Muay Thai Immortality:

The Fighter of the Year Award

Roughly 8000 miles from Los Angeles exists the home of the greatest Muay Thai Fighters the world has ever known.  Thailand, a land where many young Thai boxers dream of becoming stadium champion. These major stadium titles include: Lumpinee, Rajadamnern, Omnoi, Channel 7, and Thailand Champion.  

The Lumpinee and Raja Belts top the list as the most revered.  Chances to win the Lumpinee belt are available in weight classes from 105-168lbs. While these stadium titles are held in high regard, there exists another award that is even more elusive.

It’s the most illustrious honor a Thai fighter can receive.  It’s called the Sports Writers Association of Thailand Fighter of the Year Award.  When a fighter earns this prize, he joins an exclusive class of Thai fighters.  To win the Fighter of the Year Award is the Muay Thai equivalent to winning an Oscar for Best Actor at the Academy Awards.”  – Stephen K.

*Note: We use “Sports Writers Association of Thailand Fighter of the Year Award” & Muay Thai “Fighter of the Year Award” interchangeably for brevity. 

THE GOLDEN ERA

Something remarkable happened in the 1980s and 90s.  A random set of factors birthed a formula which delivered the greatest period of Muay Thai in history.  Speculation of the root cause for this outcome involved: economic conditions, training methods, talent, and savvy promoters.  

Whatever the mix was, it resulted in pure awesomeness.  This time period of Muay Thai is known as “The Golden Era.”  It was a ‘perfect storm’ that delivered some of the most legendary fighters, performances and rivalries in the sport’s history.  

In fact, more top ten all-time fighters came from this magic period than any other.  The Golden Era roster includes Samart Payakaroon, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, and Kaensak Sor Ploenchit.  The GOAT, the greatest Muay Khao ever, and the technical Muay Tae counter fighter. No doubt much can be written about these iconic fighters alone, but here we focus on the previous decade.

1970s Class

It’s been 40 years since the 1970s Fighter of the Year Alumni list was completed.  This group includes all-time greats like: Pud Pad Noy Worawoot, Poot Lorlek, and Saensak Muangsurin.  This decade of Nak Muay immortals helped usher in the Golden Era of Muay Thai.

The class kicks off with Kongtoranee Payakaroon.  Possibly overshadowed by his brother’s ascent to the P4P GOAT thrown, Kongtoranee also had great success.  He secured his golden ticket to glory three years before his younger brother’s record-breaking Fighter of the Year journey.  In 1978, Kongtoranee captured the FOTY award and then again in 1984.

kongtoranee payakaroon, Muay Thai Fighter, 2x Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year

Kongtoranee Payakaroon 2x Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year

Kongtoranee won Lumpinee Belts in five weight classes.  He was a heavy handed fighter who utilized impeccable economy of movement & wicked defense to boot. Watch the slickster in action here.  A solid case could be made for him and Samart being the most accomplished brothers in combat sports history.

pud pad noy worawoot, Muay Thai Fighter of the Year - 1975

Pud Pad Noy Worawoot Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year – 1975

Amongst the top fighters of the 70s was Pud Pad Noy, a multi-weight Lumpinee Champion.  The southpaw from Issan carried brutal power in his kicks earning him the “Golden Leg” nickname.  His resume includes victories over many top fighters of the era. He joined the Fighter of the Year list in 1975.

Next up is a Muay Femur from southern Thailand.  Known for his footwork and angles, Poot Lorlek might be the best of the 70s alumni.  Owning the Bangkok scene in his time, the “Angel Boxer” has a resume that speaks for itself.  Poot Lorlek became Lumpinee Champ at just 19 years old.

Poot Lorlek, Muay Thai Great- Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year - 1974

Poot Lorlek Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year – 1974

The technical juggernaut bested five Fighters of the Year: Kongdej, Fasai, Sirimongkon L., Vicharnoi, & Saensak. He received the nod in 1974. After running out of rivals, he tried his hand at western boxing.  He compiled a record of 8-0 in the sweet science.

Lumpinee Stadium Champion, Muay Thai Fighter of the Year & WBC Boxing Champion

Saensak Muangsurin – Lumpinee Stadium Champion, Muay Thai Fighter of the Year & WBC Boxing Champion

The highlights conclude with the late, great Saensak Muangsurin and follow with the remaining kings of ringcraft.  Infamous for his KO power, the two sport Champ knocked out scores of Lumpinee contenders.  He was victorious at the highest levels of Muay Thai and western boxing. The triple crown winner seized the Lumpinee Stadium belt, Fighter of the Year Award, and the WBC Boxing Championship (light welterweight).

Muay Thai Fighters of the Year

Here are the remaining 1970’s FOTY winners:

Fasai Taweechai-1970

Seechang Sakornpitak-1971

Sirimongkol Looksiripat-1972 (vs 1971 FOTY, Seechang)

Porsai Sittbunlert-1976

Vicharnoi Porntawee-1977

Phadetsuek Pitsarnurachan-1979

2019 marks the 40 year anniversary of the 1970s Fighter of the Year Award graduating class.  In 1979, the cult classic and iconic film, The Warriors was also released. When a Nak Muay receives the Sports Writers of Thailand Fighter of the Year award, he joins an exclusive class of immortal Thai Warriors.

Thai Warriors Tribute Shirt

We created the Thai Warriors Tribute shirt to pay homage to these icons of the sport.

You know that “Wow!” feeling you get when you watch a Saenchi highlight? That’s what happens when you put on this Thai Warriors Tribute Tee.

All Art of Ringcraft apparel is Certified Fighter Approved.

Bump your status with this Limited Edition T shirt.  Releasing this Summer!

If you wait, it’s too late.

Link: Thai Warriors | 40 Year Anniversary Shirt

Thai Warriors | 40 Year Anniversary Tribute Shirt

*Note: A portion of all sales will be donated to Muay Thai 4 Orphans, a non-profit organization helping children in Thailand.