California Jim’s voice rang out loudy from the big speaker attached to the pickup truck, Jim was hawking “Thai Boxing In Phuket”, selling tickets and getting farangs/tourists/locals/expats to buy a ticket for the nights big main event!
Local goodguy and Thai Lightweight Champion Owan Pedit was fighting and defending the Thai Championship in Phuket town vs an up and coming challenger from Ko Samui.
We had met “Wan”, his dear wife Pui and their little child Lek while he was working for Mr Bruce at Paradise Bar/Bungalows.
Wan was even tempered, always sporting a big smile, Mr Bruce had put up a small gym in the back of the bar where patrons would often workout.
Watching the Champ workout was a pleasure to see how a real Thai boxer, let alone, a Champion worked so dilligently, the sweat running off his heavily muscled torso as he beat and kicked at the huge bag hanging in the middle of Mr Bruces “ring”…
Betting was heavy in favor of the Champ, with little regard to the challenger, after all, he wasn’t from Bangkok or even Phuket, but Ko Samui!
Samai had negociated with the local BahtBus to take a full load into town and see the extravaganza, after hanging out all day at Thai Garden or Paradise, we had figured out how the match should go.
Arriving around 7PM, we were early, the fights didn’t start til 8PM and the main event wasn’t til 10PM, we loitered in the stands.
Samai had gotten us really great front row seats, we felt like VIP’s. I noticed that one section off the ring was enclosed with barbed wire. I inquired and Samai told us that was the bookie area and they had to fence it off cause there could be “pan-ha” depending on who won or lost bets or fights!
We were all excited, our first Thai boxing match and with a local friend too boot, it was a double pleasure!
The little stadium quickly filled up, the announcements for the fights, the preliminary fights began.
Watching the boxers do some type of ritual, all dressed in their totally cool Thai boxing shorts and wearing some type of head band[?], the first round was set:
Being used to watching conventional boxing since childhood, I was amazed that the boxers could grab, knee, kick and elbow any and all areas of the opponents body.
During the 3rd fight, things got a little out of hand in the stadium, as many of the “fans”[losing bettors]tried to climb over the fense and get at the bookies, but Phukets finest quickly entered the ring, firing off an M16[upward into the sky]and things quickly settled down!
Samai gave a short explanation as the fight progressed, telling us who to bet on, we either took his advice or didn’t, we knew nothing about any of the fighters, outside of the Champion, but by the end of the evening, Samai had lost more than he’d won, I got lucky and picked 4 of 6, including the main event, our Pal Wan successfully defended his Title with a swift kick to the opponents jaw, in the second round, the helpless challenger dropped like a rock!
We waited around til Wan was dressed and ready to leave, we carried him on our shoulders to the bus and the Mekhong was flowing like water on the way back to Patong Beach, where we partied into the wee hours, naturally Wan couldn’t buy a drink!
This was the last time Wan defended the title in Phuket, he later dropped the title while defending it in Surat Thani. Wan never fought professionally again, but continued to work for Mr Bruce at Paradise.
Sitting at Paradise bar late one night, there was a big foreigner who wanted to “fight” as he sat surly at the bar, Mr Bruce motioned for Wan to take the guy into the gym and show him a few moves, we all went into the gym and watched as Wan spun around a lightning back leg kick, almost knocking the bag from the chain that it hung from! The big guys eyes suddenly became WIDE open as he watched the seemingly small man work over the bag like a tornado, elbows, fists, knees, and feet flying up and down the helpless bag, the big Farang wisely went back into the bar and settled down.
Over the years, Wan and his family became close and cherished friends of ours. Wan could always be counted on to do his best at what ever he did, you don’t become Worlds Champion by taking things half-way!
Here are a few pix, two of the Title fight and one of Wan and his family at Paradise.
Over the years we’d watch many Muay Thai fights as well as convention matches, usually at Crazy Daves Thai Garden, sometimes at Paradise, but always with our buddy Wan side by side!