Only days away before an important match to reclaim his WBC International Superwelterweight title, Malaipet seemed plenty relax. I met up with him on Friday July 17 to catch his last 4 days of training at the Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood. I was excited to start my extended documentary project with him. I heard of his remarkable reputation from various friends. None the least of him being the only Thai fighter competing in the MMA scene right now. An Intercontinental Muaythai Champion with boxing record of 168 fights, with 136 wins, 27 losses, and 38 KO’s, MMA record of 6 fights with 3 wins and 3 losses, I was more than curious on what this guy is made of.
In contrast to the ‘fighter’ mean, dark, and gruesome image in the mainstream media as perpetuated by such fight leagues as the UFC, I already found many fighters I’ve met to be very personable, if not sweet. But above and beyond my expectations, Malaipet tripped me out entirely to an extreme degree. Much of this had to do a lot with my understanding of the various Thai cultural nuances. “The country boy” means a whole lot different in Thai than in the US. The class distinction undertone runs strong. He and his crowd often mocks the darker color of his skin, and the country boy face. It’s a way to humor one’s way out of social ‘sub standard’. I wanted to learn as much as I can about him, so I spent some time at the end of his training each day talking about whatever that came to mind.
Malaipet, or Mongkhon Wiwasuk in official name, is a son of a boxer. His father had 7 children, 6 of which were boys. They all were boxers, including his sister. He told me proudly – always with a smile. The smile though, tipped off something else – a sense of acceptance, the way it is. He has an additional 2 half brothers, one of which is a 20 year old training along side him.
Malaipet, or “Teay” as the other Thais call him, turned pro at 8, much like most of Thai boxer stories. He was touring around the country fighting matches until 15 when a boxing camp swooped him up. I think he said he was ‘bought’? I assumed this to be the case rather of an investment of a camp seeing a potential, as opposed to something oppressive. Because of it, he was given the chance to fulfill the life of a Muay Thai boxer and rose his way to the nation’s championship status, which later brought him to the US to pursue international/intercontinental titles.
After watching him for 4 days, his massive kicks and shrieks still ring in my ears. The match he’s immediately facing in a Muay Thai super event in Las Vegas this coming Saturday July 25. He will be facing Richard Fenwick from the UK. It’s a rematch to regain his WBC championship title. I have a feeling he’s going to win purely basing it on his carefree attitude of getting the job done on his way to a much anticipated the Contender tournament held next month in Malaysia. He was looking forward to party after the fight, karaoke party….. I asked his brother, in his presence, what would you do if he loses? The brother chuckled, and said, “we’ll just cut one of his nuts off.”
So – I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas in a couple of days – and see what happens next.