S1 Muay Thai - Middleweight Division

S1 Muay Thai – Middleweight Division

Pounding beats, raw tension and nerves cling heavily to the air as the Middleweight Division of the One SongChai (S1) Singapore International Muay Thai Championships prepares to get underway at SAFRA Tampines this Sep 28.

The Middleweight division of the competition features 16 fighters contending for 8 places in their division in the finals. Each fight is split into 5 rounds of 3 minutes, and presided over by 4 highly experienced S1 officials from Thailand.

It’s fight time.

The ringside announcer calls out the first 2 names from the fight list, and they enter the gallery, bodies hardened by hours of rigorous training glistening like carved ebony in the harsh florescent lights of the hall. The singing of the java pipes (Pi Java) coupled with the rhythm of the twin drums (Klong Kaak) and chimes of the brass cymbals (Ching) herald the performance of the Wai Kru by the fighters, a traditional pre-fight ritual in which the fighters pay respect to their teachers. They also move around all 4 corners of the square ring to inspect it as well.

2 fights were particularly memorable from the lineup of 8 truly riveting middleweight bouts and the UrbanWire brings you the blow-by-blow account of those matches.

The very first matchup of the scorching afternoon is between Malaysian fighter Bedu from BoxxTomi gym against a Belgian comer, Oliver. The fighters complete their respective Wai Krus, flash each other a warm smile, and proceeded to their corners to have their Mongkol  – a decorative headband worn by the pugilists before a match for good luck and protection, removed by the coach.

The bell sounds.  The fighters circle each other around the brilliantly coloured canvas. Both fighters’ chins tucked in, their fists raised to their temples swaying to the strains of the Thai instruments in a serene, almost ritualistic, trance. Usually, the first round is used to ‘feel out’ the other opponent, intended to observe his movement and how he responds to the blows.

Bedu, cutting a shorter, stockier frame is at a reach disadvantage compared to his taller, spindlier opponent, Oliver, evidenced when the Belgian snaps loose jabs at his opponent, keeping him at a distance. Bedu, smiling, replies with a few relaxed shots of his own and a mid section Thai kick that misses. Bedu makes several attempts to close the distance and land some body shots and mid section kicks, but the Belgian, quick to exploit his obvious reach advantage, halts Bedu’s advances with decisive, jabs and push kicks.

Suddenly, the Belgian fires a high Thai kick that is caught by the Malaysian fighter in the bent crook of his fore arm and elbow. Bedu, spots his opening, steps in and fires a low Thai kick that connects with the back of Oliver’s remaining leg, scoring the first takedown of the day and shouts of approval from the crowd. Oliver gets back up, exchanges an amiable smile with Bedu and they continue their deadly dance of the cobra and mongoose, a flowing tapestry of subtle movement and concealed preparations for attack. It’s not hard to see why many consider Muay Thai to be an intricate art.

After the first round, the façade of apparent gentleness and ritual broke apart as the contention for the winner’s place began in earnest. Bedu started the round with a prompt sharp, almost blindingly fast, Thai kick to the midsection that was barely blocked by the Belgian. The Belgian went about the counter-offense with a one-two combination and a low Thai kick to the leg of Bedu. Bedu bobbed and weaved under Oliver’s artillery barrage of jabs and right straights to score a few hard body shots before backing out again. But this tactic did not go unnoticed by the wary Oliver; Bedu was nearly caught out as the Belgian launched a vicious knee toward Bedu’s face when the Malaysian was bent over, attempting to avoid the hail of blows.

Oliver launched a powerful sweeping head kick at Bedu late in the third round that missed, throwing him off balance and ending up on his knees. The referee broke the fighters apart and they began again, jabbing and keeping the fight at a distance. Several times during the round, Bedu rushed Oliver with a flurry of looping hooks and straights, clinched the Belgian with both arms under his opponent’s and slammed him to the canvas to an approving “OIE” from the crowd. The Belgian swung a loose low leg kick that was checked by a wonderfully timed double arm catch by the Malaysian. Bedu swiftly countered Oliver’s kick by hammering a beautiful right hook of his own into the off-balanced Belgian’s jaw, driving home his point that old tricks will not work twice on this wily fighter.

The fight then culminated with Bedu driving the Belgian hard into the corner with a rapid burst of hard jabs and crosses that put his opponent immediately on the defensive. The Belgian tucked his head behind a covering block as the Malaysian representative proceeded to punish his trapped adversary with all manner of crunching hooks to the body and sides of the head. The smack of leather on flesh was audible. However, Bedu, could not keep up the assault after the past grueling four rounds and broke off. The rest of the round had the clearly exhausted Bedu paying for his lost impetus at the receiving end of the long-range right crosses, push kicks and low Thai kicks of his taller opponent.

Not a bad start to the championships.

Shock And Awe

In sharp contrast to the first bout, the second fight more than made up for in raw brutality what it lacked in finesse and grace. Iranian Barbod went up against Malaysia’s Tay Kah Wei. The Iranian made it clear to the crowds what was to come. During the performance of the Wai Kru amidst the familiar humming and chimes of the Thai instruments, Barbod, unleashed a powerful salvo of punches into one of the pads lining the corner of the ring, a prelude of what was to come.  The Iranian’s physique, sculpted like a Grecian statue’s, was as stark a contrast to his opponent’s as his impassive face was to the Malaysian’s jovial disposition.

Round one begins, and the Iranian wastes no time in launching a powerful leg kick after firing a 3 punch combo that is absorbed by Kah Wei’s block. They circle and exchange a series of Thai leg kicks and kicks to the midsection. They circle and rush forward to tie each other up in the clinch. Barbod lands a few hard shots in the clinch and a sharp knee to the Malaysian’s body. They break apart and throw a few more cautious jabs.

The subsequent second and third rounds were electric. Kah Wei, though looking beaten and shell-shocked from the first round has clearly re-focused himself. He came out strong and alert, looking to exploit any weakness and openings that the Iranian left gaping with hard crosses and hooks.

Then his chance came. Midway through the fight, The Iranian cornered Kah Wei and hammered combinations into the Malaysian and then whipped a dangerous reverse elbow at Kah Wei. Kah Wei leaned and weaved out of range of the arcing striking and countered, slamming 4 brilliant hooks into Barbod. Barbod’s offense broke and he retreated back along the canvas. Kah Wei followed with a barrage of crushing hooks and straights, as the crowd screamed and thundered their approval and the anticipation of the win.

But the Iranian held out against the storm to come back with an aggressive counter attack in the third round. Firing 4 successive kicks at Kai Wen, he clinched with the Malaysian and unleashed furious knees into his midsection and 2 horizontal elbow strikes to the head. Another  punch to the face later and the referee counted the Malaysian out. A battle well fought, no doubt, and won by the Iranian via a Technical Knockout (TKO) in the third round.

Can we hope to see the same delivery of adrenalin-pumping, intense action in future Muay Thai competitions. With what we’ve seen here, the UrbanWire can say that the S1 Championships has definitely set the bar high.

Fight results will be up shortly


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