Below is a collection of videos I’ve started as part of my Preserve The Legacy efforts. So far 3 legends – Dieselnoi, Karuhat and Namkabuan – speak to who they believe are the five best fighters of all time. Much of this article is on Dieselnoi, as he was the first I focused on for this particular project. More to come, this is history. You can follow my YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss new videos in this series. After this post, you can read part 2 More Legends Give Their “Top 5” Greatest Muay Thai Fighters of All Time – Chatchai, Kaensak, Hippy
One of my favorite things to talk with Legends of the Golden Age about are who they thought were good fighters; who were the great fighters? We live in an age where our exposure to Muay Thai is expanding, with Youtube pulling up contemporary fight cards, live shows streaming, and older fights that have been dug up from dusty old vaults and transferred to digital media… it’s a wonderful time. But a lot of what we think we know is just a little wave at the lip of a lake. What about that whole, deep, beautiful lake? Like when you look at the history of the Earth and realize that human existence is just this tiny sliver at the end of it. But there are Legends who lived through it, who remember the idols and legends from before them, people they saw fight ringside, or who they faced. Listening to them, it’s like linking hands and they can reach back farther than we’ve ever seen. Dieselnoi is a wonderful story teller in interviews and he isn’t shy about a single word that comes out of his mouth. He’s amazing and arguably the Greatest Of All Time. Who does he look up to? Who did he think was strong when he was at the top? Were they better than the best fighters he has seen come in succeeding generations? He’s seen so much, he still goes to the stadia. If he tells you someone was great, that person was great.
If interested in Dieselnoi you can watch him teach his nearly undefeatable style in the Muay Thai Library
So, I’ve started this project of asking Legends to rank their “Top 5” All-Time Greatest Fighters. The fighters they respect, even after watching Muay Thai through the decades that followed their careers, often came from their own time or the time just before, opponents who they respected immensely from experiences inside the ring and outside the ring, but also the giants who were great while these Legends were still coming up. People many of us in the West have never heard of. Much of this is due to the rather widespread and accepted belief that Muay Thai has become diluted since the Golden Age of the late 1980s and mid-1990s, when the talent pool was huge, and fight purses were at an all time high.
Dieselnoi’s Top 5
*note: When Dieselnoi first made the list for me he had Sirimongkol in the 5th spot, so we can give him the honorable mention, you can see my interview with Sirimongkol, Fighter of the Year in 1972, before he passed away, here.
So asking who is the greatest is maybe like asking who are Michael Jordan’s “Top 5” basketball players? What about Magic Johnson’s favorites? Or who were Biggie’s “Top 5” rappers? A piece of this that I find really cool is that, before Youtube and a TV in every house, and replays, you had to actually go see a fighter to know what they were like – how different this is from us, considering only fighters found in a handful of highlight reel edits, or surviving YouTube fights. So in Dieselnoi’s answer to the question of his “Top 5,” he justifies (among other reasons) his admiration for one fighter because they’d fought on the same show together (although not yet each other), because he saw him there, in person; when Dieselnoi saw him in the ring he remembers thinking, “wow, that’s a fighter.” That’s something some of us, in this digital age, never get to experience. And even Dieselnoi himself, who so many consider to be the GOAT, who was a somewhat mythical legend in his day (watch the interview with my trainer, Kru Nu, who had never seen even video of Dieselnoi fight but knew who he was and how great he was (see video immediately below), and was starstruck when meeting him in person 30 years later), people who know how great he was cannot help but betray how astonished they are by his power when he grabs them and demonstrates a technique now, at 57 years old! I asked Karuhat for his “Top 5” and he also included a “I fought on the same card as him and he was just amazing.” I love this element to these answers. (Karuhat’s Top Five are further down, below.)
I’m going to continue asking more legends for the “Top 5” so we can build a much more complete picture of the greatness of the decades of Thailand’s Muay Thai, so we don’t have to rely on the reign of highlights. These Top 5s will have some repeated names, which is great, agreement builds consensus, but they are also quite personal to each of the Legends I’m asking. This is part of Preserve the Legacy’s mission. Not only the technique and persons of Thailand’s Muay Thai, but how they viewed each other. It’s a time we can only touch through the men who lived through it, so capturing as much of that as possible is part of preserving the history of Muay Thai, reaching back as far as we can.
