With the Thailand Muaythai scene going through a tough time in terms of popularity, fighting what many would say was a losing battle against outside interests, such as Football, the Thai national sport is struggling to keep pace with the times. Nattadet Wachiraratanawong, the Son of Petyindee boxing promotions boss Wirat Wachiraratanawong, has brought a breath of much needed youthful fresh air to the scene, helping to revive the interest in the sport.
Nattadet, although still in University studying Communication arts and only 24 years old, has already made the local fight fans sit up and notice with some quality matched cards and has also drawn more people back to the sport via the internet, using social media such as Facebook and Youtube to promote the sport in a new way and attract a younger crowd. He has also started his own gym, an off shoot of his Fathers gym known as Petyindee Muaythai academy, located just outside Lumpini stadium. We caught up with Nattadet recently to find out more about his ideas for the future.
What made you get involved in the sport?
Nattadet: My Father has been one of the top promoters of Muaythai and International boxing in Thailand for 30 years now so I have been around the sport since I was 3 or 4 years old. At first I didn’t feel much about it, but used to come to the stadium every Friday night and soon got used to it. I first really wanted to get involved after going to Melbourne Australia to study at high school and saw how much interest my countries sport was getting overseas, then when I came back to Thailand I started to help with my Fathers company Petyindee boxing promotions.
How does your Father feel about you getting involved in the sport?
Nattadet; He is very happy. I know deep down he always wanted to pass on the business to me, but he never pressured me in any way, he wanted the decision to get involved to come from my heart.
What changes have you seen come about in the sport that, have made it more difficult today?
Nattadet: Nowadays there are too many outside influences that have taken many people away from watching muaythai, such as English Premier league football and the internet, people can also just use their mobile phones now to find out results and gamble on the fights rather than travelling to the stadiums. Back in the past there were almost to many boxers to count that were getting paid 100,000+ baht a fight, now it is easy to name them.
How do you think the sport can try to recover its former glories?
Nattadet: A lot depends on the people involved and how they conduct themselves, the referees and judges need to be incorruptible and the stadiums and promoters need to work hard to deliver shows that the fans will want to see.
Do you think the gambling community has too much influence over the sport now, with many people claiming it has become a business now primarily rather than a sport?
Nattadet: Yes the gamblers hold a lot of power now over the stadiums, but it is difficult to deal with, as without them buying tickets to come in it would be impossible to hold events. There needs to be a change in the way fights are scored though so it doesn’t lose more of its artistic side and there needs to be more bonuses for fighters using the classic muaythai techniques to win fights.
What made you start Petyindee muaythai academy?
Originally I started it to teach foreign students away from my Fathers original gym, which would have been kept more as a professional fighters gym, but then Sam-A came along to train with us and did very well and more professional fighters came to train there too.
What is your future plans for Petyindee Muaythai academy?
At the moment we are just building it up day by day, trying to develop some of the star boxers of tomorrow. We want to make sure the boxers always go into the ring in good shape and make sure they are strong, we prefer technical, stylish fighters and like to focus on Southpaws as they are more eye catching and difficult for the opponents to fight.
What about your work on the promotions side of things?
Nattadet: I am still learning all the time as part of the team at Petyindee boxing promotions. Now I look after my Fathers fight nights alongside one other promoters and also put together the card for the Channel 3 Saturday Televised show, once a month at Omnoi stadium.
What else do you have planned for the future?
Nattadet: I would like to take my boxers overseas to fight and opefully would like to work with an overseas promoter on a show abroad.
What about foreign boxers in Thailand now?
Nattadet: We welcome Foreign boxers to fight on our cards and we want to try and feature at least one foreign boxer on every fight card now, to take the sport in another direction.