The boxers wait nervously backstage. The announcer stands in the centre of the ring. The lights come on, the camera focuses in. It’s Muay Thai MC Matthew Deane and he knows the blood and the bruises of the hurt business.
He is tall with jet black hair and a champion’s smile. He has practiced the fighter’s names. They roll off his tongue in both English and Thai. Deane has being working as a Muay Thai MC for years. He has worked for Thai Fight, Kunlun Fight, and All Star Fight, just to name a few.
In his spare time, the owner of Khongsittha Gym makes the trek out to the stadiums where he has watched the greats of this era fight live.
“I’ve been at the stadiums to watch the best fighters in Thailand. So many classic matchups— Pornsanae versus Sam A, Nong O and Saenchai, Petchboonchu with Sagatdao against Saenchai,” Deane told ROUGH excitedly.
The focus shifts away from the man with the microphone and onto the fighters themselves. The round begins with the ring of the bell. They fight. Inevitably, someone wins and someone loses.
Meanwhile, the staff hurry about. Lights need to be adjusted. The sound needs to be lowered. Each moment is calculated. It is a formulaic dance done to appeal to the crowd and the TV viewers at home. The routine is set even if the show is different.
“A lot of the crew run production at other shows. I’ve known all these guys in the industry for ten years, they’re like family. You know the drill. You jump into the ring and do your thing and they do their stuff,” Deane said.
The drill is about entertainment, Deane’s specialty. According to the Thai-Australian, the rise of Muay Thai as entertainment came about with Thai Fight. The show brought modern production to a traditional sport.
“There was an explosion and every channel had their own Muay Thai thing,” Deane said.
Currently, NOW 26, Channel 8, and ThaiRat, (among others) all broadcast weekly Muay Thai promotions. Each one looking for their own niche in the competitive climate and a star like Matthew Deane to host.
With new promotions popping up all over the capital, the need for fighters is greater than ever. Opening the market up to a variety of skill levels doesn’t take away from the quality of the show. As an avid fight fan, Deane knows that fireworks can happen at any minute.
“You can find a good fight anywhere. It could be two guys slugging it out at All Star or MBK Fight Night. You never know when you’re going to see an amazing fight.”
Deane is now also working with Nakornloung Boxing Promotion for a monthly show at Workpoint Studios in northern Bangkok.
“With the growth of Muay Thai, boxing was a bit overlooked,” Deane said.
“Even though Thailand has produced multiple world champions.”
The show is keeping up-and-coming boxers busy. Beginner bouts start with four rounds, mainline bouts are six, while championship matches fight the full 12 rounds. It’s keeping boxing entertaining while at the same time giving fighters the valuable round time needed to advance their careers.
“It’s the first proper regular production with flair. They pay the guys well, and it’s run by WBC Asia,” Deane said.
As a TV celebrity, Deane ultimately believes that it is what’s in the ring that matters. The fanfare of lights and sounds pales in comparison to the talent.
“What happens in the ring is what everyone sees. If it’s a good matchup you know it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, that’s what people want to see. They want to see the excitement. They want to see underdogs with a chance to win. ”
While celebrity culture does play a role in the sport, as is evident with Deane, it is ultimately the fights that keep the fans coming back. Having a platform to perform has given fighters like Buakaw and Saenchai the opportunity to amass their own fanbase.
“The fighters with a name, a following, and a character, they’re the ones that can perk interest in people,” Deane said.
“If Buakaw comes out jacked out, training hardcore, people are gonna want to see how he does. If Saenchai comes with his flashy technique, people want to see how he does it in a fight.”
The lights are dimmed. The camera goes to commercial. The audience goes home. The vibration of excitement lingers, and Matthew Deane awaits another night to announce the real stars of the night, the boxers, again.