When I watched the Buffalo Girls documentary (watch it here) on two Thai child fighters a few years ago, I was really taken with the story. The director, Todd Kellstein, laid it out with a neutral hand. He depicted the child fighters, two little girls Stam and Phet, as very normal Thai children and Muay Thai is their way of life. Because the girls are tiny, their little bodies and baby faces are jarring to a Western audience who isn’t accustomed to seeing young children fight without protection, in a ring surrounded by gamblers. Over the years since I first saw the documentary, my understanding and familiarity with this way of life has deepened; in that time, thousands of Thai children have grown up in this same way of life.
Within the first few frames of this live-feed video I found the face of the fighter in the red corner looked familiar. Holy smokes, I thought, could that be Stam from the movie Buffalo Girls? I sent the video to Todd, who had lived with Stam’s family for a stretch, and he confirmed that was definitely her. In the movie she’s tiny, just a little girl at maybe 11 years old or so. Now she’s a teenager at the Technical College, so maybe 17-19 years old (one bio says she is 18, her Facebook says she’s just turned 19) years old. You can still see the little version of herself in her face though.
A fight postponed and then canceled the last month, above
I also recognized Stam’s name (it’s “stamp” but Thais drop the p sound at the end) from some reports in the Muay Siam newspaper that Phetjee Jaa was supposed to be fighting her at the end of November, but that fight never happened. I imagine that since Jee Jaa is from Chonburi and Stam is from Rayong, they’ve likely faced each other in the past… but I don’t know for sure. The fight that’s in the video below is Stam versus a bigger fighter named Phetnaree, and after going through Stam’s facebook page a bit I learned that there was a 200,000 Baht ($5,600 USD) side-bet on this fight. That’s a big deal. I was impressed with Stam’s wicked right cross (damn!) and her tenacity in the fight, but the Thai men commenting below the video complain that she looked “slow.” They’re far more familiar with Stam’s fighting than I am, but now that I know she’s so close and still fighting, I’ll be sure to keep following her. What a badass.
The takeaway is that there are young female fighters all over Thailand with a backstory similar to Phetjee Jaa. What is different about her is that she is in this generation considered the best of these girls and stands out for her singularity in having fought boys on TV at the Aswindum Stadium. But the fact that she has 100s of fights, and started so young is not unique. Many of these tough young women stop fighting in their late-teens due to school or changes in interest, marriage or simply because there’s nowhere for them to go: I’ve written about that here, Judging Youth. There are no top national stadia and prestigious belts for them to aspire to. What you see here is the backbone of Muay Thai in Thailand, the high side-bet fight in the provinces; it’s what all the top fighters you’ve ever heard of were raised on.
Below you can see the live feed from Stam’s corner, the full fight, and then a second fight video from August (2016). And linked below that are my review of the Buffalo Girl film and subsequent Skype interview with director Todd Kellstein.
Nong Stam vs Phetnaree (Dec 9, 2016) – 200,000 baht side bet:
Her fight against Sao Khon Kaen in August (2016):
My written review of the film Buffalo Girls when it came out