As the morning sun rises, its rays shine down on a two-story house on Wiphavadi Rangsit road in Bangkok. The rumble of truck engines starting from the FA Group factory next door fills the house with noise. Soon the trucks will depart, bringing shipments of food additives around the country. Outside the house a fighting chicken crows. It walks around in its small cage and pecks at the ground. The rooster’s owner opens his eyes. It is another day for Yothin FA Group.
For FA Group Muay Thai gym’s top fighter the morning runs from the gym to Chatuchak park are constant. The beat of his feet on the street are accompanied with the sounds of his stablemates, who like him live at the gym. Opened in 2006, the gym is partnership between Boontham Lueangyawee and FA Group a food additive company. Fighters, along with head trainer Kru Diesel, came from Nong Khai, in Isaan to start their careers in Bangkok.
An hour later when he returns the trainers are already up, waiting for the fighters return. Yothin gets busy. First nearly an hour of clinching, a signature of Kru Diesel. Then it’s pad work, followed by rounds on the bag.
Kru Diesel oversees his twice daily training. The fifty year old took Yothin in just over two years ago. Through the routine has shaped him from being a mid-wage Isaan fighter to be a Muay Saan, a boxer who makes 100,000 baht or more a fight. Half of the purse goes to the gym to pay for his training, food, and lodging. The other half Yothin keeps, setting it aside for the future.
“I am building a house to stay with my family,” Yothin told ROUGH.
His house is not yet complete though. Every fight sees a little more construction and a little more money put aside. The journey to completion is faster than if he’d stayed in Isaan. Before he came to FA Group Yothin was was making a meagre 5000-7000 Baht per fight. He did well for himself but it wasn’t enough for retirement.
“That amount of money in Isaan is pretty good, especially since I was fighting so often. I had people from my village coming out to see me fight and my parents would sometimes come out too,” he said.
Even the money in Bangkok isn’t enough. While he has achieved Muay Saan status it still isn’t enough to be financially stable. For this he needs to achieve a belt at one of Bangkok’s elite stadia. The desire to be a champion is motivated as much by economic imperatives as it is by glory.
“Being a champion you get a better reputation as a trainer. If you can go abroad you will get paid better,” he said.
For many ex-fighters the only lucrative choice after a career of fighting is working as a trainer. In Thailand however, money is minimal. For most jobs abroad, being a champion is a requirement. Having already accumulated well over 200 fights, Yothin can’t fight for much longer.
“I want to be champion at both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern. I need to accomplish that within two years; my body is good for another two years. After that I want to retire,” he said, knowing just how long his career might last.
With wins over Kiewpayak Jitmuangnon, Wanchalong PK Saenchaimuaythai and Channel 7 Champion Jomhod Eminent Air, a title shot is just a matter of time. Last year he won 13 straight fights in a row.
The world of Muay Thai is well known to the star of FA Group. He has been competing since a very young age.
“I’ve been training my whole life. I first learned Muay Thai from my father when I was five years old. At 15 years old, I left home to live at a gym in another province.”
At 25-years-old Yothin is a seasoned veteran. He’s seen what happens to others that have given up. They go lost. They lose out on their futures. They end up with nothing. He knows he has to keep at the grind. The daily drudgery and religious maybe pain now but it sets a precedent for the future.
But there is a Horatio Alger myth to fighting. If you work hard enough that you’ll eventually reach that belt, that status, that pay day. Not every fighter ends up like that. The fight game chews them up and spits them out. For now though Yothin has to continue the grind. He’s doing well but it’s just not enough.
“I want financial stability,” he said. “I want to finish building my house and have a car. I want to move back home and stay with my daughter.”
Tomorrow morning the sun will rise, the fighting cocks will crow and Yothin will open his eyes and hit the ground running.