Lt Yais Million Dollar Babies

Lt Yai’s million dollar babies

Lt Yais Million Dollar Babies
Large Number of Girls and Young Women Attracted to Chiang Mai Muay Thai Camp

The Bangkok Post recently reported on Lieutenant Yai’s development boxing among local kids in Mae Rim district in Chiang Mai. Lieutenant Yai started Muay Thai when he was 18 years old, and fourty years later he is still involved in the sport. During his military years, Lieutenant Yai continued to practice Muay Thai and competed in local fairs and events held by the military. Then 20 years ago he moved to Ban Ton Phueng village in Mae Rim with his wife and two children. Drug abuse was rife in this remote corner of Chiang Mai and so to solve the problem local authorities encouraged sports activities and a sports centre was established for people to participate.

The target group of the sports centre was young people, however Lieutenant Yai noticed this demographic were not the ones using the facilities so he decided to volunteer to teach the kids. Over the years the centre started catering almost exclusively to young females who wanted to learn the art of Muay Thai and today there are about 20 girls and 2 boys attending the camp.

The ‘sports centre’ doesn’t quite live up to its name and is little more than a concrete floor with a tin roof. The facilities include pads arranged to look like a boxing ring, old tyres and punching bags hanging from the tin roof. When the Muay Thai camp started it was mainly boys who attended, but as soon as they developed enough skills they would often move to Chiang Mai city to continue to fight and hopefully earn some money. Since classes were free, Lieutenant Yai noticed more girls taking an interest, many of whom had the same ambition as the boys – to earn money from fights to help support their families.

Nareerat “Fern” Buadruen and Jiranya “Aung” Kantathip, both aged 13, are the youngest boxers at the camp and best friends. Although they are not especially big for their age, both are talented fighters. Fern saw her first fight at the local temple fair and became interested, however it was her desire to support her younger sister and mother financially that drove her to pursue her path to Muay Thai. Fern has fought 149 times over the past year all over Chiang Mai and has only lost 4 times. She usually earns between 500 – 1000 THB for each fight, which help her sisters education.

Ban Tong Pheung Sports CentreGirls from 13-25 training. Credit: Bangkok Post, Photos: Chumporn Sangvilert

Aung had always the Muay Thai camp on her way to school and 6 months ago plucked up the courage to ask Lt Yai to join and is now trained by the best female boxer in the camp and has developed a strong reputation among other Muay Thai camps in Chiang Mai for her skills. Aung has now had six fights for three wins and like Fern, wants to support her family financially one day.

Rungjira “Noon” Ketraksa is a Chiang Rai native who turns heads wherever she goes, her good looks and fame in the local media has given rise to her nickname “The Beautiful Boxer”, even though she has yet to have a fight. Noon studied hotel management and tourism but despite getting a scholarship to continue her studies in China decided to join her friend at the boxing camp in Mae Rim. Noon was assigned to work with one of the best female boxers, Nong Praew and quickly became the talk of boxing circles after she went to watch her friend fight and was approached by promoters. She was asked to pose as a fighter and since it was uploaded many people started contacted Noon, asking her to fight at their venue.

Rungjira KetraksaRungjira ‘Noon’ Ketraksa. Credit: Bangkok Post, Photos: Chumporn Sangvilert

This media attention has earned her invitations to appear at well-promoted Muay Thai events around the region. Noon’s first fight was at Siam Discovery Centre in Bangkok to celebrate Mother’s Day for which she received 10,000 THB and free accommodation as well as air fares. She is also scheduled to fight in Chiang Mai against a Chinese boxer in a Muay Thai event billed as ‘Dangerous Beauties”.

Beautiful BoxerNoon posing for cameras. Credit: Bangkok Post, Photos: Chumporn Sangvilert

Lt Yai says that by helping the 200 girls who have been through his Muay Thai gym in Mae Rim has given him a sense of achievement that was not expected. Lt Yai had always dreamed of becoming a professional Muay Thai boxer himself, however since couldn’t be one himself was content with making young people’s dreams come true. Lt Yai pays for all the costs of the camp, in return the fighters give him a gift from their fight fees in appreciation for his support and despite offers from other Muay Thai camps in Chiang Mai to train with them, have chosen to stay with Lt Yai.

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