Built over 65 years ago, Bangkok’s run-down Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium (Sanam Muay Rajadamnern) is often cited as the ultimate Muay Thai arena.
Every week gamblers, sports fans and tourists enter the Art Deco stadium to watch nak muay (Thai boxer) punish each other inside the ring. While the crowds eagerly await the first fight, backstage the fighters (aged between 15 and 30) are preparing for combat. Large rooms decked out with massage tables and training equipment is filled with fighters, their family, trainers, and dietitians. The smell of sweat fills the air as each fighter is oiled and massaged vigorously to the point of agony. Warm-ups begin by throwing combinations and stretching out limbs. As the fight grows near, hands are wrapped tightly, and placed into boxing gloves. In addition, the fighter wears a protective charm around his arm called a praciat. Finally the Mongkhon is placed on the fighter’s head by his trainer. The fighter has earned this honor by achieving good knowledge and a high level of Muay Thai. A prayer is said as he is crowned with the headpiece. Leaving the backroom, the fighters begin mental preparations and focus on the task ahead. As they enter the ring a live band performs traditional Thai music in a ploy to stir the crowd. The fighters begin a ceremonial dance called Ram Muay as a sign of
respect for their parents, trainers, ancestors and those who have fought before them. On completion the dual commences. Punches, kicks, elbow and knee strikes are thrown with controlled aggression as sweat pours from the focused fighters. In the higher tiers of the stadium, gamblers feverishly
gesture at one another in an aim to get their bets logged. As the fight ends the referee signals the winner and the exhausted fighters leave the ring, respectful of each other. The crowd awaits their next fix.