This post is to mark the release of the full interview with the late, dear Sirimongkol Luksiripat. Previously the full interview was only available to patrons, but realizing what is best it has been made public now, in its entirety. This is history. It was a blessing to talk to him, and to get to know him the little I did. If you haven’t listen to it previously, hear how he rose up from the tragedy of an early opponent of his dying in the ring, only his second fight, something that was with him to the day of the interview, to how he became one of the most beloved and respected fighters of his era. This is the history and memory of a great man, before the Golden Age. We are working hard to conduct more interviews in Thai, fully translated, available to the entire public, building a lasting oral history of the sport we love. This early interview was part of that project.
I only met Sirimongkol a few times, but he pressed his kindness into my memory in a way that I will never forget him. Standing on the matted area where he assisted General Tunwakom in teaching the Lertrit/Muay Khorat style of Muay Thai, I was on display in front of the mostly-middle-aged students looking on. Sirimongkol threw a slow punch at me, like lobbing a slow ball that would be easy enough to hit for a beginner swinging a bat. My job was to parry the punch in a way that General Tunwakom was instructing. Even this small thing, humble and soft and unassuming, just the shape of Sirimonkol’s fist – its squareness, its solidity, and yet its relaxed pieces – betrayed his history as one of the great fighters in Thailand’s history.
Sirimonkol was, in fact, Fighter of the Year in 1972. He reached into his wallet and handed my husband a photograph – an actual printed photograph – of himself in a fight pose, with his name and the date of his achievement written in pen on the back. He gave this to Kevin, to keep. Kevin keeps it in his passport, always. Sirimonkol also had a print of himself accepting the Fighter of the Year Award from the late King Bhumibol, Rama IX. He looked at this one, pinched between his fingers, for a few moments before tucking it back into his own wallet. He wasn’t ready to part with that one, although it was clear he was considering giving it to Kevin as well. At this time, Sirimongkol was in his 70s. His speech and general movements very soft, although not frail. His face was often set to an expression of mild disinterest, but he would erupt in huge smiles or even laughter, showing his gold teeth, frequently in conversations, which showed he was always keenly listening. I liked him so much.
In 2019, Sirimongkol very suddenly passed away from heart failure. It was a shock to us, to General Tanwakom, and of course to Sirimongkol’s family. Kevin and I attended the cremation ceremony, which was beautiful and included a Ram Muay and show fight between Sagat and Pudpadnoi, during which I listened to the timeline biography of this man, this fighter, this Legend. It felt so brief. Like it missed so much of what he actually was in person. So, I’m incredibly grateful that Kevin and I were able to get this interview with him, shortly before his passing. It is the last video of him; the last interview with him. It is a treasure. In it, Sirimongkol talks about his career as a fighter, which was marked very early on by one of his opponents passing away in the ring after being knocked out. This gave Sirimongkol the unenviable nickname “the Executioner.” It was his second fight, ever. He still had goosebumps talking about it in our interview, 50+ years later. The kind of man he was, however, also earned him the nickname, “the Pious Fighter,” because he gave a portion of his purse to the widow of his deceased opponent for years, until the man’s son finished primary school. Those names both suit him. They’re both incredible, as he was incredible.
My Full Interview with the Late Sirimongkol
(turn on CC English subtitles)
This interview, the rarity and preciousness of it, is part of what the Muay Thai Library – Preserve the Legacy Project is seeking to do: archive the men who have carried Muay Thai through history. Their techniques are disappearing, but they will eventually disappear as well. These stories are incredible. They’re important. They’re valuable. And hearing them from the fighters is so enormous in value. Thank you to the Official Sponsors of the Muay Thai Library, without whom this kind of work just couldn’t keep up with the urgency that the subjects of the project demand. I’m so grateful we captured some of what Sirimongkol was as a man, even if it’s just a short vision of it.
Video of Sirimongkol aiding General Tunwakom in instruction (skip to minute 3:30):
A short video of clips from his cremation ceremony:
Kevin’s Film Attending Sirimongkol’s Cremation:
Dieselnoi, when asked who the greatest fighters ever were, placed Wichannoi first. He was limited to 5 when I asked him, but he said that he would have placed Sirimongkol as the 6th best fighter he has seen. Here is Wichannoi and Sirimongkol facing off in a battle of titans: