Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport whose roots can be traced back to more than 300 years back. Muay Thai has been a part of the Thai Army training since its inception. The sport has evolved over the years. Muay Thai gained popularity in the late 20th century with players gaining iconic status. These players should be thanked for making Muay Thai popular.
There have been hundreds of fighters over decades of the sport, yet, every decade has its stars and icons. Still, there are some who manage to stay in lists like these because they’ve made history at some point in their career.
Top 10 best Muay Thai fighter of all time
When Muay Thai fans discuss knee striking, the first person often talked about is Chamuakpetch Haphalung. Considered among the best knee strikers of all time, Haphalung has won the championship in Rajadamnern and Lumpinee for five weight categories.
Haphalung, who started fighting at the tender age of 13, was a professional boxer who rose to stardom, getting declared the winner of the PABA Championship in 1997.
There is no shortage of legends, but the Lumpinee stadium has hardly seen many fighters with the striking ability as agile as Haphalung. He was also a Southpaw fighter and earned the nickname “Computer Knee Striker” because of his impeccable strike timing. He’s one of the top four legends on Lumpinee’s website.
Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth
If you hear fans talking about “The Ring Genius,” remember they’re talking about an icon none other than Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth. He is known for his strategic moves in the ring that made him win over his opponents with relative ease.
Pahuyuth’s immense power, supplemented by his favorite leg grabbing technique, was what allowed him to win over by tripping the opponent off balance. During his fighting career, he knocked-out just two of his competitors.
Namkabuan fought against other legends and had the Lumpinee title for six consecutive years. After giving up the title belt, he won the belt for the world champion. Of the 283 matches, he fought; he lost a mere 15 while two games were declared a draw.
Kaensak Sor Ploenchit
Kaensak had the opportunity to fight during Muay Thai’s Golden-era that was approximately the decade between the mid-eighties and nineties. Kaensak started boxing even before he was ten years old. At age fifteen, the Lumpinee Stadium was his fighting destination.
Kaensak has been known to use intelligence along with skills to overcome his competition. He has to his credit the Lumpinee title and the Ratchadamnern title. Fighters from the mid-eighties and nineties undoubtedly feature on this top ten list. Kaensak won 200 matches out of the 250 he played.
He fought in the 112 lbs., 115 lbs., 122 lbs., and 135 lbs — weight categories. Kaensak retired from competing in Thailand in 1997 and left for the United States, where he is currently settled with his family.
Pud Pad Noy Worawoot
Pud Pad is another athlete who started fighting early. In 1965, at fourteen years of age, his first match had a purse of fifty cents. In the first four years, he had fought about sixty fights. He relocated to Bangkok when he was 18.
In Bangkok, Pud rose to fame after he won many Lumpinee titles. He was also the winner in a 16-man tournament where he beat all the tournament fighters, who were the best in Thailand at that time. Pud was the last man standing.
Pud has a 90% win-rate in matches where he lost only fifteen out of the one hundred fifty games, he fought. Pud was an aggressive fighter, stepped forward and was known for his leg kicks. These signature kicks earned him the nickname of “Golden Legs” by his fans.
He won the “Best Fighter” title from the King of Thailand.
Apidej Sit Hirun
Receiving an honor from the King of Thailand is no ordinary feat in Muay Thai. Any individual who has been bestowed with the recognition from the King himself gets a place on the Top 10 list.
While many regard Buakaw to be among the hardest hitters, Apidej overtook him and used to hit with brute strength.
The brute force of his muscles was literally seen when his famous kick broke his opponent’s arm, post which, the opponent had to retire from the sport.
There remains no one in history to challenge Apidej’s strength.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
Diseselnoi is among the greatest and the tallest fighters contemporary Muay Thai has seen. Unusually tall Thai fighter Dieselnoi remained an undisputed and undefeated champion at the Lumpinee Stadium.
His way of attack was using knee strikes and was extremely precise and powerful at that. He demonstrated the power of his hit when he defeated Samart Payakaroon, who himself is a well-known champion.
Standing tall at 6’3”, Dieselnoi has been considered to have an unfair advantage fighting with someone 5” shorter. That said, his strikes were so fierce that many opponents did not challenge him and enter the ring to fight a match.
Kaopong was considered to be one of the most difficult opponents to face because his combination of power and skill was unprecedented. He has been known to be a tough and technical fighter. In the late seventies and early eighties, there were hardly any players in Thailand that matched his skill.
Kaopong has the honor of being the first individual from Thailand to ace in Amateur Boxing by winning an Olympic medal. He accomplished this feat at the 1984 Olympics. Kaopong fought with his birth name – Dhawee Umponmaha. Kaopong held this record for more than ten years until Somrak bagged the Gold.
Kaopong has further honor in his kitty. He is one of those few who could defeat Diselnoi in the ring. The latter being 6” taller than Kaopong had a significant advantage but couldn’t win against Kaopong.
Olympic Gold Medal winner Somrak Khamsing is and shall remain Thailand’s pride. He was the first Thai to have bagged an Olympic Gold Medal for his country and himself. Somrak’s moves are fluid and smooth. His fighting style is a mix of pure boxing and Muay Thai.
No doubt Somrak would have had the ace title at the Lumpinee and Ratchadamnoern stadia, he never found a chance to prove his mettle. People at these championships knew that he would probably defeat his competitors. Hence, they did not accept his championship.
Somrak retired from professional practice and did amateur for some time. In 2012, he was once again in the professional arena fighting Jomhod for a purse of 6 million Baht.
A true legend of Muay Thia, Saenchai is among the top technical fighters the sport has ever seen. He is a dynamic personality who fought matches internationally and remained on 0the top spot for more than ten years. Saenchai’s speed, accuracy, and agility are worth watching.
There are records that he gave up to 10 kgs when competing against foreigners. Despite fighting with individuals who are about 5-10kg heavier than himself, he lost only once when competing against a foreigner.
Even though his short height and stature are points of disadvantage in the ring, he compensates and has always had, by his sheer fluidity of fighting Muay Thai.
Samart Payakaroon may not be on Olympic gold medal winner, but he still deserves the top spot for the legendary fighting career. His use of hands is fantastic and he has been able to defeat his competitors like it was a walk in the park.
Samart held the title of junior featherweight at the World Boxing Championship (WBC) when he knocked out his opponent.
He has 4 Lumpinee belts and holds a boxing record of 21-2. Considered by a lot as the greatest fighter in all time, he was the super-bantamweight champion at the WBC.
Muay Thai has been a trendy sport, especially in the last forty years. Even though the sport has a history that dates back over 300 years, television broadcasting, associations like the World Boxing Championship (WBC), and international fan following made Muay Thai popular.
The sport is governed by an official association today that sets the rules for the game. There are international associations that have their own set of rules.
Identifying and classifying a player into the Top 10 list is a matter of subjective opinion. This is quite evident in this list itself. An Olympic Gold winner, that too the first for a nation, is not ranked at #1. This indicates that this sport is not just about international fame.
Muay Thai is a sport of speed, discipline, agility, tactics, strength, and strategy. Fans who wish to start practicing must go ahead because it is not only meant for a match in the ring but also serves as a perfect form of a cardiovascular workout during the practice sessions.
There are many articles on the blog dedicated to Muay Thai, its history, and the gear an individual should have to practice and play this sport well. Happy reading.