Thailand's proudest sporting heritage is in the boxing ring, where it boasts the world's leading Thai Boxers. Thai Boxing is a little different from its traditional alternative (or Queen Berry rules, as the written guide explained). In Thai Boxing, anything goes. Literally. Punches, kicks, wrestling, bearhugs, all are considered fair game, and the more outlandish the move the more the cheers from the assembled crowd.
6 nights a week you can head out to see boxing in Bangkok, at either of the two venues. On Sunday night it was my turn to head out and experience at bit of local sporting culture. The night started promisingly, with a programme of 11 bouts to whet the appetite, 6 of which were up-and-comers, followed by 5 more as the Main Event, with each bout consisting of 5 three minute rounds. A mild ticket price and a friendly Pom as a companion (he obviously hadn't read my post of BA - see below) meant that things were going well. Each bout is more a ritual than a sporting contest.
Before each bout, the fighters enter the ring and bless/pray for/lean against each of the four posts at the corners of the ring, and they then head into the middle for some more theatre. Each of the fighters move through the ring, shadow boxing, kissing the ground, showing the crowd that they've got what it takes to make it as a belly dancer if the boxing thing doesn't work out. Then finally the bout starts, and there's plenty of noise and movement and excitement rippling through the crowd.
Unlike traditional boxing, where the punches fly thick and fast, this one is a much more subtle art, with the right combination of kicks and punches needed to unsettle an opponent, as well as a slick move that sees one competitor bearhug the other, usually against the ropes, and then try and stick their foot in their opponents groin. I used to try that one on my brother. Most of the bouts go the full 5 rounds, and then a panel of three judges decide which boxer landed the most heels on the nads. We have a winner. Repeat 11 times.