Whatever Happened to Khem?

By Fatso King

Whatever happened to Khem is a question that should probably be preceded by another question:  What happened to Fairtex and the Contender Asia show? I have covered what are in my opinion World Muay Thai Council’s (WMC) many failings as a sanctioning body in parts 1 to 3 of the article: Contender for Credibility. In this case I want to take a closer look at a Thai Nak Muay who earned his spot on Contender Asia 2 but was denied entry on to the show.

Khem after a victory

Fairtex’s presence was very high profile in the first season of Contender Asia.  With two outstanding Thaiboxers in Yodsaenklai and Narupoel present and a ring festooned with the Fairtex logo that presence was hard to ignore.  The eventual winner of season one Yodsaenklai enjoyed healthy exposure via a television show and became an even bigger star as result of the exposure .  Fairtex reaped the benefits of having their logo prominently displayed and having such an obviously dominant competitor participate as a member of the Fairtex camp.

Previously known as Khem Sor Ploenchit, Fairtex acquired Khem’s services last summer in a million baht deal.  Khem was born in Issan in the city of Maha Sarakham K.N.M. Khem got his start at the Sor Ploenchit camp. During his time at Sor Ploenchit Khem amassed an amazing fight record of over 100 fights 90 wins. Khem won the  the Ratchadamnern Stadium champion title at -61 kg/135 lbs in 2007.  For the King’s Birthday 2008 Khem won the S-1 Tournament at – 70 kg/154 lbs for the belt S1-WMC.  Some of the impressive star names Khem defeated were Seanchai, Kongpipop, Singmanee, Nopparat, Diesellek and Big Ben. And in 2009 Khem won the belt of Thailand and World WMC at – 69 Kg/ 152 lbs. The 2008 win at the King’s Cup was significant in a few ways. First the WMC stated the winner of this bout would go on to represent Thailand in the 2nd season of the Contender Asia. And second there was the matter of Khem’s contract that Fairtex was to help gain.

Khem works the pads

Khem works the pads

The WMC paints a picture of being the benevolent, never resting positive force for Muay Thai.  When I describe what took place next ask yourself how much of that are you willing to believe.

As reported in Thai magazine Thai Rath Khem would not be going on the Contender Asia show as agreed upon because 0f Khem’s inability to speak English. No where was the requirement stated prior to the King’s Cup event or any of the other qualifiers the WMC sanctioned that were taking place globally. It was de facto decided that The King’s Cup was not a qualifier by the WMC due to “airport closure”.  Yes that is the best excuse Stephan Fox could make. Fox in a hastily written damage control letter said:

Regarding Khem Fairtex, let me explain further. Originally, the King’s Cup should have been a qualifier, but sadly, the airport in Thailand was shut down due to political unrest at that time, and our international fighters from Belarus, Russia, France, etc. could not make it, so we had to use fighters from Thai gyms only. This is why the decision was made to no longer use the event as an official direct qualifier.

Yet ironically Khem did defeat a foreign fighter in Egon Racz of Slovakia.  Here is where Stephan Fox further washes his hands of the matter and declares the WMC powerless to make calls in their own sanctioned events.

Madsua was the producer’s choice as he was one of the trainers in season one and also beat JWP at Evolution in Australia. I had opposed the idea for the simple reason that I am associated with Madsua and didn’t want to be blamed in Thailand if (for example) he lost early. Nonetheless, Madsua was subject to a screen test with the producers, as were all other potential contestants with questionable English skills. He was subsequently turned down for a spot due to his inability to communicate well enough for the show. If I was egotistical, and as you say “call the shots” in Contender, Madsua would be in, and I would have taken a cut on his purse. Just for the record, I never take a cut from Madsua’s purse (or anyone else).Money is not my main objective (getting Muaythai Olympic recognized is). The fighters get what they earn and deserve. I have the highest respect for each and everyone and bow down to them for all the sacrifices they make.

Here Fox not only admits to bowing down to a producer in terms of English requirements but also in Madsua’s placement in the event.  I personally find it highly unlikely Madsua was there for no other reason than Fox who manages him and a good portion of Contender Asia Season one fighters as well.  Fox, by the way would have us suspend enough disbelief to believe that he does this free as well.  Though there has never been a public disclosure of Fox’s agreement of gratis management of Madsua or anyone else he manages. Its not likely any of Fox’s managed fighters will oppose him in his statements for the fear of what Fox can do to a fighter’s career. For the sake of discussion let us assume Fox is actually telling the truth.

