In an impoverished village filled with the elderly, small children, and those unwilling or unable to work, who are these kids left to look up to? We tell them you can make money through Muay Thai, there is a future in it; but why should they believe us?
Boom was the only role model that these kids had, that was until Rotnarong started training at the gym. Rotnarong is one of the most highly regarded champions of the golden era. He is a two time Rajadamnern champion, and a twice-over recipient of the Royal Cup; Thailand's Highest Honour bequeathed by none other than the Royal Family themselves. As a prize for conquering such a feat, in the golden era no less, Rotnarong was given a job with the Royal Thai Police, ensuring him a steady income and pension; a rarity for fighters, especially those hailing from the Northeast.
His success and charisma in the ring was well documented, he earned the nickname King of the Face Teep as well as Saa (loosely translating as eternal effervesce). This is Rotnarong, and his love for Muay Thai will never die.
Despite the globalization of Muay Thai, there is still a stigma about it being a sport for only poor people with no other options. And while many families cling to this old-school ideology, the truth is these kids don’t have other options. This generation of Muay Thai fighters have more opportunities than their predecessors, not just abroad but in Thailand too. Before fighting on TV (or broadcast on the radio) was reserved for only the elite, but now with shows like Max Muay Thai average level fighters can get their chance to showcase their skills and make a decent amount of money.
At forty-four years young, he's still fighting. Most recently he won a gold medal at the Royal Thai Police Boxing Championships. So not only is he teaching the kids, he is there training along side them. Rotnarong is quick to tell them how lucky they are. The equipment we have, the ring with the roof above, the donors that keep us going, and the international job opportunities that weren’t there in his generation.
Locally, Rotnarong is known as a decorated champion and a highly regarded police officer, the respect he commands is needed for our gym's success within the community. But more importantly, the kids believe in him and he believes in them.