In the Muay Thai and K-1 worlds, there has always been one name that transcended the gap between combat sports of both mixed and solely stand-up variety, that ALL fans knew about and enjoyed watching. One name of name value; one man who grabbed attention and whose reputation preceded him; even to arguably undeserving heights. The champion of Bangkok’s third most prestigious stadium in Muay Thai crossed over to K-1 rules fighting in the form of K-1 itself, and after viciously teeping a succession of top K-1 MAX (70kg) talent across the squared circle – in the case of hometown hero Masato, so powerfully and so often that the Nippon idol urinated blood for a week following his K-1 World MAX 2004 Final bludgeoning at the Thai’s hands – after that, Buakaw was a worldwide fightsport superstar.
Years of success in K-1 followed, until the Japanese could finally no longer accept the Thais success and further encroached on the rules, removing almost all clinching and to add insult to injury, depriving him of several rightful wins. The two-time K-1 World MAX winner (2004 & 2006) and one-time World MAX finalist (2005) bowed out of the Japan scene after his disputed extra-round split decision loss to Andy Souwer in the 2009 World MAX Grand Prix tournament, and returned to Muay Thai, a sport that – surprisingly, to many – he did not actually achieve ‘world’, or “Thai National Stadium” (Rajadamnern or Lumpinee) champion status in. He won a Toyota tournament and was Omnoi Stadium champ – he’d never dominated the sport.
But forget about it; after his exploits in the Land of the Rising Sun, he was by far the most famous of all Nak Muays internationally and hell, in Thailand itself. I’ve heard far more Bangkok taxi drivers and random Thai women talk about “Buakaw, he really good!” than Yodsaenklai, Saenchai (“he too old, slow slow” I was informed at the Lumpinee in March 2012!) or any number of hundreds of Thais who achieved more in Bangkok Muay Thai, Liam Harrison, “falang Damien Alamos”, Master Toddy, JCVD, Dan Quinn, you name it; Buakaw stands alone on the pedestal.
His first fight back in the 2010-2013 return to Muay Thai is still to date his toughest; against my old schoolmate Jordan Watson. Although “Quadzilla” chose the cornball option and entered to Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” (is this banned yet? Eleven years now, massive tune but enough is enough. Ban that, “Lose Yourself” and “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” in the UFC) he proceeded to kick Buakaw off his feet – twice – and put in a fine performance given that it was his first tilt aged 22 at someone of the highest calibre.
To date, since coming up against the-then 22yr old newbie to the A-class game fighter from Leeds, Buakaw has not been tested to that extent again.
Now a veteran of Thai Fight (whose tournaments he has been dutifully winning, picking off non-Thai opposition such as Vitaly Gurkov and Frank Giorgi – game, but not the best around internationally, let alone when compared to the best Thais – Buakaw will now apparently not fight for the promotion again.
As I first reported regarding Buakaw Retirement, Por.Pramuk and his ongoing troubles (clickable links) Buakaw and his management had extremely serious problems with his former camp Por.Pramuk. I was under the impression when writing that story – with the aid of Thai speakers translating for me – that the rumours circulating to me from Bangkok were indeed true, and Buakaw was living in a simple room with other fighters, only receiving a fraction of his fight purses.
- Buakaw and the Por.Pramuk situation
I am now under the impression that the situation was not as stark as was first implied to me. While an amount may well have been withheld from the fight purses, it is now believed that less was taken that was initially suggested from “certain aggrieved parties”.
I cannot speculate on anything any further; there are always at least two sides to every story, and in this case, there are many.
- So, to 2013 and contracts
As reported on Samurai Life, Buakaw was signed by the WMF this year. But here is where the waters muddy yet further, because for everyone saying “GLORY should sign him!” and “why doesn’t he fight Thais/more/abroad/etc”, there are issues behind the scenes that :
- Buakaw comes with a guaranteed clause that means beyond sponsorships, he earns a certain amount of baht per fight. What that figure is, I don’t know; I’ve heard 1 million baht, 2 million baht, 500,000 baht + guaranteed sponsor monies… who knows.
Point being, anyone – WMF or otherwise – picking Buakaw up for fights has to meet the demands of his management, pay him this agreed fight purse, and then…
- Buakaw’s sponsors come into play. His major sponsors are Singha beer and Top King, which form part of his management. Of course, Singha and Top King also sponsor Thai Fight, the promotion that Buakaw is reportedly not going to fight for any longer.
This adds an interesting element. With no Buakaw, will these big money Thai companies pull their sponsorship? And Top King had nothing to do with the last Thai Fight event.
- There are people involved in both Thai Fight and the WMF. Some of the Bangkok promoters are involved in both companies; so will Singha for example dictate to Thai Fight that if they do not allow Buakaw to fight elsewhere, they will withhold payment? And speaking of which:
- Buakaw’s contract with Thai Fight stipulates that he cannot fight for any other promotion outside Thai Fight until 2014 without the express permission of Thai Fight.
But bear in mind, two of Buakaw’s main sponsors also sponsor Thai Fight.
- Buakaw’s management stipulate who he can fight and who he cannot. This of course relates to the fights we all want; Petrosyan, Sittichai, Kem, Yodsaenklai…
I asked Sitsongpeenong camp, and they told me that Buakaw’s management were not interested in a fight with Kem. I also have it on good Italian authority that Giorgio Petrosyan – who, as I posted last year was poised to rematch Buakaw – was more than willing to fight Buakaw under any rules, but anywhere but Thailand, and that it was NOT the Italian side that ultimately nixed the deal.
So what now?
Who knows, but for those shouting to the high heavens for “GLORY: Sign Buakaw!” and “we want Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Buakaw II”, bear in mind that the man himself is evidently not in control of his fight choices, and that behind the scenes, it is not as clear cut and dried as it often appears on the surface.
Me, I’d just prefer to see him fight tougher fights that aren’t mismatches against B-level foreigners. So Buakaw in 2013; he supposedly wont fight for Thai Fight again, but he needs their permission to fight elsewhere this year. His management have demands; his sponsors are involved in both promotions that he is currently involved with, and several of the promoters are in both camps; though there are reportedly certain unresolved issues between some of them.
Let’s just hope we see Buakaw Banchamek fighting before long. Or if he really DID want to retire back in 2009, then let that happen. But perhaps the ongoing “Buakaw Name Value” circus needs to end, or at least change.