[Update: On December 20th, one week after the televised fight in which Ekapop was accused of taking a fall, Max Muay Thai aired this same video evidence during the broadcast of the regular Sunday show.]
The story seemed so obvious. The instant replay confirmed what the naked eyes saw, and the Max show replayed it repeatedly in slow-motion. The stalwart but aged veteran, fighting a westerner on a westerner-heavy promotion, by all visual evidence took a dive. The knee from the Frenchman Remy is the only strike that appears to make contact, albeit without strong connection, but then Ekapop grabbed his head, which appeared to have not received a single glance. He lay there on the canvas for some time, appearing to almost ham up the KO in the way that is familiar enough in some of the more questionable bouts. When he finally stood Ekapop stretched his jaw and rubbed his gloved fists into his temples, as if wringing out the tension from a migraine. “Good acting,” I thought, “but focusing on the wrong body part. Nothing touched him.”
The oft-trotted out hand wringing about how much gambling has ruined Muay Thai (something I don’t entirely agree with), seemed ready to go. It seemed that now gambling had even pervaded the Max Muay Thai show, which didn’t even seem to have much of a gambling base… or was it that the aging warrior simply took the fall for other reasons? In a land where nothing is quite what it seems, this appeared to be just another obvious dissimulation, a ruse that just wasn’t done very well. Like, “oh please, are we supposed to buy that?”
I was watching the live broadcast as MAX airs every Sunday night on Channel 8, and I posted to my Facebook Page that the knockout appeared “dubious” and I was probably being kind with that word. The president of MAX happened to be at the show because he would be presenting awards that night. He was compelled to make a statement pretty quickly after the fact, something to the order that the KO would be investigated, and if proven a fake, the offending fighter (Ekapop) would be “banned for life.” There was praise that MAX took such decisive action, especially given how strong the video replay evidence seemed. They were drawing a firm line and I applauded it, despite my various complaints about the show. A promotion which had boldly built its own stadium in Pattaya, and committed to weekly, and now twice a week broadcasts (Saturday shows are Thai vs Thai, Sunday shows largely Farang vs Thai), was proving it was legitimate and wanted to be taken seriously.
The Deception and Redemption of Video
To be honest about it, when slow motion video surfaced the next day on Facebook, seemingly to even more dramatically show how fake a KO this was, a knee strike never coming remotely close to Ekapop’s head, I felt obliged to share it. It was the final proof. It was up on my page for a few minutes before my husband noticed it there. He felt I shouldn’t have shared it. We’ve both been big fans of Ekapop, who is a wrecking ball of a fighter – but not only Ekapop, we admire all great, aged Thai fighters who (well past their primes) find themselves fighting large-bodied westerners, often giving up weight in “fight entertainment” promotions. To Kevin, what I’d posted felt like piling on. He thought maybe Ekapop had simply thrown the fight because fights like these don’t really matter to older Thai fighters, who have fought hundreds of times and don’t have motivations beyond a payday and a good show. It made no sense to embarrass Ekapop if indeed he had thrown it. He’s one of (if not the) first winners of Max’s 4-Man tournament title; his face is on the billboard outside the stadium and whatever this moment might have been in its appearance, it certainly wasn’t worth shaming a man. He’s a noble fighter with a long career. I agreed with Kevin, and took the slow-motion share down.
But you can see many things with a camera. So take a look at the video edit that Ekapop shared today, offering the same video that condemned him, but instead upon closer look, as proof that he indeed was legitimately KO’d… but not by any of the strikes we watched not hit him. Rather, it was by a clash with his opponent’s cheekbone, an accidental head-butt that nobody would look for at that angle, and indeed Remy’s cheek received 11 stitches as a result of the impact.
Keep in mind, when thinking about this proof which can never be final, this epic fighter may very well be prone to concussion, having possibly been concussed several times before. He’s well known for his throw-down style of fighting, and because of his size has been fighting larger westerners for a while now. Ekapop is about 38 years old (as my trainer Pi Nu told me), and I might guess has been fighting for much more than 20 years.
Being banned from stadia or promotions is serious business. I have seen promising young fighters I know personally lose very bright futures in Muay Thai due to being caught in untoward fight machinations. Banned from Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadia cuts off a future that was sewn in maybe a decade of blood, sweat and training and fighting as a youth. These are sad occurrences. But in this case it would be the embarrassing stain on a great fighter’s career, and the loss of late-career income (and esteem) for Ekapop in the growing promotion of MAX Muay Thai, a promotion he has been with for some time. I’ve felt connected to Ekapop who is a fellow Pattaya fighter, out of the Sor. Klinmee gym which is something of a brother-gym to my gym Petchrungruang. I fought on a card with him a few years ago, and I’ve always loved watching him fight. In fact, on my runs in Pattaya in the mornings this month I ran by him every day as he was getting in shape for this fight, leading the younger fighters on runs. Many of us, myself included, spoke unkindly based on what our eyes told us, which was that a man lying on the canvas deserved shame rather than our understanding. Regardless of what the deepest truth is, what something is versus what it seems. I know from personal experience that a fight can look very different from inside the ring, to ringside, to the stands, to tv (or film), and Ekapop said it best in his Facebook post:
“Lastly, I ask for compassion from all of you too”