It is early evening and getting dark as the car speeds down the highway back towards Bangkok. A cell phone rings repeatedly and Yellow Tiger barks out the same phrase to the callers, “Somsak lost by third round knockout, Somsak lost by third round knockout.” Somsak Sithchatchawal had just been knocked out by Celestino Caballero in a bout that shocked Thai fans and left them wondering how it could happen. It was Yellow Tiger’s job to let them know.
He embarked upon his career as a boxing writer some thirty years ago, ten years before the championship reign of the great Khaosai Galaxy. Now Thailand’s number one boxing journalist, his readers know him only by his nom de plume, Yellow Tiger, and one other distinguishing feature; a lazy left eye that he’s had since birth.
In 1975, Yellow Tiger met and married a go-go dancer in Phuket, Thailand. At the time, he was struggling to make ends meet working as a fisherman. Madly in love, he worked hard to build a life with his new wife; she had other ideas however. After a year of marriage and unrelenting poverty, it became too much for her to bear. One day while Yellow Tiger was out at sea, she packed her bags and left, never again to be seen again. He was devastated.
Not one to let life pass him by, Yellow Tiger quickly decided he was in need of a drastic life change. So he hopped on a fishing truck and headed for Bangkok in search of a new life. He had just 85 baht ($2.25) to his name and was completely alone.
”It was rough at first,” he said. “I was in bad shape. Nobody would give me a job and even the Soi dogs (Street dogs) were scared of me.
He says this without any hint of a smile.
Within a few days though, he landed a job as a janitor at Nonthaburi Boxing Stadium. It was there he nurtured his love for Muay Thai and Boxing into a career. He worked at the stadium for a few years, learning the ins and outs of the sport and making valuable connections. The stadium eventually closed but he used his contacts to find a job as an office boy at the now defunct Boxing and Muay Thai Magazine.
His love for Boxing and Muay Thai pushed him to begin studying the different styles of the writers at the magazine and to give writing a shot. It wasn’t easy; he had only a third grade education and was untrained in the ways of journalism. Not long after being hired, though, he had his first article published and before long he was writing full-time for the magazine.
It was while at the Boxing and Muay Thai Magazine he was given the name most know him by, Yellow Tiger. Malaysians are sometimes referred to as “Tiger People” because of the abundance of tigers in the region. Phuket, where Yellow Tiger hails from, is next to the Malaysian border. Since he was the only southern Thai working at the magazine, his editor, Prateep Buaram, came up with the nickname Yellow Tiger to give the readers a name they could easily remember. It stuck and decades later it’s the name he is known by.
Unlike many of Thailand’s sports writers who refrain from negative comments in fear of reprisal, Yellow Tiger is always eager to speak his mind – especially when it comes to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
”Fans figure the fights are free so they don’t complain about whom boxers from Thailand are fighting,” he said. ”They don’t care as much about the quality of the opponent as much as whether or not the fighter they’re cheering for wins or loses. But they’re smart enough to realize Pongsaklek Wonjongkam hasn’t fought as many quality fighters as Khaosai Galaxy.”
Every week Yellow Tiger bets on the underground Thai lottery. His numbers, 8558, represent a turning point in his life. 85 for the 85 baht he had when he came to Bangkok and 58 because in the past he has won using these numbers. Every week the numbers are the same, 8558.
He is convinced these numbers come up at least once a year.
Yellow Tiger now acts as a Muay Thai consultant for Omnoi Stadium and is the public relations director for Petchyindee Boxing’s Muay Thai division.
He also writes for the Muay Lok (Boxing World) Magazine where he has his own fan club, Chik Song or The Open Envelope. Despite not speaking a word of English, he has traveled the globe covering fights and has met some of the biggest names in boxing.
Not bad for once poverty-stricken fisherman in need of a life change.
News and Notes
Contrary to internet rumors, Veeraphol Sahaprom will not be fighting Rafael Marquez. The Thai intends to try to win either the WBC interim bantamweight title or the IBF interim bantamweight title. Sahaprom will first square off against South African fighter Michael Bayoma on November 10.
* * *
Juanito Rubillar is itching for a rematch against former WBC interim light flyweight champion Wandee Singwancha. According to Filipino boxing writer Ronnie Nathanielz, Rubillar would like to avenge the “controversial loss” he suffered in July of this year.
Newsflash…Rubillar’s loss was not controversial.
Unless Rubillar plans to move up to flyweight, a rematch is not going to happen as Singwancha is seeking a matchup with the WBC’s flyweight poster boy, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. This matchup also looks doubtful, as there is a question of who will promote the bout.
* * *
Thailand’s Yoddamrong Sityodtong (45-5-1, 20 KOs) travels to England to challenge Harry Ramogoadi (15-5-2, 2 KOs) of South Africa. Sityodtong, the former WBA super-bantamweight champion, has dropped his last three bouts and desperately needs a win. Ramogoadi’s last fight was in July 2005 when he stopped Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Jaime Arthur. The two square off December 5 for the WBF super bantamweight title in celebration of the King of Thailand’s birthday.
1910: Walter A. Dipley shoots world Middleweight Champion Stanley Ketchel, 24, to death at a Missouri ranch. Dipley was infuriated when kitchen cook Daisy Johnson spurned his advances, instead opting for Ketchel. Ketchel was shot in the back and died shortly thereafter.
1962: Boxing journalist Scott Mallon is born in Coral Gables, Florida. It’s been all downhill since.
1978: Yoko Gushiken knocks out Sang Il Chung in five rounds to retain his WBA Junior Flyweight Title in Tokyo, Japan.
October 31, 2006 – Chaiyaphum, Thailand
Somchai Nakbalee vs. Fernando Montilla
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai vs. Sataporn Singwangcha
November 7, 2006 – Grand Cube, Osaka, Japan
Katsunari Takayama vs.Carlos Melo
WBA Interim Minimumweight Title
November 10, 2006 – MCC Hall, The Mall Bang Khae, Bangkok, Thailand
Devid Lookmahanak vs. Marvin Tampus
Veeraphol Sahaprom vs. Michael Bayoma
Napapol Kiatisakchokchai vs. Thomas Mashaba
Thong Por Chokchai vs. Obote Ameme
November 13, 2006 – Nihon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
Hozumi Hasegawa vs. Genaro Garcia
WBC Bantamweight Title
Eagle Kyowa vs. Lorenzo Trejo
WBC Minimumweight Title
November 17, 2006 – Korat, Thailand
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam vs. Monelisi Mhikiza Myekeni
WBC Flyweight Title
November 25, 2006 – Suntec Intnl. Convention Centre, Singapore
Solomon Egberime vs. Dondon Sultan
Emmett Gazzard vs. Thongcharoen Suwanasil
Mo Razan vs. ?
Dave Dowden vs. David Alexis
November 26, 2006 – Seoul, Korea
In Jin Chi vs. Rudolfo Lopez
WBC Featherweight Title
January 6, 2007 – Indonesia (Site TBA)
Naoufel Ben Rabah vs. Lovemore N'dou
IBF Light Welterweight Title Eliminator