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"The Story of Muay Thai's Golden Era: Exploring the Rich Modern History of Thailand's National Sport

Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is one of the worlds most popular martial arts. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a popular sport that attracts fans from all over the world. One of the most significant periods in the history of Muay Thai is the Golden Era, which took place from the early 1980s to the mid / late 1990s. During this time, the sport reached new heights of popularity and became an integral part of Thai culture.




The Golden Era of Muay Thai

The Golden Era of Muay Thai began in the 1980s and lasted until the mid / late 1990s. During this time, the sport gained widespread popularity in Thailand, and many fighters became national heroes. Muay Thai matches were held in stadiums that could hold thousands of spectators, and the fights were broadcast on national television.

One of the most famous fighters of the Golden Era was Samart Payakaroon, who was known for his lightning-fast kicks and devastating punches. He won multiple championships during his career and was considered one of the greatest Muay Thai fighters of all time. He also won world Titles in Western Boxing

Another legendary fighter from the Golden Era was Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, who was known for his powerful knees. He dominated the sport during the 1980s and was considered unbeatable for a time.

During the Golden Era, Muay Thai fighters were treated like celebrities in Thailand. They were often featured in movies and TV shows, and their fights were highly anticipated events. The sport became a symbol of national pride, and many young men aspired to become Muay Thai fighters.

So why was the golden era so special and so successful?

The Golden Era of Muay Thai was a perfect storm of various factors that came together to create a unique and exciting period in the sport's history. Here are some reasons why the Golden Era was such a significant time for Muay Thai:

  1. The emergence of talented fighters: The Golden Era saw the rise of many talented Muay Thai fighters who brought new techniques and styles to the sport. Fighters were able to dominate their opponents with their unique skills, which made the fights even more exciting to watch.

  2. Increased media coverage: The rise of television and radio during the Golden Era meant that Muay Thai matches could be broadcast to a wider audience. This increased media coverage helped to raise the profile of the sport and made it more popular among the general public.

  3. Growing interest from the government: The Thai government began to take an interest in Muay Thai during the Golden Era, as it saw the potential to promote Thai culture and tourism. The government invested in building new stadiums and promoting the sport, which helped to increase its popularity.

  4. National pride: Muay Thai became a symbol of national pride during the Golden Era, with fighters like Samart and Dieselnoi becoming heroes to the Thai people. The success of Thai fighters in international competitions also helped to boost the country's morale and national pride.

  5. The social and political context: The Golden Era took place during a period of rapid social and economic change in Thailand. As the country modernized, Muay Thai provided a link to Thailand's past and traditions, which helped to strengthen national identity and cultural pride.

  6. The spirit of competition: The Golden Era was a time of intense competition between fighters, trainers, and promoters. This competitive atmosphere pushed fighters to train harder and develop new techniques, which helped to raise the level of skill and excitement in the matches.

  7. Advertising Revenue: Lots of sponsors came forward with the advent of TV advertising. The 2 minute break in-between rounds suited them very well.


The Decline of Muay Thai

Despite its popularity in Thailand, Muay Thai struggled to gain recognition outside of the country. The sport was often seen as too violent and barbaric by Western audiences, and it struggled to gain mainstream acceptance.

In the 1990s, Muay Thai experienced a decline in popularity in Thailand as well. The sport became mired in corruption and scandals, and many fans lost faith in the integrity of the matches. In addition, the rise of other combat sports such as MMA and kickboxing drew attention away from Muay Thai. Young Thai children were more inclined to play Soccer than put themselves through the rigorous discipline of a martial art like Muay Thai.

Some gyms developed a strong clinch game which was not interesting to watch but enabled less skilled fighters to win matches and so most of the gyms began to adopt this strategy which diluted the skill level amongst the fighters.


Revival of Muay Thai

In recent years, Muay Thai has experienced a resurgence in popularity. The sport has gained a following in countries such as the United States, where it is now practiced by thousands of people. The rise of social media has also helped to increase the visibility of Muay Thai, as fans from around the world can now watch fights online.

In Thailand, efforts are being made to revive the sport and restore its reputation. New regulations have been put in place to ensure the fairness of matches, and the sport is being promoted as a way to promote Thai culture and traditions.


Overall, the Golden Era of Muay Thai was a unique and exciting period in the sport's history. The convergence of talented fighters, increased media coverage, government support, national pride, social and political context, and a competitive atmosphere created a perfect storm that propelled Muay Thai to new heights of popularity and success.


The Legends of The Goden Era

See them in action on our Past Masters Video Diary webpage

It is an impossible task to pick out a top ten of the greats from The Golden Era, there were more than 50 household names during the 20 years of the Era but here is a sample list of some of the Fighters who were prominent during that time.




  1. Samart Payakaroon: Known as the "Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai," Samart was a two-division world champion and is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

  2. Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn: Dieselnoi was known for his devastating knee strikes and held the Lumpinee Stadium title for four years.

  3. Burklerk Pinsinchai: Burklerk Pinsinchai, a former 2 x Lumpinee Champion and legendary fighter known for his aggressive fighting style and powerful kicks

  4. Nokweed Davy: Nokweed was a six-time champion and was known for his powerful punches and kicks.

  5. Jongsanan Fairtex: Jongsanan was a three-division champion and is known for his skillful and strategic fighting style.

  6. Namkabuan Nongkeepahuyut: Namkabuan was a two-division champion and was known for his slick footwork and counterpunching.

  7. Karuhat Sor Supawan: Karuhat was a two-division champion and was known for his fast and unpredictable fighting style.

  8. Somrak Khamsing: Somrak Khamsing, a Thai boxer and Olympic gold medallist, known for his precision and flashy fighting style, including his signature "slinging" punches.

  9. Samson Issan: Samson Issan, a skilled Muay Thai fighter known for his powerful strikes and technical ability

  10. Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj: Sangtiennoi was a three-division world champion and was known for his strong clinch and knee strikes.

These fighters helped to define the Golden Era of Muay Thai with their incredible skills, fighting styles, and championship victories.

The Author is very proud to say that he has trained with 3 of the above legends and Ajarn Burklerk Pinsinchai is Muay Thai Fevers technical consultant.

Who would be in your top 10?



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