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The controversial world of Thai child kickboxing

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, 8:09 a.m.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10 years old, rests after practice on the mat at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10 years old, rests after practice on the mat at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices kicks at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices kicks at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, watch their boxer training on boxing ring at training at camp Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, watch their boxer training on boxing ring at training at camp Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, photo, mourners lay flowers at the coffin of 13-year-old Thai kickboxer Anucha Tasako during his funeral services at a Buddhist temple in Samut Prakan province, Thailand. Anucha died of a brain hemorrhage two days after he was knocked out in a bout on Nov. 10 that was his 174th match in the career he started at age 8. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, photo, mourners lay flowers at the coffin of 13-year-old Thai kickboxer Anucha Tasako during his funeral services at a Buddhist temple in Samut Prakan province, Thailand. Anucha died of a brain hemorrhage two days after he was knocked out in a bout on Nov. 10 that was his 174th match in the career he started at age 8. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices sit up bench exercises at training at camp Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices sit up bench exercises at training at camp Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years- old, wraps his fists before practice at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. The world of Muay Thai _ Thai kickboxing _ bouts between children and the tragic death of 13-year-old Anucha Tasako after being knocked out in a match earlier this month has brought into focus whether youngsters should be taking and giving such brutal punishment in the name of sports. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years- old, wraps his fists before practice at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. The world of Muay Thai _ Thai kickboxing _ bouts between children and the tragic death of 13-year-old Anucha Tasako after being knocked out in a match earlier this month has brought into focus whether youngsters should be taking and giving such brutal punishment in the name of sports. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, does pull-ups at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, does pull-ups at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, watch other boxers train in the ring at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, watch other boxers train in the ring at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, take off his boxing gloves after practice at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, take off his boxing gloves after practice at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxing gloves and headgear hang at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxing gloves and headgear hang at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, right, 10- years old, does pushups at in the ring at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, right, 10- years old, does pushups at in the ring at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices lifting dumbbell at training camp Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices lifting dumbbell at training camp Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer boxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, stand on the ring after of practices at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer boxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, stand on the ring after of practices at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, practices at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, warms up at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, photo, Thai kickboxer Chaichana Saengngern, 10-years old, warms up at a training camp in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai lawmakers recently suggested barring children younger than 12 from competitive boxing, but boxing enthusiasts strongly oppose the change. They say the sport is part of Thai culture and gives poor families the opportunity to raise a champion that will lift their economic circumstances. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK (AP) — In the ring, the two boxers spar furiously with blows delivered by fists, elbows, knees and feet to virtually any part of the opponent's body. Those in the crowd furiously make wagers with each other as the battle rages.

The Muay Thai — or Thai kickboxing — competitors are as young as 8 years old.

But the tragic death of 13-year-old Anucha Tasako after being knocked out in a match earlier this month has brought into focus whether youngsters should be taking and giving such brutal punishment in the name of sports.

Anucha, who fought an incredible 174 bouts in a career that started at age 8, died of a brain hemorrhage two days after his Nov. 10 fight.

Hardcore Muay Thai fans say his death was a fluke. They say that the referee did not stop the fight soon enough and that a doctor was not on hand, flouting the usual procedures.

But even before Anucha's death, moves were afoot to regulate the sport. Thai lawmakers recently tabled legislation to bar children under 12 from competitive boxing.

Last month, a five-year study by Dr. Witaya Sungkarat of Bangkok's Ramathibodi Hospital was published that compared brain development between young boxers and children not involved with the sport.

He said the study clearly shows that boxing causes irreparable damage to a young child's developing brain, and the longer each young boxer had been fighting, the worse his condition became.

The sport's defenders says outsiders just don't understand that Muay Thai is an integral part of Thai culture. Beginning to fight at a tender age puts the youngsters on the path to a successful professional career, with the opportunity to lift their poor families up the ladder of economic success, they say.

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