Phom, the trainer in the middle, leads his students in a warm up routine before practice in a small Muay Thai gym in Bang Mot, a suburb of Bangkok. He supports his students in practice sessions and goes to every fight in which his students box. He often helps schedule fights, too.
Mook's face is smooshed as she’s pushed against the ropes by First, another fighter. As practice wears on, the fighters get tired. There is no air conditioning in this gym, and Bangkok is known as one of the hottest cities in the world.
Sai spars with her trainer, Phom. This routine happens every day, and it’s a way for the fighters to practice moves on an opponent. As they go through the motions, Phom gives Sai feedback on her technique. If she lets her guard down, Phom responds with a light blow to the head with one of his pads.
Sai dons her pink boxing gloves in preparation for a match at Asiatique’s boxing ring on the 22nd of March, 2016.
Sai prays with her mother shortly before the match. The culture of Muay Thai boxing is steeped in Buddhism, and this prayer routine takes place before every fight. Sai started boxing because one of her friends invited her to come to the gym. Once Phom saw her potential, he asked if she wanted to fight. She now competes semiprofessionally and hopes to become a famous boxer.
Sai lands a punch in the face of her opponent as sweat droplets fly in the air. This fight was featured in the “Muay Thai: Warriors Rising” series at Asiateque, a waterfront mall in downtown Bangkok. The fighters trade blows over the course of three rounds to determine a winner. Of the five matchups that night, this was the only fight between two women. While Sai says she does not feel that women boxers are treated differently, they are rarer than male fighters.
In between rounds, Sai retreats to her corner where she is doused with water. Phom, her trainer, is right behind her to give pointers for the next round.
After Sai exits the ring hanging her head in defeat after losing the match, Phom holds up her chin and tells her to be proud of her performance. It was a hard-fought matched that lasted three rounds, and Sai narrowly missed victory.
Sai holds her head low as she looks at her prizemoney from the match. Even though she lost, she was still paid well for her performance.
First is another fighter who trains with Phom. She enters the ring at MBK in downtown Bangkok to fight on March 30th, 2016. First began fighting because of her family’s obsession with Muay Thai.
First dons a decorative headband and dances around the ring in preparation for the fight. It is tradition for fighters to perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay, a traditional dance, before beginning a match.
During the second round, First lands a kick on her opponent. Shortly after this blow, First knocked out the other fighter and won the match.
After knocking out her opponent, First proudly stands in the center of the ring with her hand held high as she’s declared the winner by the referee. In the future, she wants to become a fighter full-time and become famous internationally. Phom, her trainer, said First is well on her way to achieving this goal. Months after this photograph was taken, First had her first international fight in Singapore in June, 2016.
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