Reporter Mary-Ann Ochota and Director Daniel Bogado follow 11-year old Nat Thanarak, one of the best child boxers in the North of the country.
He is preparing for the biggest match of his career so far, against a 12- year old champion from another province. Nat will get a fee for the fight, but his chance of earning big money comes from gambling. His whole village has raised a stake to bet on him. If Nat wins, he’ll get a cut.
There are more than 30,000 professional child fighters taking part in Muay Thai, which is considered one of the toughest martial arts in the world. Although they sometimes fight for a fee of as little as £4, their winnings can make them breadwinners for their families and local heroes in their villages.
Nat trains seven days a week, four hours a day, before and after school. As well as getting fit for the fight, he also needs to make the weight for his category. And to do this, he needs to shed three kilos – ten per cent of his body weight – over the next week. He dresses in a rubber sweat suit designed to help him lose water while he runs 8km in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius.
Nat’s mother works as a nanny in Bangkok, sending home money when she can, but it’s not enough to support the family. Nat’s dad doesn’t have a job and tells Ochota that if his son wasn’t boxing, he would have to find work in Bangkok, leaving Nat to live with their grandparents.
While Nat trains, the team films some of the fights held every night of the week across Thailand, and see children are knocked out and badly concussed. In a Bangkok hospital they meet Professor Jiraporn Laothamatas, a specialist studying child boxers. She says brain scans show kids can suffer similar brain trauma to victims of traffic accidents, which can lead to lower intelligence and dementia.
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