Wichannoi Pontawee, the Best Ever According to Dieselnoi
Wichannoi’s top fights: 3x beat Potsai, 2x beat Dieselnoi, 2x beat Net Saknarong. Peak fight period: 1967-1980. Was Lumpinee Champion at 112 lb, Rajadmnern Champion at 112 lb, Rajadamnern Champion at 130 lb, Best Muay Thai Fighter of 1977 (awarded by Rajadamnern Stadium)
I will say this, for those that doubt Dieselnoi’s reverence for Wichannoi, when Dieselnoi took me to meet Wichannoi who now runs a beverage distribution company in Bangkok, when Dieselnoi saw Wichannoi, Diesenoi went onto the ground and wai’d too his feet. In Thailand this is an extreme, perhaps the most extreme gesture of respect. To put your head down by someone’s feet is intense reverence. Wichannoi was an elite champion when Dieselnoi was a child, and still a formidable champion when Dieselnoi became a fighter. His nickname was the “Three Generations Champion” or “The Immortal”. Dieselnoi told me that when Wichannoi was younger he was a knee fighter, but as he grew older he became a viscous Muay Maat fighter (puncher), evolving his game.
Watch Wichannoi knock out Pudpadnoi (Dieselnoi’s #3) in this fight video below:
Potsai Sit Boonlert, the 2nd Best Ever According to Dieselnoi
Above, watch Potsai fight with his tall-man style (lighter shorts), combining low kicks with viscous knees. Below, a photograph from Dieselnoi’s fight vs Potsai (for which there is no video). Potsai was in some ways Dieselnoi before Dieselnoi:
Pudpadnoi Warrarut, the 3rd Best Ever According to Dieselnoi
Pudpadnoi makes so many all time top 10 lists. His control of space with his timing and his left kick was profound. You can Google highlights of existing footage, but check out this instructional video:
Karuhat Sor Supawan’s Top 5 of All Time
If you’d like to study Karuhat’s Muay in depth, over 30 hours of his instruction is on vimeo
Namkabuan’s Nongkipahayut’s Top 5 of All Time
You can read part 2 More Legends Give Their “Top 5” Greatest Muay Thai Fighters of All Time – Chatchai, Kaensak, Hippy
More on the Legends of Muay Thai Here
You’ve heard from these legends, you can also study them in long form training sessions as part of the Muay Thai Library project, preserving the great men and techniques of Thailand. Check them out below:
Dieselnoi, Fighter of the Year 1982:
#48 DieselnoiChor.Thanasukarn-JamSession(80min) watch it here
#30 Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn 2 – Muay Khao Craft (42 min)watch it here
#3 Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn – The King of Knees (54 min) – watch it here
#76 DieselnoiChorThanasukarn 4-HowtoFightTall (69min) watch it here
Karuhat Sor. Supawan 3x Lumpinee Champion
#50 Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Serpentine Knees & Flow (62 min) watch it here – The legendary Karuhat teaches his winding, advancing style, a culmination of many, many hours of our training together. You get a glimpse into his advanced movements, and his philosophy on reading opponents.
#27 Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Tension & Kicking Dynamics (104 min) watch it here – Karuhat, a fighter with perhaps the slickest style of any Golden Age great, shows the importance of tension, and patiently goes through correcting the kick, making it quicker and much harder to read.
#20 Karuhat Sor Supawan – Switching To Southpaw (144 min) watch it here – 3x Lumpinee Champion Karuhat Sor. Supawan in this epic video posts installs a limited Southpaw core which leads to developing high level ideas found in his switching style: tracking and attacking the open side, watching for and dictating weight transfer. This is the blueprint of a legend’s acclaimed fighting style.
#11 Karuhat Sor. Supawan Session 2 – Float and Shock (82 min) watch it here In this session one of the greatest fighters who ever lived really digs into what must lie beneath techniques, a general state of relaxation and rhythm, the thing that made him one of the most dynamic fighters Lumpinee has ever seen.
Namkabuan Nongkipahayuth – Undefeated Lumpinee Champion
#6 Namkabuan Nongkipahuyut – Explosive Attack (28 min) watch it here266 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws. Namkabuan may be the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and it was an intense privledge to train with him. I can honestly say that it changed me as a fighter, inspiring to become more. He combines Muay Khao fighting with technical precision and explosive energy. The knee he teaches in this session is really like no other I’ve seen, like it is shot out of a cannon.
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