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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Short Essay: Dieselnoi vs Samart - Who is the GOAT?

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Dieselnoi vs Samart The GOAT.jpg

First off it should be said that none of us have seen enough of either fighter's fights to really definitively say who is the GOAT. We have a handful of Samart's fights, and scraps of Dieselnoi's. It is a great loss. Secondly, it has to be said that those who have seen most of Samart's career, that is the Thais, more or less anoint him as GOAT. He is much beloved. I believe he was awarded his 3rd Fighter of the Year in his final year, ending on a fight he would lose. He is walking greatness. But, it is not as simple as that. Questions like GOATism are really about values, things to be celebrated, and therefore the question of who is the GOAT is perennial. In this question, as it lies between Dieselnoi and Samart, it very well may come down to He who fought hardest (presented himself as an irresistible, unfightable force) vs he who fought like he hardly had to fight (he who floated undisturbed). Which is more great? With these two fighters we also have historical evidence, this isn't a fantasy matchup. They actually fought in a huge, "Who is the best of Thailand?" fight, after Dieselnoi had run out of opponents in his own weight class at Lumpinee - a belt he would eventually have to vacate having cleared out the division. Dieselnoi took a huge weight cut to face Samart, dropping 19 lbs in just a few weeks, on weigh-in even giving Samart a 3+ lb advantage (129.7 lbs vs 133 lbs). That's right, Samart was allowed to be the bigger fighter by weight. It was a weight cut that Dieselnoi feels nearly killed him, and from which he feels he suffers from medically until this day, decades later. Dieselnoi won, eclipsing the charismatic Samart. He would not have many fights left in his career. Having defeated the best in Thailand the weight class below him, he would then, after I believe a year, go up in weight and defeat possibly the most feared fighter in the class above him. Sagat Petchyindee (of Street Fighter fame). Six months later he would completely dominate Sagat in the rematch, winning again. He bookended his greatness. Then well up in weight in his final two fights Dieselnoi would draw vs the powerful Krongsak (a fight Krongsak felt he won), and subsequently he would rematch Krongsak, defeating him definitively. Krongsak tells the story that Dieselnoi changed his tactics in the second fight, becoming more artful, more fimeu, giving him the final say between them. That, I believe, was Dieselnoi's last fight. At the age of 24 he had no more fights to fight. He had continued to train keeping himself in fight shape for several years, but there were none for him to be had. The question is: Why did Samart come out of of his faceoff with Dieselnoi unblemished with his GOAT reputation in tact? It was the extreme weight cut for Dieselnoi that caused famed promoter SongChai to criticize the bout, one he would never have arranged himself (maybe politics). But, Dieselnoi cleared every hurdle in this equation. He beat Samart, he beat Sagat, he exited the stage in his physical prime. He cleared the room. There is in Thailand - and maybe in the west in boxing - a dear appreciation for the lightest of styles (when coupled with some power). Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali somehow have a silkiness that defies the gravity that we all find ourselves bound to. And the art of a sport as brutal as boxing or Muay Thai in large measure is painting on that canvas, that one is not perturbed. But, that is not all that fighting is. Fighting is also the ascension of the relentless spirit, the incredible grind and power of the human heart. It is the grit of what works, and is working. The silk of Samart vs the engine of Dieselnoi. Even when the engine won vs silk, silk has been acclaimed. There is even more in this. Muay Thai historically and iconagraphically has always had a tension between the Bangkok (elite) high sense of art, and the power and heart of the fields (everything provincial or agrarian). This tension goes well beyond the story of Muay Thai, and in many ways it has been what has made Muay Thai so beautiful, and meaningful. The so-called Golden Age of Muay Thai in the late 1980s and 1990s was driven by the economic boom of those years. Not only was there heaps of money to invest in gyms and fighters, flowing to enlarged fighter pay and sidebets, but it was the provincial man, the workers, who swarmed to Bangkok to find employment in the suddenly burgeoning, cosmopolitan economy. It was they that filled the stands with their wages in their hands, betting them. It was they who bought the newspapers and magazines. Rural city Champions from those years, like Roi Et's Samson Isaan or Yodkhunpon, were often seen as too rough-hewn. Blunt force fighters. Unartful (though filled with hidden art). Muay Khao fighters a 2nd class of "greatness", even though dominant. Look through the Fighters of the Year Awards of that time and you don't see an endless string of femeu undefeatability. And, among them all, Dieselnoi was the most undefeatable. He was a Giant, but far from simply accrediting his victories to anatomy, name other elite very tall, long knee fighters? Anatomy does not confer greatness. If you meet Dieselnoi in person, and train along side him, you will immediately understand it wasn't his anatomy that made him like no other. He burns like nuclear fission. But, while Dieselnoi painfully watched his love for Muay Thai waste away, unable to fight anyone, eventually retiring and unglamorously becoming a trainer in Japan for a decade (I believe), Samart transitioned into an incredible, cross-over figure, not only a silky champion who can't be touched but also a movie star and a singing star. It was the transmigration of the brutish art, taken to its highest levels. This afterlife of Samart also is part of the equation. You ask Thai men about Samart and they swoon. Not only for his Muay Thai, but the completeness of his aura. Ultimately questions about the qualities of a fighter are questions about "the man". Philosophically one might observe: Heraclitus gnomically wrote "Habit is fate", equally translatable as "character is destiny" or much more wordily: "the things you repeat, what you do and do, is your divine angel, where you will be guided". In this way "your fighting style is your destiny, your aim, your home, your divinity". So who is the GOAT? Does Thai sentiment win the day or does the Thai bias towards fimeu hierarchy lose something important in the question? Does "most unfightable fighter" not translate into absolute Greatness? This is the heritage, the legacy we of the west have inherited in the record. We look back through a glass darkly. Somewhere out there is the footage of that showdown between Dieselnoi and Samart, perhaps it will shine a light back in history, and show us all the time when these two men touched gloves for real.

