WINNING RESPECT THE HARD WAY (Soren tells Julian Turner about the long road to acceptance in Thailands national sport. Bangkok Post july 5th 2009.
Soren King attracted international attention as one of the most popular Muay thai boxers on the Contender Asia reality series but he still had to fight to gain respect in the place that mattered to him most. The Australian made it through to the 12th episode of the 15 show series before being eliminated by Dzhabar Askerov, and gained plenty of admirers with his professional approach and easy going manner.
But Soren who now boxes out of the Eminent Air gym in Phra Khanong, said his performance on the popular show cut little ice with grassroots fans in Thailand. "I don't think many Muay Thai followers in Thailand saw the series because it was on cable television and aimed mainly at the overseas audience" he said. "Most of the people who follow the sport in this country can see plenty of action on domestic channels like channel 7 and channel 3 or got to the major stadiums to watch fights every day of the week. I fight in those places and it means a lot when people come up to me and say they appreciate how I box. To get the respect of Muay Thai fans in Thailand is really the best thing that a foreigner can aim for"
The 29 year old had already fought at Lumpini stadium twice before heading to singapore to take part in the reality show, which was filmed in 2007. After his exit the light-middleweight returned to Thailand to fight Ratchadamnoen stadium champion Lertmongkon Sor Tarntip (points defeat) and has since boxed three more times at the channel 7 venue, which is a record number of appearences for a foreigner.
Soren has faced several Thais during his 82 fight career (56 wins, 34KO's, against 24 losses and two draws), and said he prefers this type of match. "It is different when you fight a Thai because it is purely a sporting contest" he explained. "There is no edge to it and the match becomes a batle of technique, which is what the sport is all about. I don't enjoy fighting foreigners as much, especially in Thailand, because some of them only seem to want to do as much physical damage as possible" "They lose control of themselves and that is totally against the way I have been taught to fight in Thailand"
To many, the brutal reality of Muay Thai involves fit and skilled fighters punching, kicking, kneeing and elbowing each other but Soren said the psychological side of the sport is what keeps him hooked. " I never really think too much about my opponent because I am really fighting myself." he said. "I am testing myself in there and seeing if I can put into practice what I have been working on in the gym." "You have to react to what your opponent is doing and keep thinking and adjusting all the time. I never see it as beating someone up, it is a sport to me and nothing personal."
Interestingly, he believes the same mantra cannot be applied to Mixed Martial Arts contests, such as those organised by the UFC. "I really don't like MMA because it just looks like a vicious street fight" he said. "There isn't any of the artistry involved like in Muay Thai. Whoever is the biggest animal in there seems to win and that is all it's about, which doesn't appeal to me at all."
Soren lives and trains with the Thais at his gym and, as the norm, recieves 50% of each purse with the rest going to pay for his room and board. He usually collects 10,000 baht per fight but is also given extra money by sponsors depending on his performances. Eminent Air gym owner Somboon Niruttimetee said he was pleased to have a fighter with Soren's personality setting an example to the younger members of the camp. "There are around 20 boxers staying at the gym most of the time and so it is hard to keep them under control." said Somboon.
"The boys are okay when they are young but when they start getting older many are tempted by girls, drink or drugs. Soren shows them the right way to live and he also has a quiet manner which is good for them to see. He has had a long career because he has lived correctly. He is dedicated ti Muay Thai and a real asset to us."
Soren next fights Lertmongkon in a rematch at Ratchadamnoen stadium on July 23rd and said that he was looking forward to the challenge. "he beat me last time but I feel I have progressed and this will be a good guage of where I am at the moment" he said. "But as long as the fans enjoy it and I give a good account of myself then I will be happy."
First Muay Thai memory: When I was 15, I sparred with a 20 year old man and dropped him with a kick to the body. I surprised myself.
Favourite all time fighter: Samart Payakaroon. I like skillful boxers.
What are you reading: Tweak by Nic Sheff. It's about beating drug addiction. I like reading real life stories about people who battle through adversity.
Favourite movie: I Spy. Eddie Murphy plays a boxer in a comedy. Funny films are the best to watch.
Favourite Music: I listen to hip hop. especially Tupac
What Injuries have you had: I stopped counting my stiches when I reached 100. I have broken my hand and a little toe too.
Pre fight superstitions: None, because you are setting yourself up for failure if they go wrong.
What will you do when you retire: I want to be a trainer, I already do some coaching.