Muay Thai In AmericaSports — By Tania Anderson on December 7, 2012 at 6:51 am
In Muay Thai boxing, martial arts is incorporated into the movements of boxing, often giving the appearance of an exotic, but violent dance. MMA, which is growing immensely in popularity, is beginning its appeal to mass audiences all over the world. But why? “First of all, it appealed to the underground, outlaw-type people in the initial stages when it was on the Indian reservations,” said veteran MMA referee “Doc” Hamilton. “The sport developed followings, and that was the only thing that kept them going, was the following, because they weren’t getting any love from television or the public in general and then they came on site with Ultimate Fighter and people started getting into that.”
Hamilton maintains that MMA’s core audience is a younger crowd. “It’s a generational thing,” said Hamilton. “Their core audience is 18-35 year old males that wanted to be separated from the old time boxing crowd, so it became like their thing-‘this is our thing.’ It’s a trend that took hold. Lastly, I think that MMA contests simulate a fight more so than boxing or even Muay Thai for that matter. Here, you get a guy (or lady) that gets knocked down and someone jumps on them and starts pummeling them.”
Most boxers entering the ring went to the ropes and bowed in all four directions to the audience. Then they kneeled on the floor for a few quiet moments in humble entreaty to a higher authority. During the first match, fans’ heads bobbed as one fighter got hit in the temple. It began to bleed profusely down his chest where the elastic band of his trunks caught it at the waist. He became entangled with his opponent a few times, and the ref quickly pulled them apart. Quite soon the other boxer was also covered in blood.
In comparison with American boxing, Muay Thai boxing has completely diverse dynamics. Sometimes it was a bit violent and unpredictable, as one could hear cracks and yelps. Other times it was almost gentle and respectful, like an unusual waltz rather than a fight, but always traditional. Some matches appeared ritualistic, but after punching it out, often the boxers smiled, bowed, and then hugged each other like old friends at the conclusion, with no apparent animosity.
In one display of good sportsmanship, a Thai boxer Boom Wattanaya and English boxer Andy Howson took a quick comical break and vigorously hugged each other before going to it in round five. During that round, the Thai boxer hit the Englishman in the jaw, sending him straight to the floor, where he was promptly assisted to his corner. When the Thai boxer was declared the winner, the Englishman hoisted the victorious winner up off the ground with a little swing.
Now it was time for the ladies to compete. Similar in physique and size, Amanda Kelly from Scotland and Julie Kitchens from England entered the ring. At the onset, both were smiling but it didn’t take long before they looked red-faced, worn, and absolutely exhausted. Every time one of the ladies landed a good punch, the audience would croon, “OOOOOO!” But it was the fight of the night. The ladies left it all in the ring and it was five rounds of explosive action. Where the men were measured, concerned of their opponents fierce knockout power, the ladies fought with reckless abandon, and positively thrilled the crowd. When polled, many of the spectators agreed it was the match of the evening. Kelly won the fight, but she was visibly exhausted. Outside of the ring, the stunning fighter was so overjoyed and spent after the contest, that she was in tears. It was truly a poignant moment of the evening. But why would women engage in such violent sport? “It started off as just a childhood thing, doing martial arts and wanting to compete and then it became a natural progression, doing it for years, to test yourself and see what you know,” said Amanda Kelly before the bout. “But there’s a lot a great female fighters, quite a lot of talented women that are helping to put women at the forefront to show that the girls can do just as well as the men.”