Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about combat sports. If you are looking for specialist information, you can leave right away, this article simply relates my experience of attending Thai boxing fights in Chiang Mai.
For more simplicity, you can book a tour directly on Viator’s website.
Muay-thai, better known as Thai boxing is one of the most violent variants of boxing. In addition to their fists, fighters can use their elbows, knees, feet and shins to hit the opponent.
If I have never been a fan of combat sports, Thai boxing is the most popular sport in Thailand. So it is impossible to be in Chiang Mai without seeing a fight.
Where to buy tickets to attend a Thai boxing match?
It’s very easy, Thai boxing is really very popular and fights are organized almost every day.
In Chiang Mai, there are several halls where you can see fighting, but I read that one of the halls burned down recently.
I went to a tourist agency like there are dozens of them in Chiang Mai which offered me to attend the same evening fights at the Chiangmai Boxing Stadium.
If you are at the hotel, you can certainly book directly at the reception desk.
It is also possible to go directly to the stadium the same evening.
How much does it cost?
There are 3 price ranges:
- Seats in tiers: 600 bahts
- Tickets next to the ring: 1 000 bahts
- VIP seats: 1,500 baht
Tickets at 1,000 baht entitle you to a free drink.
For the VIP seats, it’s open bar: drinks as you wish!
If you buy your tickets in an agency or at the hotel, pickup and drop off are offered.
Being in a condominium a little bit off-center, the agency couldn’t provide transportation and therefore gave me a discount of 100 baht.
For my part, I chose to be close to the ring, I’m happy with this choice because that’s where you’re closest to the action.
The VIP seats are similar to the tiered seats but a little bit raised. We may have a better overall visibility but we are further away from the action and not in the heart of the atmosphere (there are only tourists in the VIP seats). From my viewpoint, except if you want to get drunk, the VIP seats aren’t interesting.
The rates are exactly the same if you buy your tickets directly on the spot, however you will not benefit from the transportation offered.
How do the fights take place?
The poster of the evening announced a start of hostilities at 9pm with 8 fights on the program.
By the time I arrived at 8:45 pm, the first fight had already started and in the end there will be one more fight than announced.
The fighters are of varying ages and sizes. The youngest are really very young, about 12 years old. The oldest must be in their early thirties.
The templates are Asian templates, we are far from having super heavy 😀
Before each fight, the fighters are introduced and spectators come to bring them a flower necklace and to be photographed alongside the champions. I imagine this is a “super VIP” option because each time these spectators had beautiful tourist faces. I don’t know how they got this privilege that will be a sensation on Instagram.
EDIT: Going back another day, I was honored to be able to participate in this ceremony. I was sitting next to a German, his guide came to pick him up to go into the ring and he offered me to come with him. I didn’t ask him how he did it but I just think that he was on the pickup list, a list that I wasn’t on.
Then comes the Ram Muay, a small ritual dance performed by each fighter, which also serves as a stretching exercise.
Then it’s off for 5 rounds of 3 minutes where our gladiators are going to kick each other in the face.
Having never been to a fight and having very rarely seen it on TV, it’s quite impressive!
I have a front row seat to hear the impact of the blows and am even close enough to be splashed by the flying water (at each pose, the fighters are copiously mixed with ice, which makes their bodies soaked).
The atmosphere is excellent, the numerous bettors are shouting at each shot made by their champion.
The fights are mainly played at the level of the lower body. More than fists, it is mostly the feet that are used.
Out of the 9 fights I attended, 3 will not come to an end. One following a KO, the two others following injuries to the legs under the violence of the perceived blows.
At the end of the fight, the winner leaves with a cup and the few tickets that make up his prize, which are given to him instantly.
If you want to get an idea of what it’s like, the fights are broadcast live on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ChiangmaiBoxingStadium/)!
Can we bet on the outcome of the fights?
Fights seem for some people more a pretext to be able to bet money.
During the 6th fight, a Thai man accosts me to offer me to bet 100 bahts on the fighter of my choice. The opportunity to bring a little spice to the evening without big financial risk.
Having planned for this, I had 50 baht easily accessible in my pocket. I gave him the bill and explained that I was betting on blue (we choose either blue or red, in reference to the color of the fighters’ gloves) “I’m blue”. He explains to me that if I win my bet, I will double my bet, then he slips away to take other bets. 0 receipt, 0 note, but we trust each other.
When 30 seconds later, my neighbor to the left offers to make the same bet with him, I suspect that I bet on the wrong horse.
Indeed, although animated by an immense courage which will allow him to reach the end of the fight, my champion is very largely dominated by his opponent.
The bettor against whom I lost comes to shake my hand.
During the 8th fight that I thought would be the last, I myself asked the bettor and this time I put 100 bahts in play. The fight is very balanced until the 4th round, the moment chosen by my champion to knock out his opponent, I won my bet! My opponent comes immediately to bring me my win, I didn’t even have to run after him!
9th and last fight, while I’m about to bet on the red which seems stronger, my brother Bruno, a Thai boxing fan who joined the live Facebook advises me to bet on the blue: “he seems more confident during the Ram Muay”.
Although he is one head less than his opponent, Bruno was right and I double my bet of 100 baht again.
One losing bet and two winning bets, so I leave with a profit of 150 baht (3.8€), a real fortune!
Are these fights scams?
While I was learning about boxing in Chiang Mai, some opinions found on the internet cooled me down. I ended up choosing to come, while accepting the idea that I could be fooled.
The two main grievances being :
- They are “tourists trap”: the halls are full of tourists, the experience has nothing local.
- The fights are rigged, it’s cinema.
My opinion is based on this unique experience but I did not feel that at all.
There were of course tourists in the hall but the majority of the audience was made up of locals. The atmosphere was warm and the experience seemed authentic to me.
If it is difficult to know if a match is rigged or not (as soon as there is money at stake, cheating attempts exist), what is certain is that the blows are real and the commitment seemed total on the part of each fighter. If I had any doubt, it would be about the two defeats “on injury” which were very quick, from the first round.
It’s really to look for the little beast because if the fights were fixed, I imagine that my betting opponent wouldn’t have lost money against me, the most complete neophyte.
Great experience that I recommend even to those who like me aren’t fond of combat sports.
For going twice, on a Thursday and a Saturday, I clearly recommend going on a Saturday. There were more fights (9 against 6), more Thai audience and therefore much more atmosphere.