He is one of Asia’s most influential boxing figureheads and is known in Thailand simply as “the General.” He is the President of the Asian Boxing Council (ABCO) and Vice-President of the WBC and is Thailand’s man who makes things happen. He is General Kovit Bhakdibhumi.
In 2001, ABCO’s founder Sahasombhop “Sombhop” Srisomvognse passed away and the organization was in dire need of an experienced leader. Boxing in Thailand was experiencing a downturn and demanded a boost. At the request of the WBC, “The General” took over the reigns of the Asian Boxing Council and six years later, the number of championship fights in the country has nearly doubled.
TSS: Where are you from in Thailand?
General Bhakdibhumi: I am originally from Angthong Province, next to Ayutthaya and Northwest of Bangkok.
TSS: When did you come to Bangkok?
General Bhakdibhumi: I came to Bangkok when I was ten years old; to study in school.
TSS: And after you graduated from high school, what did you do?
General Bhakdibhumi: I wanted to further my education so I went to San Francisco and studied at Heald College. I received a bachelor’s degree in communications.
TSS: And then you came back to Thailand?
General Bhakdibhumi: Yes. I joined the Thai police force as a sub-lieutenant in 1963. I began my training in the police force and with the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. Afterwards I was put in charge of the narcotics division in Northern Thailand.
TSS: I understand you own several companies and are involved in mining. You’re a very busy man. Where do you find the time?
General Bhakdibhumi: The mining business was my family’s business and my father passed it on to me. I was lucky, really. We mine for gypsum, quartz and a lot of other items – but my family handled the business while I was with the police force, so again I was fortunate.
TSS: So you’re married? Do you have any children?
General Bhakdibhumi: Yes, of course, I’ve been married for forty years. I have four children; three sons and one daughter. All have graduated from university – this is something I’m very proud of.
TSS: You’re retired from the police force now, correct? What was the highlight of your career?
General Bhakdibhumi: Yes, I’m retired now. I’m sixty-eight years old and I retired in 2000. The highlight of my career was definitely when the King of Thailand gave me my fourth star. Something else I’m proud of is receiving my major general rank (two stars). I was forty-four and one of the youngest Major Generals at the time. Nothing compares to receiving my fourth star though – from the King of Thailand.
A photo of General Bhakdibhumi receiving his General’s star adorns the wall in his office, as does another photo of the General and WBC President Jose Sulaiman meeting with the King of Thailand.
TSS: So how and when did you get into boxing?
General Bhakdibhumi: As my career with the police force was ending, I felt I had two choices; become involved in politics or become involved in sport. I’ve always been involved in sports one way or another. I was involved with the Thai Olympic Committee back in 1975 and assisted in creating a relationship between China and Thailand. So I’ve had experience in sports administration before working with the WBC.
In 1996, the WBC held its convention in Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand where I was the chief of police. I was asked to be guest of honor and opened the convention. Years later, when Somphop (ABCO’s founder) passed away, Dr. Sulaiman asked if I’d be interested in becoming its President. It was an easy decision to make.
TSS: You also work with the WBC Muay Thai. How does the WBC work with another major Muay Thai organization, the World Muay Thai Council?
General Bhakdibhumi: We don’t. They do their thing and we do ours. We have our ratings, they have theirs.
TSS: Does the WBC have any plans to get involved in Mixed Martial Arts?
General Bhakdibhumi: No, our interest is only in boxing and Muay Thai.
TSS: What about putting on WBC shows here in Thailand featuring WBC Muay Thai champions and WBC boxers on the same bill? Sort of like the Pongsaklek show in November when you had a round robin Muay Thai tournament before his fight against Monelisi Myekeni.
General Bhakdibhumi: Yes, we hope to have more mixed shows; that is, shows with boxing and Muay Thai. We think the fans like it. Muay Thai is exciting, so it makes sense.
TSS: There are writers and fans who believe too much weight is given to fighters who win regional titles, especially Thai fighters who win ABCO and OPBF titles. Do you think this is true?
General Bhakdibhumi: Yes and no. But what is most important is the rankings need to be according to the individual fighter.
TSS: I have to ask you about some of the criticisms that have been leveled against Thailand’s fighters. First, the mismatches. What do you think about them and why are they allowed to go on here?
General Bhakdibhumi: Well of course, this is a very troublesome problem. The mismatches are unsafe and I don’t support them. I recommend to promoters and matchmakers they do not allow these types of fights to take place. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t.
TSS: Why is Thailand in both the Asian Boxing Council and the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation? This gives Thai fighters double the chance to get into the ratings. Thailand is the only country that is in both organizations. Why is this?
General Bhakdibhumi: Some countries join OPBF and others join ABCO. Now that the two organizations have countries from both regions in them, it would be difficult to eliminate one or the other; this wouldn’t be fair to either of the two. With ABCO and OPBF, we sometimes have the problem of determining which champion should be ranked higher than the other should or who is more deserving of a higher ranking or a world title shot. In 2007, we plan to have “Greater Asian” title fights between the champions of both organizations to alleviate this.
TSS: Isn’t this just one more title and one more source of sanctioning fees for ABCO and the WBC? I don’t understand this. Boxing need less champions, not more, don’t you think?
General Bhakdibhumi: It’s not about the money. First, the WBC does not receive any of ABCO’s sanctioning fees. Our sanctioning fees are $500 for a title fight, which is quite reasonable. This goes right back into running the organization. Forcing the two champions to fight is this best method to determine who the better fighter is.
TSS: Ok – but it seems to me there doesn’t need to be a title at stake to figure out who is the better fighter.
Please tell me about your goals for ABCO in 2007?
General Bhakdibhumi: I would like to see more bouts between Thai fighters. This is one goal. In March, Napapol Kittisakchokchai (currently #1) will fight Saenghiran Lookbanyai (currently #2) for the WBC’s #1 spot in the super bantamweight division. In the future, there will be more fights between the top Thai fighters.
ABCO plans to recommend world title shots for six Thai fighters; David Nakornluang, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Saenghiran Lookbanyai, Napapol Kittisakchokchai, Sirimongkol Singwancha and Oleydong Kratingdaenggym. We would like to give deserving Thai fighters the opportunity to fight for WBC championships.
We also plan to become more involved in China and India and in the future we should see more and more fighters from these countries turning professional.
TSS: Isn’t there a WBC convention scheduled to be held in China?
General Bhakdibhumi: The WBC convention will be in Cheng Du, China in 2008 – just after the Olympic Games.
TSS: Thank you very much for your time.
General Bhakdibhumi: You’re welcome. If we can assist you in any way, please let us know.