North American Memories of Lumpinee
Introduction by Mike LNg, Story by Michael “Chase” Corley, Wayne Gregory, Dave Zuniga, and Mark DeLuca
As the close of old Lumpinee Stadium draws near, many have bitter sweet memories of the old Thailand fight venue that conjures feelings of pain, glory, and happiness simultaneously. To say history was made here is not the easy flowing hyperbole one typically hears.
Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday Lumpinee played host to the best of Thailand’s Nak Muays doing battle in the ring to determine the true best in Thailand in Muay Thai. From miniflyweight to Superwelter weight Lumpinee became the standard for the Stadium ranking system of Thaiboxers. Lumpinee has played host to the literal best of the best and it looked like the old fight venue was going to continue for a long time to come as it reached it’s 50th birthday in 2008. But plans to take down the old Lumpinee and replace it with a new very near fight ready Lumpinee have almost reached their fruition. Michael “Chase” Corley North American Thaiboxer has reached out and collected some stories of North American Thaiboxers’ times in th e famous fight arena now entering legend and memory.
Much Thanks to Michael Chase Corley, Dave Zuniga, Wayne Gregory, and Mark DeLuca for adding their stories.
Lumpinee Stadium will always hold a place in my heart that will never die. It has become the standard of which I teach, the fighter I became, and the humbleness in which I conduct myself.
I am far from anything worth talking about, far from any discussion in regards to that stadium! I however, am relevant in who and what it took to becoming the first American to ever win in Lumpinee Stadium.
I got my chance on August, 8th, 1997, In a sign of mutual respect I fought under the name of Apidej-Noi Fairtex. Apidej Sit-Hirun took me under his wing and treated me like a son. This relationship began in the early 90’s at Fairtex in Chandler, Arizona. When the time came, Apidej took me to the World Muay Thai Council to meet General Veerawut. Apidej vouched for me and I was allowed to fight at Lumpinee Stadium. To that very day I had paid my dues and to this day, carry my respect for that country, its people, and its culture.
I am saddened to learn that Lumpinee will no longer exist in its current form, but nothing saddens me more than the passing of Apidej Sit-Hirun this last year. It only makes sense that I close a chapter with the ending of both significant figures. Our sport has has brought me to many brothers and sisters, it is that indescribable, intangible, sense of family and brotherhood that can only be relative if you know the suffering.
Lumpinee is built on names, greats, legends! It defines Muay Thai! It is our Mecca! To this day, I smell it, I taste it, I fear it, I worship it. I remember every second as if it was a year. I remember the hand wraps which were cast’s. The gloves which were 6oz “soaking wet”. The smell of Thai oil. The gamblers arbitrage to place bet bets and odds. The fighters getting sewn up by doctors on the couch in the back. Having to weigh in butt naked and knowing it was 20 below zero back there, “Thats my story”! The bullpen, having to watch the fight before yours.. the fight before me was an all out elbow war, GREAT! Im going home with a huge Vagina in the middle of my forehead. I had the best poker face in the house! Truth be told… you couldn’t have squeezed a sesame seed out of my asshole. Thats Lumpinee Stadium!
None of this would be possible if people didn’t believe in me! To them… I owe this story. Philip Wong, for giving me a job as the boxing trainer at Fairtex, Bangplee. Apidej Sit- Hirun, I love you like a Father and think about you everyday! Ganyao, Sakasem, Bunkerd, Pyboon, Jakeet, Ehn, Jongsanan, Nuengsiam, I love you my Brothers! Time and distance passes but always know I hold you dearly in my heart. It is those who believed in me that got me to Lumpinee. Otherwise, it was just another stadium to watch fights in.
Michael Chase Corley
I was the Fairtex Bangplee Camp Manager from Dec 2009 – Around April 2011. During that time I also started my professional career in Muay Thai.
So one day after training one of the trainers asked me if I wanted to fight in Lumpinee in a couple weeks. To them this is just another fight, but for me, it was the dream fight of my life. I had only 3 pro fights at this time and really was in shock that I could get this opportunity so soon in my career.
The trainers tell me I’m fighting another Farang (foreigner) and I need to be at 160lbs for the fight. At that time I was weighing 173lbs, but it didn’t matter, I would fight at any weight to fight at Lumpinee.
Since the fight was at Lumpinee, we were to have same day weigh ins. I arrive at 6:45 in the morning of the fight for 8 am weigh-ins, just to make sure I was on weight. I step on the test scale and weigh exactly 160lbs. At this time I am pretty worn down and can’t wait to refuel my body at 8 am!
The promoter then walks up to my trainer and tells him that the foreigner that I was supposed to fight had backed out of the fight, but they have a replacement for me. He then tells me that a more experienced Thai will fight in his place, but I need to lose more weight if I want to fight him. I was already pretty worn from the cut to 160lbs, but this was the chance to fight at Lumpinee, so I’m going to lose the weight. So I put on the sweat suit and ran around the stadium and dropped 3.5lbs and the fight was on.
