Thai Child Boxers. 1999-2010

Sanpeet knew he had to win the fight. Sanpeet is six years old thai boxer from a small Issan village, 30 km west of Ubon.

There was the reputation of his gym to uphold, and all the fighters and trainers had become like family to him. There was the pride of his community to defend, many of whom he knew to be in the crowd. But more than anything, there was money involved. Muay Thai is a tradition kept alive because it is a good business. The child boxers are there to bring prize money back to their families. And Sanpeet’s village and trainers, yelling advice and pushing up against the barricades of the ring, did not come just to cheer for him. They came to bet on him.

The tradition of child boxing in Isaan, the North Eastern and poorest region of Thailand and along the Burmese border child boxing is a community business. It provides income to families that would otherwise have to rely just on their rice paddies, and a way out of poverty for some children with few options. Child boxers can earn as much in a night as their parents can farming rice in a year. And there is always the chance of being discovered by promoters, and achieving fortune in Bangkok. Successful fighters are celebrities in Thailand, and most of them come from Isaan.

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