If you've paid attention to the Muay Thai world at all over the past year, you almost certainly know the name- Yodwicha Por Boonsit. This young dynamo has taken Muay Thai's best division by storm, virtually clearing house and making a name for himself off some of the most talented Thai fighters in the world. But just how high could Yodwicha go? How good is he really? For my money, Yodwicha is poised to become one of the biggest international superstars Thailand has produced since Buakaw, and here's my top 5 reasons why.
--1. He's Beaten The Best...Repeatedly
Muay Thai isn't a sport where you stay unbeaten for long. Different from other combat sports like MMA, Boxing, or even Kickboxing, where a single loss can devalue your standing in the eyes of an international audience, Thai boxers are accustomed to accruing several losses a year with little to no drop in popularity. This is mainly because the top class of Muay Thai (or the names most foreigners are familiar with) is like an exclusive club that only 5 star quality athletes are allowed into. For our American fans, imagine a pick-up game of basketball played between likes of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Blake Griffin on opposing teams. It wouldn't be too difficult to imagine an 8 game series between the best players in the NBA being split 4-4.
Now imagine that out of those 8 games, one player in particular scored the most points, grabbed the most rebounds, and had the most assists...every single match. This is the equivalent of what Yodwicha Por Boonsit has done in his last eight fights.
With only two losses in nearly 20 bouts, Yodwicha has recently beaten Singdam twice, Petchboonchu twice, Saenchai, Wanchalerm, Kongsak, and Nong-O. If you don't know some or all of those names, trust me, it's like the Hall of Fame list for modern Muay Thai. And while a few of his fights have been won by razor thin margins, no one has been able to figure out or neutralize Yodwicha's imposing clinch.
While a rematch with the lanky Wanchalerm is on the way, most people are already writing it off as another 'W" for Thailand's newest prodigy. And although most would like to see the sensation from Por Boonsit rematch Saenchai, in what would undoubtedly be one of the biggest fights of 2013, the chances of this happening drop with every passing month. Why? Well....
2. He's Growing
Most Thai's are naturally small compared to their Western Counterparts. In Lumpinee Stadium, 144 pounds is the largest respectable division, where the belt is currently held by the highly touted Thongchai Sitsongpeenong. However, unlike Kickboxing, the heavyweights receieve very little attention compared to the nak muays who reign at 128-135 pounds. These are without a doubt the most skilled Thai boxers in the world, by quite a wide margin. This is also the division Yodwicha Por Boonsit has conquered.
That being said, Yodwicha is growing, and he's growing fast. Very soon he will outgrow Lumpinee, where it is already hard enough to find fights for an S class opponent over 135 pounds. And with his options in Thailand limited, Yodwicha will be forced to move into international weights and international waters. And that is when his fame will hit an all-time high.
Let's face it; For Thai's, if you don't fight internationally, you don't get recognized. While this is frustrating for many Muay Thai purists most people have come to understand that it's simply too much to ask for non-Thai speakers to keep up with a sport where the fights have no context, the broadcasts aren't in their native language, the production quality is poor, and the live shows happen at 3 am on the opposite side of the world. There's a reason that fighters like Buakaw, Kaoklai, Yodsanklai, and Kem receive so much English speaking media attention.
When Yodwicha makes the move to the world stage, he will be one of the first true top-level Thai's since Saenchai to bring his talents out of the home country.
3. His Style Will Be an Enormous Problem For Foreigners
It's no secret that Thai's as a whole are superior clinch fighters to...well, everyone. No one trains the clinch as much they do, nor as hard or long. Most foreigners have trouble with Thai's who attempt to impose mid-level clinch games, often being stymied by their advanced use of trips, sweeps, throws, locks, and knees. When Yodwicha enters the scene, he will almost certainly be the best clincher to fight international Muay Thai in a very long time.
The issue with such a talented clinch game comes at the expense of promoters. In Thailand, Muay Thai is a guaranteed money making business. Gamblers and betters will put money on every single high-level (and often times low-level) fight. Therefore, attendance is motivated by financial purposes rather than the love of martial arts. In other countries, people see Thai boxing as an exciting sport, associated with, but still lesser known than the MMA craze sweeping the globe. Audiences expect blood and excitement, and more often than not they get it.
Yodwicha's clinch/knee style is somewhat of a gamble. On one hand, he earns a TKO or KO with his brutal knee assaults, and on the other, fans are treated to a "boring" decision where the Thai walks forwards, clinches, knees, and repeats. Either way, the young fighting prodigy is almost assured victory, but compared to other international nak muays like Yodsanklai, Saenchai, Aikpracha, or Pornsanae, you don't have the near guarantee of a dynamic or exciting match up.
For Yodwicha to become an attractive option for foreign promoters, he must develop a strong kick/punch game to compliment his current clinch heavy tactics, but before that happens his grappling skills are still an almost impossible wall for any foreign fighter to hurdle.
4. Thai Fight
Despte the fact that many people are under the impression Thai Fight is suffering, they are still by far the leading "Thai vs. International Nak Muay" program in the world. By far.
Until Thai Fight, the common Thai people were relatively delusioned with Muay Thai and had begun to lose interest. But with the flashy lights, top quality promotion, and sheer Thai domination, the average person in Thailand now has about the approximate knowledge of Thai Fight as the average American might have of the UFC.
It's been strongly rumored that Yodwicha will be making his Thai Fight debut sometime this year, potentially in October or November. It goes without saying that he'll more than likely win his debut and subsequent fights and will quickly become a larger star, both nationally and internationally, than he could have ever hoped to be performing in Lumpinee.
With Buakaw and Kem off to MAX Muay Thai, Singmanee fighting as a free agent and Yodsanklai doing the same, Thai Fight will more than likely be looking to push Yodwicha as their "next big thing." It goes without saying that having a boost from Thai Fight does wonders for your fighting career, if not your legal escapades.
5. He's 17
Yes, you read that right. After everything I just mentioned: All the wins, the size, the potential fame, the style...the kid is only 17 years old.
It's not unheard of for top level nak muays to make great accomplishments in the sport at 17, 18, and 19. However, Yodwicha is perhaps only the second or third largely successful stadium fighter in history to be poised on the brink of a massive international debut when he still has yet to potentially hit his peak. The first of course, being Buakaw Banchamek (with largely successful being the operative word in this case).
Regardless, Yodwicha still has a lot of room to grow, develop, and expand his technique base. His biggest hurdle will be making the climb up to the higher weight divisions, but if his size continues to increase at the rate it's been reported, it won't be too difficult for him to make 67-70kg. After all, look at fighters like Kem, Sitthichai, and Aikpracha, who used to fight in the significantly lighter Lumpinee weight classes, and now often-times out size their foreign opponents.
I think there's a lot we can expect from Yodwicha, and perhaps those expectations are lofty for a teenager. But he has without a doubt proven himself in the toughest divison in combat sports (for my money anyway) and the future is looking bright. While fighters like Saenchai and Buakaw are legends in their own right, they're not getting any younger. Yodwicha currently has the skills, the size, and the youth to fill their sizable shoes once their time is over, and by all estimations, he'll be walking in them for quite some time.