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Controversy at K-1

Controversy at K-1 - Krabi Magazine article

Did you see Nak Muay Buakaw fight in the K-1 World Max Championships in Pattaya in October? My wife and I did, and we would not have missed this historical event, especially since it was hosted in Thailand for the very first time.

I have been watching K-1 fights since they began in 1993. In 2002 K-1 started some events for 70kg fighters. Most Thai fighters are not nearly that size, except for Buakaw Banchamek, who was the first real deal Thai fighter who could compete, and win at K-1 events.  Even if you don’t know anything about fighting, you might recognize his face from ads all over Thailand. Buakaw is a two time K-1 Champion and his final fight – a controversial one- happened this past October. Had he won he would hold the record for most K-1 titles – three! My world’s of teaching Muay Thai and my passion for K-1 (a different fighting style) came together that evening in Pattaya, where I first lived and worked at Fairtex MuayThai Resort many years ago.

This particular K-1 fight was a rematch with the German Champ, Enriko Kehl. Buakaw had beaten Kehl in a previous Muay Thai rules fight, but with different rules in K-1 it was set to be a great match, as Kehl is believed to be a better boxer. Although most can agree Kehl boxed better than Buakaw in this fight, the consensus from viewers was that Buakaw won. After three rounds, a draw was called. This is one of the exciting things about K-1 versus Muay Thai’s five rounds, where the first round is akin to a warm-up and the fifth, a cool down. In K-1, it’s nonstop action so the fighters have to fight fast and hard to win. Another departure from Muay Thai is the Draw Round: if after three rounds the judges are not clear of the true winner they’ll make them fight for a fourth round, maybe even a fifth.  This has made K-1 popular around the world; fighters really have to show their true fighting hearts.

A bizarre twist of events happened at this fight, and the plot thickens. After three rounds, a draw was called, and the judges wanted a fourth but guess what? Buakaw and his camp left the ring immediately after round 3, proceeded out of the stadium and headed straight back to Bangkok. Why? What happened?

The internet was abuzz with speculation and shock that night. Remember, there are no absolute truths in Thailand, but there are some truths to live by. It’s up to you what you believe. Here’s what I understand:


Let’s start with the money. Buakaw’s camp claims that many things were altered in their contract, including a clause added that said they were not going to be paid for any extra rounds fought after the third round.


Buakaw has been fighting K-1 for years, but his camp claims that the association changed many rules prior to the fight (even on the day of!), which appeared to disadvantage Buakaw and make it very difficult for him to win on points.


There were lots of rumors that a gambling website for the event was actually being run by the same K-1 promoters. Buakaw had gone to police officials weeks prior to the event to report this incident, but no action was taken against the association. He had stated that if it was a draw, he would not fight the extended round because that meant the result was already locked. Since most people had bet that Buakaw would win specifically in three rounds prior to the fight, they would lose their bets if a fourth round was fought. Thus, whomever was running the gambling website stood to make a lot of money…

Like many things, the fight world is not immune to corruption. Buakaw believes that the new K-1 promoter did the vent purely for financial reasons. There was no honor or respect for Thailand in this fight.

I believe that Buakaw is a great example of a true Muay Thai Champion because he tries to do right, to fight with honor and royal King respect.  He has always shown humility in Muay Thai.  Unfortunately, I think that was the first and last K-1 event for Thailand, which is sad. Money, pride and power have tainted a good thing.

Buakaw is now focusing on winning the Top KING Muay Thai Tournament which will be held in December 2014 in Hong Kong. Buakaw has one fight with K-1 left in his contract, but it remains to be seen what will happen with that relationship.

Please remember we always have some amazing Muay Thai fights right here in Ao Nang. If you want a FREE tour of the Ao Nang Krabi Stadium, or to experience Thailand’s amazing national sport, please contact me:

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by Daniel Docto