I had no idea who my opponent was until years later I saw an article about him opening his own camp in Bangkok. His name was Suwat Jorhpromma and had 160 Fights with 120 Wins compared to my 3 Wins 0 Losses coming into the fight.
As for the fight it was one of the most painful fights of my career. The fight was very competitive but I ate a lot of low kicks. So many low kicks that I couldn’t walk right for 5 days. I also got cut twice during the fight, one between my eyes and another on the top of my forehead.
I lost the fight on points, but it was entertaining at least. Of the 8 fights that night my fight was the only one that went the distance.
After the fight I go to see the doctors and they cleaned up my cuts. They take me back to a room and they tell me they can stitch me up right there. After about 30 minutes and 14 stitches later I’m finished up. The doctor gave me some pain killers and told me to come back next week for him to have a look.
After the doctors, I head over to Accounting room with my trainer to pick up my purse for the fight. I knew Saturday fighters didn’t make as much as Tuesday and Friday night fighters but I was interested to see how much I was going to make.To my surprise I only made about $100.00 for the fight. They told me that the crowds had been light due to the political crisis in Bangkok. I didn’t really care, and would do all over again for nothing. Just to step in the ring that so many legends had fought in is priceless. I gave half my earnings to my trainers and went on home.
Funniest part of the story is that when I went to go eat with some friends after the fight my head was pounding! I know I had just fought but it was bad. I went into the restroom of the restaurant we were at and peeled off the bandages to look at the stitches on my head. The stitch job was so bad, and with the biggest gauge wire/thread I had ever seen. No wonder my head hurt so much.
Told my friends I’m going to head to the hospital to get it looked at properly. The doctors at the hospital couldn’t believe the work done on my head and ended up removing the 14 stitches on my two cuts and redoing them. I ended up with 22 stiches and my headache went away.
It was the best fight experience of my life.
I am very honored to have fought in Lumpinee Stadium. The fight took place in April 2009. I was training at Jitti Gym in Bangkok in the lead up to this fight. My good friends from England were also training there at the time such as Liam Harrison, Richard Cadden, Darren O’Connor and James France. Jitti Damriram, the owner, got me matched with a Danish fighter fighting out of Sasiprapa gym. Training had been going great with so many good fighters to work with as well as ex-champion Trainers/Padmen.
Like a lot of things in Thailand, things were switched up shortly before the fight and my opponent changed to Allan Wold from Norway who was fighting out of Sor Khamsing gym. Weigh ins were at 6am the morning of the fight and I was a little over the 64kg mark, so I had to jog around the parking lot out back with what seemed like every other Thai fighter on the card. I checked my weight again and we were set to fight. I relaxed for the rest of the day which was pretty easy because fighting over there was natural to everyone so no one put any more pressure on me than there needed to be
As we got to the stadium that night it began to pour down rain. We all sat watching the beginning of the fight card and the power went out during the fight! Luckily, everything was restored and ran smoothly from there. I went in the back room to start getting ready and you can just feel the aura of the history of that place, of how many champions had been in the exact same room. It was pretty surreal. Jitti began wrapping my hands and I asked him jokingly “How many times have you done this? ” and he replied, almost laughing “I could do this with my eyes closed!”
As I sat in the waiting area while on deck for my fight to begin, I couldn’t help but think that Saenchai had been sat on this very bench only two weeks prior on a huge Lumpinee show. The fight that was going on had ended in the 2nd round which meant I’M UP! My corner team consisted of my trainer Camron Sor Vorapin, Liam Harrison, Rich Cadden and of course Jitti. Across the ring was my opponent who had the legend Somrak Khamsing, so between the 2 corners we had quite the team of champion fighters! I went on to win on points in a very technical bout against a worthy adversary. As in most Muay Thai fights, I still keep in touch with my opponent to this day because fighting is a sport but the friendships you make along the way always last longer than the 15 min you’re trying to kill each other!
I will never forget the first time I stepped foot in Lumpinee stadium. It was a huge Halloween show in 2008. The crowd packed into the stadium inside, while there was heavy rainfall throughout the night. Water was dripping from the ceiling in half a dozen places. Saenchai was competing in the main event against a last minute replacement from Laos. Through my limited knowledge of the Thai scoring system, my thoughts were that the Lao fighter won every round, and I was confused at the decision.
Even before I walked out of the stadium, a realization that I knew nothing about real muay thai had come over me. Since that day, I have been on a seemingly endless journey to fully understand proper muay thai scoring. I have been to Lumpinee stadium countless times now, and have even fought there once, albeit an empty stadium full of echoes. The electricity and nostalgia created there can never be duplicated, but hopefully the new Lumpinee venue can take that aura to a new level.