Hey guys! Just wanted to try something new. I’m working on a piece on the career of Muay Thai legend, Saenchai. It’s going to be through the eyes of the fighters he’s shared the ring with. As I work on this, it will be updated here. The entire thing will be released for free once complete. But the Patreon fam gets an early look! I hope you enjoy!
Note: this is an incomplete article and a work in progress. I’ll update you all every time it’s updated!
In sports, there’s always those who succeed and those who dominate. From Kobe Bryant to Mike Tyson, the domination has always been the forefront of what captures people’s imaginations. Fans aren’t drawn to a case of akrasia, but instead are attracted to greatness. They love it, flock to it even. What is it like fighting those legends? That’s what I’ve always wanted to know. In this new limited series, I’ll be diving into first hand experiences of what’s it like going against some of the best to ever do it. Our first subject is Muay Thai living and competing legend: Saenchai.
Quite probably the most well respected nak muay in the world today, Saenchai has long been a staple of Thai boxing. With over 300 professional wins and has won the Lunpinee Stadium title five times, the first being when he was 16. He’s fought up in weight to give his opponents a fair chance, going north of a 15 pounds (6.8 kilos) weight disadvantages.
In this post, I’ve gathered five opponents who have shared the ring with the legendary Saenchai and asked about the night they fought a legend. You can expect words from Ognjen Topić, Sean Clancy and more.
Ognjen Topic and Saenchai: Respect but Don’t Grovel
Ognjen Topić is one of Thai boxing’s staples. He’s been around, fought the best, captured belts in Lion Fight, IKF, the WBC and more. He’s a very accomplished nak muay. In 2016, he had the honor of challenging Saenchai at YOKKAO 22 in Hong Kong. This article was originally called Surviving Saenchai but, Topić made a great point which eventually led to the renaming of the article. He said, “Before I answer the question, I want to first say that I did not go into this fight trying to “survive” Saenchai. I was confident in my skills and I went into this fight as I go into every fight—to win. My skill level doesn’t allow me to just survive in a fight, I am well prepared for any situation—win or lose.”
And naming it that was a slight to the abilities possessed by Ognjen Topic and the rest of the fighters. It was a happy change in direction as well.
He continued by saying going into that camp, he and his team know what they were doing up against. The Topić team prepared to be the best version they could be, ready for anything.
“Now to answer the question, we prepared so that I can be in the best condition possible, I was working on a lot of fakes/feints, using the teep.”
Being in the ring with someone of the status of Saenchai can I intimidate many. But Topić wasn’t new to Muay Thai. While he respected Saenchai’s skills, he didn’t crumble under the pressure of who he was fighting. He just fought.
“It was like any other fight, I don’t get starstruck, if I do or did I would have given Saenchai too much respect and wouldn’t perform to my best ability.”
The fight with someone the skill of Saenchai can provide a valuable lesson. You never want to be the best in the room, otherwise you’re in the wrong room. Ognjen Topić took what he learned from his time in the ring with Saenchai and parlayed it into a World Title conquest.
“It brought my skill level up tremendously. I learned even more that speed and timing are some of the most import aspects of a fighter to understand and learn. I took these skills into my upcoming title fight which I won.”
Sean Clancy: On Short Notice
Sean Clancy is possibly the best Thai boxer in Ireland right now. He also fought Saenchai in 2016, like Topić. His was on short notice however, a very tall task. You may recognize Clancy from his run in ONE Championship.
“Clubber” has a list of accomplishments as well. Clancy has held the WBC Muay Thai International Super Lightweight championship, WBC World Super Lightweight championship, the Caged Muay Thai World Super Lightweight championship, Cage Kings Supwe Lightweight championship, and the three time ISKA Irish Welterweight Muay Thai Champion. All that is a mouth full.
Sean Clancy was looking for anything to give him an edge going up against the legend. With the short notice nature of the fight, Sean Clancy didn’t have the time to fully prepare for Saenchai.
“Honestly, I requested we fight without gloves as I only took the fight at 10 days notice. If I was going to do anything it was to try and land some heavy hands, no specific training on short notice. [The plan] was simply get mind sharp and ready.”
But Saenchai was too much. When he stepped in the ring, Clancy noticed something about Saenchai. Being in a fist fight, no matter the form, has a certain edge to it. But Clancy specifically remembers the calm Saenchai had in there.
“His presence in the ring and his comfort is what I noticed, he was totally relaxed and calm.”
In the end, the loss to Saenchai was an experience. He grew from it. But he recognizes what many have come to learn: Saenchai is just a mile ahead of his competition when it comes to Thai boxing.
“Every loss made me a better fighter as it was a case of going back to the drawing board and see what I did wrong. In the Saenchai situation, you could be at the drawing board working out some game plans for a long time because he’s got years and fights of experience to which you can’t teach, only gain.”
Morgan Adrar: Lessons Learned
Our next Nak Muay is Morgan Adrar of France. He is the former WBC World Champion at 67 kilograms and a former European champion as well. He and Saenchai faced off in 2014 in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The fight went to a decision and Saenchai took the nod. But Adrar’s experience with Saenchai was all that he could ask for in his career.
In a sport where respect for your opponent is valued above all else, Adrar says that fighting Saenchai was truly an honor and a privilege for him.
“What was different is that I knew Saenchai was going to be more technical than all the other boxers I have boxed, and so happy and honored to have boxed him because he is Saenchai, a true source of inspiration for all.”
It’s that culture of respect that puts opponents at ease going into the fight. There’s no “I’m going to die” or “I’m in here to destroy Saenchai for my name.” Instead, Adrar says he treated the fight with Saenchai like any other fight.
“Other than that it was a challenge like any other. I didn’t feel any pressure or fear just an honor to face Saenchai.”
With the seemingly perfect game that Saenchai has developed from years of boxing, it’s of a big interest to me on how you prepare for it. For Morgan Adrar, it is a fight all the same as his others.
“My preparation for Saenchai was like all the other preparations we made with my coach, that is to say a 100% healthy preparation, disciplined and with a healthy lifestyle.”
Adrar continues, “What was difficult for me was that I had my right hand broken due to my previous fight. We had to put in place techniques and strategies so that I could box without my hand.”
Even his coaches had respect for Saenchai going into their bout. Even to this day, Saenchai left an impression on his coaches.
“My coach, who has lived for years in Thailand, was able to meet Saenchai at the Sor Kingstar camp in Khon Kaen and he followed his career with admiration.”
Again, the lessons learned from a bout with Saenchai are always positive and inward-looking. “I learned that no training should be neglected. I learned a lot from my defeat by points,” says Adrar.
“I was impressed by the quality of his boxing feet-fists, his fluidity, his efficiency. There is no waste in his boxing, no imbalance. In these sequences when we box him we immediately feel that he is very good at all levels; mentally physically, and technically.” He continues, “I simply learned that it was necessary to work at a level of determination so that later on to hope to approach perfection even if it remains very, very hard goals to achieve. Challenges, that’s what me really motivates because I love it.”