Actually it was more like Thai kick boxing, but bloody, exciting, and primitively primevil all the same. Axel had made a friend at the pool at our hotel in Krabi, Armand and we got talking to his parents, Nicolas and Natalie , they were the most easy going people we could have met, very cool and great company . Nicolas was in the drug trade (legal, medical) and Natalie had the most perfect english, she was an english teacher.
I mentioned to Armand’s Dad that myself and Axel were going to attend a kick boxing tournament that evening and I could see a little twinkle in his eyes. I could also see him measuring me up, ‘who is this guy, should I be getting too friendly with him’, but I think the thought of some violent diversion and the fact I would be bringing my boy along won him over and they were sold on the idea and went off to dinner and to buy some tickets. There were two sorts of tickets, secont tier and ringside. The second tier tickets were something like 500Bht each and the ringside more. I opted for the second tier, cheapskate that I am. The ticket agent then told me I could buy a ringside seat for 800Bht and Axel could go free, no brainer, we got ready to ruuummmbbblee.
The tickets included a bus transfer, we were told from the hotel, they were told from the ticket office. So myself and Axel were ready and primed and waiting on the footpath ouside the hotel, Axel continuously enquiring as to where his new friend was, me telling him to relax they would show up any moment now and we would get the bus together. Meanwhile the Nicolas , Natalie and Armand were already on the way to the arena. We waited till it was well past when the bus was supposed to show up and no longer able to stand Axels constant unanswerable questions we headed up to the ticket office where the girl that had sold us the tickets looked at us curiously and asked why we wern’t on the bus. ‘There was no bus’, she phone’d the bus guy and tell’s us he forgot and that there would be another one along any minute. Fifteen minutes later with Axel ready to pop, we said our goodbyes and got a Krabi Tuk Tuk to the fight.
We arrived at the arena, Axel worrying whether he would be able to see his friend, he needn’t have bothered. It was disconcertingly empty, which made spotting our companions easy. We slid into our seats with our nose’s touching the ropes and greeted each other like old friends. Axel and Armand were equipped with soft drinks and chips and the old codgers with a few beers readying ourselves for the games to begin.
I had been to thai boxing tournament about ten years previously and had enjoyed the experience enourmously but I was never this close to the action. There were thirteen bouts lined up for the night, it was basically out of towner’s fighting the local talent. These were real bouts with plenty at stake.
When the first boxers came out I think we were all taken aback, they were kids. They couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen years old. So the music starts up. Thai boxing is alway’s accompanied by this hypnotic drum and bell music with a steady beat. The child fighters started up their ritual movements which all fighters do at the start of a fight. They do these slow sinous stretches and bowing movements before they get stuck into each other, it is strangley balletic. They meet at the centre of the ring and greet each other the way fighter’s do and then the bell goes off, for the first few moments it is all about measuring each other up and then they got really stuck into eack other. I was surprised by the level of physical commitment and sheer aggression that I witnessed from these kids. If this was how the rest of the bouts were going to be I was delighted I had made the call and decided to go tonight. None of us were going to be dissapointed. As the fights progressed the combatants got bigger and the action more and more intense. I can’t remember clearly but I think we watched about ten fight and witnessed four devastating knockouts. The only thing we were short of was getting splattered by blood and sweat.
Meawhile Armand and Axel true to their natures were bored after the second fight and could be found messing about at the back of the stands. They must have been staging their own fights as Axel was complaining of a sore eye later that night and all the next day, he claims he was the victim of an illegal move by Armand. I am never too sure of the validity of those sort of claims, especially coming from the fishermans imagination of my dear Axel. The two boys were working themselves up into a sweaty lather and had to be escorted off the premises by the obliging Natalie to chill out in the cool evening air before they melted, being re-admitted once again where they picked up where they left off.
We decided to leave after the by thai standards, heavyweight bout. The tall thin guy who looked like he wasn’t going to make it through some seriously heavy punishment from the evil looking simian guy. It turns out the creature had a glass jaw and was floored by a pretty savage left from thin man. It was time to go.
We all headed out into the humid night air, the adults exhilerated by the violence of it all, the kids happy to be out at such a late night with us. We piled into the truck to take us home all of us suddenly strangley tired by the strenous exploits of others.
We said our goodbyes the next day and poor little Axel was very sad saying goodbye to Armand, Like all children of that age they didn’t need a common language to communicate just a common innocent outlook on living for today.
I am glad to say this wasn’t the last time we got to spend some time with Natalie, Nicolas , and Armand. The next day with a slightly downbeat Axel having lunch on the beach at Long Beach , Koh Phi Phi I spotted a little boy further down in the water in a pair of batman swimshorts, there could only be one boy with a pair of those shorts, Armand and further next to him the silouette of an oddly familiar figure in a cowboy hat, Nicolas . ‘Axel, you remember your friend from the kickboxing’, ‘yes Dad’, ‘take a look down the beach, He was gone for dust’.