this is from a Facebook post I put up a long time ago, but I think it's good to have here

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I can only add what I have heard on the Thai side of things... and a lot of them seem to feel that Dieselnoi simply had an unfair (and insurmountable) advantage due to his frame. He wasn't just slightly longer/taller than others, he was MUCH longer and taller. I'd be curious to know his reach advantage in fights, but its got to be anywhere from 8-12 inches depending on the opponent. They definitely do not seem to give credit his "engine" and drive to fight. I think they simply dismiss him from the talk because of that. Samart on the other hand was in much more "competitive" fights and that created much more of that story type narrative that gamblers and those born on the countryside relish in. He became a folk hero of sorts. 

I kind of think of it in a pro-wrestling frame of reference simply due to the story telling aspect of it and how information traveled during that time period. In one guy you have this complete destroyer who everyone pretty much "knows" is going to walk through his opponents. In the other you have a seemingly normal human who the crowd relates to. It's kind of like having a heel vs babyface matchup. I think the fact that Samart went on to do movies and sing cemented that feeling of being someone who Thais could relate to (you know how big singing is here). 

Personally, I love me some Dieselnoi. I've only been around him in short bursts, but he is really fun to be around. His energy is infectious!

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2 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

I can only add what I have heard on the Thai side of things... and a lot of them seem to feel that Dieselnoi simply had an unfair (and insurmountable) advantage due to his frame. He wasn't just slightly longer/taller than others, he was MUCH longer and taller. I'd be curious to know his reach advantage in fights, but its got to be anywhere from 8-12 inches depending on the opponent.

Yes, I have gotten that sense as well. They see him as, maybe, unique and non-comparable. Thais, generally, are very predisposed to body-type thinking, and his frame probably throws them for a computational loop. That being said, I do have a problem with the overall argument that he had some kind of unfair advantage, in the sense, you don't see pretty much ANY other super tall fighters dominating in Thailand. There were a few tall ones, but nobody turned their length into what Dieselnoi did. Muay Thai is not basketball. In fact, you could argue (in the absence of tall fighters simply dominating the sport), that his height might have made him prone as well as having an advantage. You had the greatest coaching minds of the Golden Age scheming how to strategically take advantage of his height and length. You should be able to cut angles on him, make him turn, find his blindspots. Nobody really could If you think about it, tall fighters don't always dominate even in other combat sports. The only one I can come up with is maybe Jon Jones who everyone talks about in terms of his length. You never get anyone saying Jon Jones isn't the greatest because he has an unfair advantage. I think that Dieselnoi deserves great credit for taking his anatomy and turning it into a weapon where all of its advantages showed, and very few of its weaknesses.

