The Muay Thai Golden Era (1980s and 1990s) remains the holy grail in the realm of Muay Thai, where fighters fought for glory and recognition. It was when a win went far beyond the fight purse. Fighters fought with blood and sweat to bring honor to the beautiful art. Crowds flocked to Lumpinee and Rajadamnern to watch their heroes as they pushed themselves mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally each time they stepped into the ring.
Audiences were there to be inspired and entertained, watching their idols finally battle it out in real life. In the ring, the fighters proved that they were truly the guardians of the ancient martial art, displaying pure, unadulterated Muay Thai in those three five minute rounds. 2x Muay Thai World Champion Muangfalek “Kru Bang” Kiatvichian remembers those days fondly. “The stadiums were always packed and very loud,” says Kru Bang, “Everyone was watching Muay Thai.”
Today, Evolve Daily shares The Biggest Superstars Of The Golden Era Of Muay Thai:
One of the biggest stars of the Golden Era was Samart Payakaroon. To this day, he is considered by many to be the best Muay Thai fighter of all time. A student of the legendary Kru Yodtong Senanan of the Sityodtong Muay Thai camp, Samart was known for his precise technique and lightning fast reflexes. He was known as the Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai, virtually untouchable by his opponents.
There was no one more confident than Samart, who walked in the ring feeling absolutely fearless. There was no opponent that he felt intimidated by, regardless of his size. Rumored to have terrible cardio, Samart relied mostly on technique and creativity rather than strength and endurance. His knowledge of Muay Thai and prowess in the ring was truly unparalleled in those days.
Samart would go on to win four Lumpinee titles in four different weight classes as well as Sports Writers Fighter of the Year three years in a row. He also became a star in Western boxing, earning the WBC super bantamweight title in 1986.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukam
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukam was another legend of the era, winning the Lumpinee title and holding it for over 4 years. For two decades, Dieselnoi packed both Rajadamnern and Lumpinee stadiums. Towering at 6’2, Dieselnoi was definitely intimidating. Because of his height advantage, his most powerful weapons were his knees, beating opponent after opponent with them.
Towards the end of 1982, Samart and Dieselnoi faced each other in a match, which Dieselnoi won with his knees. Eventually, Dieselnoi relinquished the belt and retired from the sport completely because there was simply no competition left for him.
Also known as “The Woodenman”, 5-time Muay Thai World Champion, 2-time Lumpinee and 2-time Rajadamnern Champion, Jongsanan Fairtex was best known for the infamous “Elbow Fight” between himself and Sakmongkol, which won the Fight Of The Year in 1989.
His opponents often said that kicking him was like smashing your foot against a tree – hence the nickname “Woodenman”. With his long-range kicks and devastating knees, he is truly one of the best of the Golden Era.
Another legend, Sakmongkol has defeated other Muay Thai greats such as Ramon Dekkers, Dany Bill, Jongsanan Fairtex, John Wayne Parr and many others. A 5-time Muay Thai World Champion, he is also a 3-time Lumpinee Stadium Champion.
Known for his devastating left kicks and unrelenting endurance, Sakmongkol was certainly a force to be reckoned with. He is known for his rivalry with Jongsanan Fairtex, whom he has fought 7 times. Their 5th fight, “The Elbow Fight” was also known as one of the best and most brutal Muay Thai fights in history.
Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj
Known to kiss his opponent’s cheeks before knocking him out, Sangtiennoi “Deadly Kisser” Sor Rungroj was widely admired during this time. Just like Dieselnoi, Sangtiennoi had extremely long legs, giving him easy access to his opponent’s temple. He was also known for his deadly knees from the clinch.
The older brother of Samart Payakaroon, Kongtoranee had achieved almost the same success as his sibling. With an impressive record of 200-74, Kongtoranee also held the Lumpinee World Champion title in five different weight classes. Apart from that, he also did relatively well in Western boxing, with an impressive record of 12-2.
A 7-time Muay Thai World Champion, Dany Bill was considered to be one of the best foreigners to ever grace the Muay Thai scene. At the age of 15, he became a French Muay Thai Champion and dominated the rest of the European continent. Known for his deadly technique, he has fought some of the biggest Muay Thai legends, including Sakmongkol and Ramon Dekkers.
Orono Por Muang Ubon
Another star of the Golden Era, Orono Por Muang Ubon was a 3-time Lumpinee champion, Kings Cup champion and he also received the Sports Writer Fighter Of The Year award. He has faced many Muay Thai greats in the ring, including Ramon Dekkers and John Wayne Parr.
The legendary Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers is arguably one of the best foreigners to ever fight in Thailand. An 8-time Muay Thai World Champion, the Dutch kickboxer fought for over 20 years, facing some of the most exceptional talents in both Thailand and in Europe. Dekkers’ fights were always action packed, with Dekkers always looking for the knockout. His biggest rival was Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, whom he would meet in the ring four times, making it one of the greatest feuds in Muay Thai history.
One of the most aggressive fighters of his era, Coban has faced legends such as Ramon Dekkers and Dany Bill. A 5-time Muay Thai World Champion and two-time Lumpinee World Champion, he is the only person to have knocked out Ramon Dekkers in the first round.
There’s no doubt that the Golden Era brought about some of the greatest fighters and battles in Muay Thai history. These battles of epic proportions helped propel the popularity of Muay Thai to the West. The fighters, on the other hand, made way for a new era and a new breed of champions such as Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Saenchai PK Saenchaimuaythaigym, Pornsanae Sitmonchai, Sagetdao Petpayathai, and many others.