Before the Thai hero steps inside the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, we look back on the path that led him from humble beginnings to World Champion status.
A son of parents who were orchard farmers, Nong-O grew up amidst abject poverty in Sakon Nakhon Province in Northeastern Thailand.
Seeing his parents struggle to put food on the table lit a fire inside a young Nong-O, who set out to help alleviate the family’s financial woes.
His chance came after an early encounter with the national sport of Thailand.
Nong-O’s journey in “the art of eight limbs” began in a small boxing gym next door, where his neighbor – a Muay Thai practitioner – trained every day.
The gym’s facilities were basic, so Nong-O trained with only boxing gloves and punching mitts. At first, he did not take well to the idea of having to train in Muay Thai.
“One day [my uncle] asked me to try kicking the punching bag to see if I’d like it. I didn’t like it at first, so I told him I had a stomach ache,” Nong-O recalled.
After many attempts at convincing his nephew to give training another go, his uncle finally succeeded.
“After days of [my uncle] asking, I just tried. There was also a friend of mine who was training there, so he also asked me to join. That was the beginning,” Nong-O said.
Seeing his friends at the gym inspired the young Thai, and Nong-O soon warmed up to the idea of training every day.
“I wanted to do the same and play with [my friends] because when they competed, they had a chance to travel to another province. I had never traveled to another province back then, only from home to school,” Nong-O explained.
Although Muay Thai proved physically demanding, Nong-O persevered and found he had the mental resilience to help him overcome the struggles of training.
“I thought it was hard because I had no idea about Muay Thai at all, but I really got the spirit,” Nong-O said. “Even when I got hurt, I didn’t give up. I got hurt, but I didn’t cry. I wanted to do it, so I focused.”
Nong-O’s improvements in Muay Thai became apparent, and his flashes of potential caught the eye of his uncle, who decided to test his nephew’s skills in competition.
“After I trained for a month, my uncle told me he’d take me to a competition. After I got my opponent, I came back to train for three months for the actual competition,” Nong-O explained.
Unlike others who felt nervous when traveling outside of their village and competing for the first time, Nong-O felt right at home the moment he stepped through the ropes.
“My first fight was in another district near my village. I was not scared – it was more exciting because it was the first time,” he recalled. “After the first round, all my fears were gone. After three rounds, I won on points and my uncle gave me my share of prize money. I got 100 baht that day. I was happy that I won.”
Nong-O relished the excitement of competition, and through his hard work and dedication, he proved his talent.
As the years passed, Nong-O not only lifted his family out from poverty, but the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion also established himself as one of the leading athletes in his country’s national sport.
This is a mark of pride for Nong-O, who will get yet another chance to add to his stunning legacy at ONE: IMMORTAL TRIUMPH.
Watch the prelims at 6:30pm SGT on the ONE Super App. The main card begins at 9:30pm SGT on Toggle.
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