I do agree that word of mouth probably played a big deal in this. Nobody in Thailand really saw Dieselnoi fight on television. Pi Nu, Sylvie's kru, who was a tall knee fighter was told when he was young that he should fight like Dieselnoi. The only problem: He, and nobody else around, had ever seen Dieselnoi fight, hahaha. It was mostly newspaper photos and magazine covers. The story about him became his height. Whereas Samart had a semi-prodigious media career post-fighting, and had the advantage of a western boxing championship which Thai's fall in love with. It is ironic though that he beat the supposed GOAT, but gets zero credit for doing so. Even Samart told us with pride when we interviewed him: "I never lost to Muay Khao." ummmm. Except for one.

 

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Not my intention to take away Samart's credit and overall awesomeness away. He's mind-blowing no matter what. Plus it's not like I truly have the sharpness and the knowledge to judge whoever's the greatest fighter (Although, objectively speaking, I would say it's Sylvie, but she's not part of this topic for some reason, lol.). That said, I have a feeling Samart was made the greatest by the media; whereas Dieselnoi made himself the greatest. I don't care the depth of someone's talent and slickiness and I don't care whatever genetical advantage someone has, when you train as hard as Dieselnoi did, made the most of what was given to you, and were forced into retirement because everyone were too scared to fight you... Well then you're the greatest. It's pretty obvious to me. But nowadays History remembers only what the mass media decides to highlights and archives.

Which brings us to Sylvie yet again (and you Kevin). Thank God for her journalism. She kinda refutes the old idiom that you can't have your cake and eat it too: she's the greatest Muay Thai fighter (or shall be soon enough) and the greatest Muay Thai journalist. How about that.

Otherwise yeah it's Dieselnoi to me for sure. Not a hardcore fan of Samart's singing and dancing hahaha not even sorry.

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1 hour ago, Kero Tide said:

But nowadays History remembers only what the mass media decides to highlights and archives. ...Which brings us to Sylvie yet again (and you Kevin). Thank God for her journalism. She kinda refutes the old idiom that you can't have your cake and eat it too: she's the greatest Muay Thai fighter (or shall be soon enough) and the greatest Muay Thai journalist.

This is a sidenote, but maybe an important one. We realized from the beginning that women need to write their own history. They have to be their own historians. I've tried to urge female fighters to stop waiting for their gyms, or promotions, or "the media" to tell their story. It won't be told. You have to create your own record as a female fighter. Female fighters will simply be swallowed by the tide. It's painful to see so many female fighters still beholden to the "official" keepers of history, especially in this age of self-publication. I've written an article (maybe 8 months ago) which I haven't yet published, where are argue that Sylvie is greater than Dekkers, or at least will be, in the sense of comparing the Dekkers-OneSongChai (largely video archive), fighter+publisher complex, vs the Sylvie+self-publisher complex. In the long run the fighter cannot be separated from the web of their history, their record. Women really should be working harder to tell their own stories.

I get it, women are told to take their place all the time. When in gyms they often feel special when acknowledged as legitimate, and feel a debt. This often results in some very strong-minded women toeing the line of the gym/promoter assemblage. I remember the very first time Sylvie made her first "athlete" page on Facebook. It was quite a while ago. It felt incredibly uncomfortable to do so. People in the local Muay Thai community back then were like: Who the fuck does she think she is? A Facebook Fighter Page? Putting up all your training videos? Who do you think you are? Putting up all your fight footage? Who the hell are you? But there is no doubt. Women need to archive and be historians of themselves, especially as fighters. And part of that is to be a historian or journalist of others, one's own scene, or those you admire. Hey, just my opinion, but it's been our path, and we've urged other female fighters to do the same -- but so very few do. There just is a tide that flows the other way.

