END TO A LEGEND – RIP Saengtiennoi
Today, 16th May 2021, we have lost forever one very fine Muaythai icon, by the name of Saengtiennoi, a legendary fighter from the golden age of the ’90s, and a model of the Thai people – with old values in modern times.
He was surely a great crowd-pleaser.
They used to call him “Jom Jumphit”, meaning “Great Kisser” for his unique habit of kissing his foe, usually before the last round, to signify he had already won the match. From this, he became known as the “Deadly Kisser” Jumphit Phikard ( the latter word meaning destroy or kill)…..
Fighting since 13 years of age, initially for 100 baht, at a time before the TV boxing boom caught on in Thailand, he rose through the ranks to be nominated in, Fighter of the Year 1987 (B.E.2530), for an impressive winning streak at Rajadamnern Stadium, and by the Top Fighter Magazine, inclusive for beating Charnchai (champion) and two K.O. wins over the highly-respect kicker Nokvid Devy.
Despite the popularity, he never made Fighter of the Year (Sports Writers Association of Thailand) due to a points loss to rising star Prasert, on 24 March 1988.
Saengtiennoi for years had fought under the camp name, “Sitsurapong”, but later changed to “S. Rungroj”. By that time he was already a national celebrity. His purse call was 200,000 baht a fight.
In his prime, for a body frame of 150 pounds, he had to dehydrate down to below 130 for fights and had dropped to 125 to face premier fighters like Chamaukpetch. The arbitrary control was such pressure that he had to run away from scheduled events a few times.
A southpaw with a hard left kick, sharp left punch, and destructive knee-work, especially his trademark side-step unattached (without full clinching) angular knee thrust, he had dominated the Muaythai scene when One Songchai program (at old Lumpini) was the mark of excellence for the fighting sport in Thailand. A counter kicker-puncher by trade, he could box or brawl, and being a leftist, he had proved a rather difficult problem to most of his opponents.
He had won the RDN 130 title and the LPN 135 crown in his prime, but his most sensational performances were against farangs…
He reached the peak of his career on 4 January 1991, when he kayoed the dangerous Black Shark Charry S. Vanit at Lumpini Stadium for the Yodmuaythai title, with one murderous knee to the chin midway in round 3. It was the clash of the two most-feared knee assailants of the era, a showdown that was long overdue ( in the meantime both stars had been humiliated in Holland, Charry kayoed by Raman Dekkers, and Saengtiennoi by Gilbert Ballantine, via decision)
When Saengtiennoi was matched against the Dutch Diamond (Ramon Dekkers) at Lumpini Stadium on 3 September 1991, it was the clash that shuddered the East and West. Unlike their previous meet in Tokyo, this was electrifying, as the Dutchman was the biggest threat to the dominance of the Thais over other nations, for having demolished in brutal fashion a number of rated Thai fighters….
The fight, again the masterpiece of Mr. Songchai Ratanasuban, grossed over 4 million baht in revenue – an all-time record. Saengtiennoi, boxing clever, avoided the killing shots of his foe, all the way until the fourth round, when the Thai landed some 15 hard left kicks on his man, interspersed with left straights and spurning (also left foot). The fans all went wild. As the last opened, the Kisser bored in, after unleashing again 10 left kicks on Dekker’s body and arm, both converged in mid-ring to trade punches and elbows for a gamble. One sniper-elbow managed to cut Saengtiennoi on the forehead, and blood flew …. The crowds went berserk at the sight of crimson, but Saengtiennoi, cool as ever, waded in to clinch and brawl, landing knee shots on the cornered blonde assassin…. Gong! One hell of a fight by both and a deserving victory though at a price for the Thai.
It was a fight that goes on the annals of Muaythai for being so extraordinary, won by the Kisser (or Venomous Spider as the Chinese called him). However, he had more than that to tell with pride, two encounters with Dany Bille (Black Cyclone) and one landmark victory on points against Moroccan warrior, Hassan Kassrioui (weight 145:152), on the monumental H.M. King’s Royal Birthday program, 1997, at Sanam Luang. It was a day of vengeance for the Thai… once again.
Came 12 March 1999, his fortune finally turned, when in a fight at Muangthong Thani, against Turkish Yucel Fidan ended tragically for the Kisser in round four, being counted out with a dislocated shoulder and a fractured jaw…. The end of his brilliant career was approaching, it seemed.
He fought a draw with the aspiring kicker Samkor in his first comeback bid.
However, one last fight in Tokyo, 2000, made that point, as the great fighter was again humbled, by Takashi Ito (Japan) on a TKO in the last round, due to his old shoulder injury.
His after-life on retirement has not kept him from the boxing arena, since he opened his own gym, T. Sangtiennoi, happily giving life to young boxers in the way he knew best, for having been given such himself in the past. Amongst his proteges were the world-famous John Wayne Parr, and his own son, Moses.
May we all wish him to rest in peace….
The author, Alex Tsui, is one of the foremost expert historians on the sport of MuayThai. You can follow his daily historical insights via https://www.facebook.com/alex.tsui.104