The path to combat sports success in Thailand is a well-trodden one.
The national martial art of Muay Thai has seen thousands of athletes embark on careers in the ring from a tender age, often in an attempt to help provide for their impoverished families.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s own combat sports career started out similarly, but his destination proved to be somewhere notably different.
At the age of 13, Srisaket took up Muay Thai, following in his father’s footsteps. But unlike so many boys and girls at that age, he struggled to find his passion in the “art of eight limbs” and didn’t enjoy the experience of competing inside the ring.
“I didn’t like to fight that much back then,” the 31-year-old reveals.
“There were these people who came to my house and wanted to recruit a Muay Thai athlete. I ran away from them.”
He would eventually change his mind, however, after seeing how he could help his family with earnings by becoming a notable competitor in the sport.
He won his first bout by knockout, and that strengthened his desire to take his career forward in Muay Thai.
After a move to Bangkok did not produce the increased earnings he had hopes for, he took on additional work as a security guard and a trash collector.
His dream of becoming a top Muay Thai athlete appeared to be ebbing away, and Srisaket was not sure how he would go on to provide for his family. Then he was presented with an alternative route.
“I got recommended by a guy to try boxing,” the Thai explains.
“I didn’t like boxing that much back then, because I thought it wasn’t fun.
“There were only two paths for me to choose at that time. One was to become a boxer, and the other one was to keep on working as a trash collector. I chose the path to become a boxer, because there was more hope, at least.”
There didn’t seem to be much hope in the early days of his boxing career, however, as he went 1-3-1 in his first five bouts. It was an inauspicious start that forced him to change course.
“The third time I lost was in Japan,” he says.
“At the airport, I told myself I would never get hurt again. And it never happened again after that day.”
From that point on he ramped up his training, joined the Nakornloung Promotion and embarked on a remarkable 26-bout win streak that led him to a title bout for the WBC Super Flyweight World Championship.
He defeated Yota Sato by stoppage to win the belt and achieved a dream that only a few years prior seemed impossible.
“I just dreamed of being the champion on an Asian scale,” he reveals.
“That would have been enough for me. I had never thought of becoming the World Champion.”
Srisaket’s career has continued to rise ever since, with a technical decision loss to Carlos Cuadras due to an accidental headbutt the only blemish in his recent form.
Having lost his belt, Srisaket soon positioned himself for a shot at winning back the WBC title once again. In March 2017, he dropped 46-0 World Champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez en route to a majority decision as he claimed a massive upset and won back his title.
Such was the closeness of the bout, a rematch was inevitable and, despite “Chocolatito” being favoured to reclaim his title, Srisaket cemented his status as champion with a decisive display – knocking out the Mexican star in the fourth round to retain the belt.
He then added The Ring Super Flyweight Title with a majority decision over Juan Francisco Estrada in February, and then stopped Young Gil Bae in July to set up his latest World Title defence.
He will face Mexico’s Iran “MagnifiKO” Diaz in the main event of ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES in a historic show in Bangkok, Thailand.
It is the first time a boxing match has headlined a ONE Championship event, and it will almost certainly be watched by the biggest audience of his combat sports career.
It is a startling change from his humble beginnings, and he is happy to be a role model to other young Thais looking for their big break.
“There were times when I lived by eating only instant noodles because I had no money,” Srisaket says.
“I want everyone to fight and never give up. Eventually, your day will come.”