But, returning to the main topic, there is some sense in which it seems like Samart's star shot so much higher after he retired. But, and one has to be perfectly honest here, Samart in his fighting displayed a quality which is probably the highest quality a fighter can have in Thailand, which is to appear "above" the fight. As if the fight isn't even affecting him, or that he only has to tap into 10% of his energy to deal with it. This is completely, and I do mean completely an act. But this kind of performance requires incredible skill, and to pull off that illusion is extremely difficult. I think that because he portrayed this particular quality at such a high level, combined with his movie star, singer, playboy persona, it just makes him irresistible to Thais. It's like talking about how James Bond is as a fighter. He doesn't even wrinkle his suit. You get this in other sports. The effortless boxer (Ali), effortless football player (don't know soccer), basketball player (Bird, Dr. J, Magic). golfer, baseball player. football player (Jim Brown, Bo Jackson), etc, etc.

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I think and I'm  just putting this out there. Maybe other female fighters aren't as lucky as Sylvie. In the respect they don't have the support of a great husband. It would be awfully difficult, if not impossible to do what Sylvie has done without that kind of support. 

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3 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I think and I'm  just putting this out there. Maybe other female fighters aren't as lucky as Sylvie. In the respect they don't have the support of a great husband. It would be awfully difficult, if not impossible to do what Sylvie has done without that kind of support. 

I can't take this as a point of credit because it just came out of my love for her, but I would definitely say, and Sylvie would 100% agree, she would never, ever have done this on her own. Sylvie is a full on introvert, and it was only through me convincing her that her values, what she cares about committed her to overcoming her introversion, and sharing it all, that it came to be. She started sharing on YouTube because Master K seemed like someone who the whole world should see. It was her value for him that led to sharing, even if she was embarrassed by her mistakes and imperfections - even though people were saying "who do you think you are putting up videos". We are a kind of team, complementing each other, it's true. There were also completely random elements, like for instance living in the countryside at the time, far, far away from gyms. Having no teammates, no gym guidance. Finding Master K. So many unique things.

But...Sylvie also has paintakenly carved out a space, cut a path, a space that didn't exist before her. Really no different than the path Dekkers cut in his own unique way, which led to 1,000s of "Dekkers" coming to fight in Thailand. In that space other female fighters can explore their own freedoms, their own version of storytelling. At bottom that is what it is. I think as a female fighter though you have to tell your own story. You have to write your own history. You can't wait for others to do it for you. Female fighters should be vlogging. Sharing their reality. Letting fans see their training. Involve others in the process. Move away from the official gatekeepers (who will always be there anyways).

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8 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I think and I'm  just putting this out there. Maybe other female fighters aren't as lucky as Sylvie. In the respect they don't have the support of a great husband. It would be awfully difficult, if not impossible to do what Sylvie has done without that kind of support. 

100%

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On 7/5/2019 at 5:02 PM, Kero Tide said:

Otherwise yeah it's Dieselnoi to me for sure. Not a hardcore fan of Samart's singing and dancing hahaha not even sorry.

Hahaha, I have an affinity for it. Maybe like how well-adjusted people still like to watch Soap Operas. But I will admit that I wasn't much of a Samart fan until I trained with him for the library... and then I understood something that I didn't feel before. Whereas Dieselnoi... you can't not feel him, at any moment.

As for me... Jesus, Kero. Muhammad Ali did his own talking, he didn't wait for sports writers or anyone else to do it for him. I wish I had the bravery of Ali. To be what he was, WHEN he was, is nothing short of incredible. Maybe I'm a version of that, because I'm always kicking against the pricks. To be the greatest, I'm not sure if I am brave enough to aim for it... but to work hard so that I'm not the last in anything in which I was the first... well, that's something I'll shout at the moon for.

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10 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I think and I'm  just putting this out there. Maybe other female fighters aren't as lucky as Sylvie. In the respect they don't have the support of a great husband. It would be awfully difficult, if not impossible to do what Sylvie has done without that kind of support. 

We as people can get so caught up on individual successes that we sometimes forget the wonderful people who support us to do the many things we love. 

 

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