeks, we step out,” stated General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the head of Thailand’s army and temporary leader.

When the tanks began rolling through the city just after midnight, I was still awake. My initial reaction to news of the coup was not one of shock or disbelief but “Hey, why’s the cable out?” CNN, the BBC and all but the Thai channels were cut. Archived footage of the King was run for the next few hours on the Thai stations but I was still able to access the internet. A few hours later, that was cut as well.

Through it all, most Thai’s have been going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened – and why not? After all, their ousted Prime Minister, Taksin Shinawatra, is grocery shopping in London, so why should they be overly concerned?

* * *

More often than not I’m slightly disgusted with the boxing scene here, but I have to admit that when I heard of the coup, I did catch myself thinking, “I wonder if any fights are going to be cancelled.” Go figure.

None have been so far.

Thailand is a country with far too many perks to list – but when it comes to boxing, it’s sorely lacking. Sure, there is boxing and Muay Thai on TV every few days, spectators normally don’t pay to attend the fights (boxing at least) and there is no PPV to speak of. Sounds like a fight fan’s dream, doesn’t it?

At times it is but these times are few and far between. Instead, boxing in Thailand (and elsewhere) is full of mismatches, questionable decisions, ludicrous rankings and boxing commissions that aren’t really commissions. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and rarely are any substantial changes made.

Ask a casual boxing fan what they think about the current state of boxing and their response will inevitably head down the same road; boxing is corrupt, boxing is full of fights that shouldn’t take place and there’s far too many champions to keep track of. Fights that once were on regular TV then moved to ESPN and the USA Network and now are Pay-Per-View events running $40-$50 a pop. Sure, people bitch and moan about it but in the end they usually respond uniformly, “This is boxing.”

Yes, this is boxing. How boxing is and how it should be are so far apart though, it’s no wonder people respond the way they do. A close friend of mine, an avid boxing fan for 25 plus years now chooses only to watch boxing if it’s free. When I ask him what he thinks about boxing in Thailand he just laughs – to him it’s a joke – and to me as well. But I have a hard time giving up a sport I’ve grown up with and I’m a glutton for punishment. So I trudge along, waiting for the next good fight or interview – the one that makes it worthwhile and I, like all the other boxing fans, take it on the chin.    

Sirimongkol Singwancha (54-2, 32 KOs) vs. Lito Gonzaga (24-23-1, 8 KOs)

On the undercard of the WBC’s Jr. Flyweight Interim title fight between Wandee Singwancha and Juanito Rubillar in July of this year, WBC #2 ranked Sirimongkol Singwancha (54-2, 32 KOs) of Thailand faced overmatched Filipino fighter Lito Gonzaga. Not only had Gonzaga been retired for nearly eight years, he’d lost eleven of his last twelve fights, five out of the last six by KO. Gonzaga began his fighting career at super flyweight and ended it at featherweight. Even in his best days it’s doubtful he would have been able to last the distance with Sirimongkol and entering the ring at a blubbery 140 lbs. made winning all the more impossible.

Pre-determined winner – Sirimongkol Singwancha.
Actual winner (as if it were any surprise) – Sirimongkol Singwancha via TKO at 1:14 of round three.

The talented Mr. Gonzaga was little more than a punching bag with a pulse and fortunately he was quickly taken out of his misery before he could be seriously hurt.

The Games and Amusement Board (GAB) of the Philippines have rules set in place to prevent mismatches like these but Gonzaga, his team and the Thai matchmaker and promoter all ignored them. Before any fighter from the Philippines leaves to fight abroad they must first be medically cleared and given permission to fight by the Games and Amusement Board. GAB has the policy in place to prevent ill-prepared fighters from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous promoters and from suffering serious injuries but if a fighter ignores the rules, their effort is for naught. Gonzaga did not go to the Games and Amusement Board and according to one GAB official, after being out of the ring for close to eight years, there is no way Gonzaga would be cleared to fight Singwancha.

Thai matchmakers and promoters are well aware visiting Filipino fighters must have clearance from GAB but are unwilling and apathetic to check fighters brought in as opponents.

Surprise, surprise.

Oh and did I mention Sirimongkol Singwancha was not permitted to fight in the US against Chikashi Inada? This was two months before his fight with Gonzaga. The California State Athletic Commission refused to allow him to fight because he tested positive for hepatitis.

In Thailand, however, there is no policy in place on fighting with an infectious disease. Honestly, nothing here ever surprises me anymore.

The Positives

I’ll take quality over quantity any day and while quality fights in Thailand are rare, October and November have a couple of fights worth watching.

October 4 – WBA Super Bantamweight champion Somsak Sithchatchawal takes on Cellestino Caballero in a bout that at the very least should be shown on ESPN or Showtime. Guess what, it’s won’t be. It will, however, be televised on Thai TV, Channel 7. For some reason the bout takes place in Korat, also known as Nakorn Ratchisima, 250 kilometers from Bangkok. Sithchatchawal is making the first defense of the title he won in a slugfest against Mahyar Monshipour and his first defense is not cakewalk.

Caballero has defeated Daniel Ponce De Leon, Yober Ortega and Giovanni Andrade and is a lanky southpaw with good skills. Sithchatchawal displayed his mettle against Monshipour but whether or not he can take out Caballero or beat him via decision is debatable. Monshipour was the Thai’s biggest win and other than this, he’s faced the usual round of lousy opposition faced by Thais at his weight. I’ll go with the Thai since he’s at home but anything can happen and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Caballero pull off the upset.

November 17 – For the first time in three years Wonjongkam makes a mandatory defense of his WBC title against Monelisi Myekeni when the two meet in Nakorn Ratchisima, Thailand. Myekeni is his biggest threat since Hussy Hussein but the light-hitting South African will be hard-pressed to wrest the title from Wonjongkam.

To those who know boxing, the name Pongsaklek Wonjongkam symbolizes the fragmented state of boxing and unwillingness of champions to face one another. Wonjongkam claims he has only fought in Southeast Asia to appease the King of Thailand but boxing fans expect champions to fight top-notch fighters, not stiffs. Fighting one chump after another might be acceptable in Thailand but the boxing community is on to him and is well aware of the truth.

Wonjongkam’s more adept at avoiding worthy opposition than Willie Pep was at making fighters miss and while Myekeni is a worthy challenger, the Thai still needs to prove he is deserving of being called champion. He should get past Myekeni but then what, more superfights against Filipino trike drivers and Mexicans on the slide?

Time to step up to the plate and face Vic Darchinyan…

Thai Tidbits

On September 22nd, 1960, Pone Kingpetch knocked out Pascual Perez in round eight to retain his World Flyweight Title. The victory came just five months after Kingpetch wrested the title from Perez via fifteen round split decision at Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Fight Results

September 9th, 2006 – Jakarta, Indonesia
Chris John UD12 Renan Acosta

September 15th, 2006 – Chumporn, Thailand
Terdsak Jandaeng KO1 Abi Metiaman
Nethra Sasiprapa UD6 Alwi Alhabsy
Duangpetch Saengmorakot UD6 Refly Rengkung

September 16th, 2006 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Hiroyuki Enoki UD12 Nedal Hussein

September 17th, 2006 – Yokohama, Japan
Cristian Mijares SD12 Katsushige Kawashima

Katsushige Kawashima announces retirement after bout.