Sugar Cane Phanuwat “Coke” Chunhawat Talks to the Science
By Mike LNg
Phanuwat “Coke” Chunhawat has a long and storied fight career which began at the age of 13. His first trainer was none other than the legendary Jongsanan “Wooden Man” Fairtex. Coke’s fighting career would eventually reach the big time in Thailand and he participated in many bouts televised from the numerous stadiums in Thailand. Coke eventually would be seen on the biggest stages of Thailand in Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums. Coke would be consistently ranked at the top 10 of his weight classes. Coke has fought and beaten some of the top names in Thailand including even Buakaw Por Pramuk, the former 3-time K-1 MAX World Champion.
Coke now resides in Oakland, California where he teaches students. Coke will be fighting against Matt Embree for the WBC National championship at the National Muay Thai Championships this Sunday , September 26th, 2010 at the Commerce Casino in California.
Q: How did you get started in Muay Thai and where did you first start training?
A: I was living at a Wat and a guy asked me if I want to fight so I just started running and learning how to kick the heavy bag. I was in the country by myself until I went to Bangkok at 13 years old.
What is your fight record thus far?
I have 141 wins, 21 losses,20 knockouts, and 1 draw.
Who was your toughest opponent in Thailand?
Wanpichai Sor Kamsing at 119lbs. I lost by decision. The fight was so hard. In the first round I knocked him down with a right cross and he got an 8 count but later in the round he kicked me in the neck and I got an 8 count. This was a very tough fight.
You now teach and fight in the USA. How do you feel the level of USA Muay Thai is compared to Europe and Thailand?
I think it’s hard for fighters in America. In America you cannot make good money from Muay Thai so you still have to work a job, and cannot train like in Thailand. Europe is a little better because you can make Muay Thai your job but Thailand is still number 1 because it’s Muay Thai not Muay America, not Muay Europe. I say that with a smile. I do not mean to upset anyone or hurt their feelings but of course I am Thai. Thailand has to be number 1.
For those who don’t know already you have fought Buakaw Por Pramuk in the past before he became internationally famous. Can you describe what fighting Buakaw was like then?
Just a fight. We fought at 118lbs and 119lbs, but he was naturally bigger than me. I don’t remember much special. After all I have had so many fights. We are 1-1 against each other. He’s doing well now and I want him to keep doing well and to help make Muay Thai bigger.
Now that you teach in the United States what should beginners of Muay Thai learn first?
If you want to fight, the first thing you have to learn is “Shut up and do” what your trainer tells you. Believe that your trainer knows what they are doing and trust them. If you just want to do Muay Thai for exercise, then “Shut up and do” what your trainer tells you but have fun.
Who has been the toughest opponent for you in the USA and why?
I have not had a very tough opponent yet in the USA.
Where do you train now in the USA?
I have many friends and my old trainer from Thailand, Jongsanan also lives near me. So I train at many places so I can learn more American style and keep my skills sharp.
If you could rematch any past opponent who would you fight again and why?
I actually have two: I would like to rematch a boy named Vishnu Gulati. I got disqualified for not understanding the rules. My English is not that good yet. I go to school everyday to get better at it so I will understand.
I also want a rematch with Kevin Ross. I know I can beat him.
Having trained both in Thailand and the USA what do you think is the most important quality to have to be a good Thaiboxer?
Have “Jai Yai” this is Thai for big heart and “Shut up and do” what your trainer tells you.
What has been your proudest accomplishment so far in Muay Thai?
I am very proud to have made it to number 2 rank at Lumpinee at 112lbs. In my country it is a big deal.
What is your favorite technique?
What country have you not yet fought in that you want to fight in?
EVERYWHERE. I want to help make Muay Thai bigger. I want to fight anywhere somebody wants to see Muay Thai.
Are you fan of any other sports?
Yes, I love soccer. My favourite team is Liverpool, and the NFL, my favourite team is the Niners. I also like basketball. I don’t have a favourite team yet. I also like tennis.
When you are not training Muay Thai what do you like to do?
My favourite thing to do when not training is EAT! I also am in college and I like school very much even though it is hard for me.
Who were some of your influences in Muay Thai when you started fighting?
Jongsanan, Sangtiennoi, Matee, Nam Kabuon, Coban, Saekson Janjira, and many of the fighters you now see on the S-1 dvd’s.
Who are some of the better Thaiboxers internationally right now in your opinion?
Saenchai Sor Kingstar! For a non-Thai fighter I would say Steve Wakeling is my favourite.
I’ve been asking many fighters this question to see if there is a common ground among the answers: What do you think the USA needs most to become a stronger country in Muay Thai?
Make it more like in Thailand. Stop all the different rules. When you fight Muay Thai, just fight Muay Thai. Make the time for checking weight the same like Thailand early in the morning (same day weigh-ins). Stop having promoters make 20 fights in one night. Sometimes I have to fight at 1:00 am in the morning! Just 8 or 10 really good fights. If you make Muay Thai the same all over America, then you can make it easier for fighters here to get good when they all do the same thing.
Do you have any words for your fans?
Thank you for watching me, keep coming so Muay Thai can be stronger here! Wish me luck, I fight for the WBC National Title on 26 September in Commerce California
I understand there was controversy regarding your WMC title win. Do you care to explain it?
Yes, I won a WMC world title but I am upset because they didn’t give me the real WMC belt, and after that I found out that they have more than 1 world champion in a lot of weight classes. It is not fair or the right thing to do for fighters. We train hard and work hard to make Muay Thai good they should not do that.
Much thanks to Phanuwat “Coke” Chunhawat. Coke will be fighting for a United States WBC Muay Thai championship at Commerce Casino this weekend.
Here is Coke in action versus Fumihiro Tanno: