Saturday, 26 March 2011

Fighting breaks out in Pattaya

Just shortly before he punched my lights out. 
I recently blogged about the Fairtex Hotel and Sports Club, where the whiff of liniment and thwack of gloves on body herald the fact that it would not be mistaken for The Ritz any time soon.

As a bunch of wannabes lunged and thrust and kicked and jabbed in the Muay Thai rings around me, one quiet figure stood off to the side, observing. He looked like quite a nice boy, so we got chatting.

Well, chatting's not the right word ...

I started with what I thought was an easy question: "What's your name?" Fair enough, easy right? Well, the delay that ensued before his response allowed me to go off to the men's room. He was still thinking. So I dashed off to grab a cup of coffee. Still thinking. Went for a bite to eat at the cafe. Still thinking.

Eventually, having considered his answer carefully, the answer came: "Lor." Clearly this man had been hit in the head far too many times.

It turns out I was talking with Mana 'Lor' Chaiknansuk, a good looking guy from Chaiyapum who's reached number 2 on the Muay Thai rankings. After 9 years in the sport he reached a peak and dropped off, and is now making an earnest comeback. At the age of 22. There's not an ounce of fat on him; there again he's not as muscular as I think a prizefighter out to be.

Now he's here from 7am each day, running. This is followed by a 2-hour training session from 8-10am and another each afternoon from 3-5. Gee, this guy puts in more hours than the average travel writer, I think to myself, jing jing.

Lor's knee-into-gut move.
"I want to be Thailand champion," he tells me, in a voice which is almost a soft whisper. I've got all day so I decide to ask him a couple more questions to help me get inside the head-space of a kick-ass Muay Thai boxer. I use the term 'head-space' deliberately.

So what does he, um, think, before a fight? Pause. Think. Cogs whirring. Eventually he delivers his wisdom: "Strategies to win it."

He rates his elbow strike and knee into the gut as his lethal weapons. He demonstrates a little too eagerly on me.

So why has he been successful? Clunk, clunk, whirr. Lunch order. Siesta. Set the alarm. Back to ringside to receive his answer. "Determination. Regular practice."

By now I've run out of tape on my recorder and the battery's nearly flat. I sadly have to call this incisive interview to an untimely halt, dashing my chances of a Walkley Award for investigative journalism which Lor's full story would have surely delivered me.

I just hope he doesn't read this -- he'll beat the living daylights out of me.

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