Fox managing fighters and then sanctioning the same fighters in WMC is an enormous conflict of interest and in fact illegal in some countries.  If not for money then why do it when its abundantly clear to be at cross purposes with  the WMC rhetorically stated pursuit of integrity and honesty? To invoke some cliche here for me:  ‘if it sounds too good to be true it usually is’.  Khem would eventually do his English screening over the phone and Mark Burnett decided not go with anyone who could not speak English.

Stephen Fox, Vice President of the WMC

Stephan Fox, Vice President of the WMC

Now’s where the twist comes in.  Fairtex had agreed to help SitSeesongpeenong get the contract from Sor Pleonchit should Khem win his way on the Contender.  Khem defeated all his opponents at the King’s Cup.  Everything looked like it was in place to put Khem in the Contender.  As we all now know WMC and Fox de facto turned the King’s Cup into an non-qualifier for the Contender Asia and allowed the producers to exclude non-English speaking Nak Muays. Now because of all the gaming WMC has done in pursuit of nothing more but a high profile spot on a game show Fairtex would not help purchase Khem’s contract.  Instead Khem would go on to join the Sitsongpeenong Camp at a lesser price.

Another piece of irony is that Khem was the current holder of the WMC 70 kg world title while John Wayne Parr and Buakaw fought for the title in Jamaica.

If the WMC is truly powerless over fight events they sanction then it’s clear the show’s producers call the shots on what is or is not allowable. The WMC is there for trinket hand outs, glad handing and a chance for Fox to be on TV as a ‘mentor’. Unarguably, the producers have geared this entire event more so for the American market than anything else. And they are the ones who had the final word on which fighters appeared or didn’t though the first season had a lot of WMC Koh Samui residents on it. There’s also no denying Fox wields his influence when it best suits him.

Thai Rath and Thai Rec have reported heavily on Khem up to and including Khem’s exclusion on the Contender Asia because of the de facto English rule. Stephan Fox followed up with his hastily voiced reasons why the WMC was basically responsible for nothing taking part on the show.  He has since gone silent though voices out of Thailand are now saying Fairtex had to pay to get Khem even on the King’s Cup and how the WMC refused to pay Khem’s purse.  Many people looked to Song Chai who promoted the event but as in any combat sport (outside of MMA) the independent sanction pays the purse.  This new observation has also gone unanswered by Fox or the WMC.  Fox instead closed his replies by leaving the WMC hotmail address.  Yes, that is not a misprint the WMC’s only means of email contact – a hotmail address. No doubt when Khem and his camp begin granting interview requests their version of events will be told as well.

As for Khem Sor Sitsongpeenong the news is actually positive.  In Thailand Khem is still fighting high profile fights and has a stable camp.  Fighting and beating the best still means something and I am certain the best from Khem is yet to come.

Thanks for reading and as always leave comments pro or con.


Khem fights Egon in the King’s Cup Final 2008.

~ by fatsoking on August 5, 2009.

4 Responses to “Whatever Happened to Khem?”

  1. GREAT piece mate.

    Egon lives and trains at Ole’s camp Legacy in Ubon (if you didn’t know). 🙂

    And Mr. Fox is actually Stephan and not Stephen (remember he is German). 🙂

    I am seriously thinking about not writing for World Muaythai Magazine anymore as we support the WMC and IFMA but the WMC is a joke these days and I can not continue to have my name connected to such an amateurish so called governing body! Sad but true.

    • Egon still qualifies as an international fighter. And it’s altogether a weak excuse for Fox to de facto alter the tournament into not being a qualifier. Fox did do one thing right and that’s basically admit the WMC has no function but to make money staging events for sanction fees, acting like a promoter and a vindictive one at that, and a prize provider.

      Being basically a part of press reporting or commentary has pretty much ensured I can never publicly put myself in the pocket of any Independent sanction. That’s a line I will never allow myself to cross. I guess other people don’t see it the way you and I do. OH and I updated Stephan’s proper spelling.

  2. I wasn’t trying to correct you on the Egon issue – just wanted to tell that he trains out of Legacy mate. 😀

    The rest, as you know, I TOTALLY agree on (unfortunately!). 🙂

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