Muaythai is at The World Games for the first time this year, and the pressure is on athletes from the home of the sport Thailand to bring home gold from the huge event in Poland.
As current IFMA World Champion hopes are high for Suppachai ‘Superbon’ Meunsang, competing in the 71kgs division.
He said: “Everyone is looking at me. There is a lot of expectation for me to win at The World Games so I have to train hard. All my opponents are very strong. There’s a lot of pressure on me now to win again.”
Born in southern Thailand, Suppachai came from humble beginnings. His father and mother were farmers growing rice, fruit and making wheels to earn money. Soon enough it would be Suppachai taking care of his parents and siblings.
He said: “My father loved Muaythai and so he made a gym. When I first started competing in muaythai I lost my first five bouts. Then I won my sixth.”
When he was sixteen Suppachai began fighting at the famous Lumpinee stadium in Bangkok. Like many other young Thai athletes, he fought in the evenings and then did his homework.
At 18 years old he moved to Bangkok for training and study. Five years later, he had to decide between muaythai and getting a job using his business degree.
The decision was made when he met Buakaw Banchamek, a former IFMA world champion now competing with the famous Banchamek Gym. “I knew Buakaw but we weren’t close. I fought in Melbourne on the same promotion as him. He asked me if I wanted to join Banchamek. It seemed like a good idea.”
Since then he hasn’t lost in over a year and a half with 15 straight wins. He claimed his IFMA title this year against Morocco, Sweden, Russia and Belarus.
Some say winning tournaments is based on luck but for Superbon winning three years in a row says otherwise. It requires great skill and dedication to get to where he is and there are no easy fights.
He said: “All my opponents were very strong. My Swedish opponent this year, Habib Abdallah, was very tall and Andrei Kubelin is very strong. There’s a lot of pressure on me now to win again in Poland.”
During the IFMA championships in Belarus young children wanted to have their photographs taken with their hero. “It makes me feel good,” he said. “I like it and it’s wonderful that people support me but I don’t want it to get in the way of my fighting.”
Follow Suppachai ‘Superbon Banchamek’ Meunsang on Instagram
Interview by Matt Lucas for IFMA (edited for space)