The Golden Era of Muay Thai saw the best Muay Thai fighters compete. This time period stretching primarily through the 1980s and 1990s. It is hailed as the pinnacle of the sport.
It was a time when legendary fighters fought in the iconic rings of Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums, showcasing a blend of power and technique. It was the finest time in the history of Muay Thai and saw the most skilled athletes compete against one another. This is the Top Ten Best Muay Thai Fighters of the Golden Era.
- Top Ten Best Muay Thai Fighters of the Golden Era
- 1. Samart Payakaroon (130-18-2)
- 2. Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn (56-11-1)
- 3. Boonlai Sor Thanikul (300-95-5)
- 4. Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth (266-35-2)
- 5. Sagat Petchyindee (266-35-2)
- 6. Jongsanan Fairtex (98-28-3)
- 7. Sakmongkol Sitthichok (232-19-4)
- 8. Chamuekpet Hapalang (200-48-2)
- 9. Kaensak Sor Ploenjit
- 10. Charoenpont Sor Yor Klinmee (295-58-4)
- Honorable Mention
- What was the Muay Thai golden era?
Top Ten Best Muay Thai Fighters of the Golden Era
1. Samart Payakaroon (130-18-2)
- Achievements: Multi-time Lumpinee Stadium champion in different weight classes, WBC World Junior Featherweight champion in boxing.
- Skills: Known for his technical brilliance, evasive movement, and beautiful teeps.
- 1980 Lumpinee Stadium 102 lbs World Champion
- 1980 Lumpinee Stadium 105 lbs World Champion
- 1981 Lumpinee Stadium 115 lbs World Champion
- 1981 Lumpinee Stadium 126 lbs World Champion
Samart Payakaroon was a master of the ‘Muay Femur’ style, characterized by its emphasis on technique, defense, and counterattacking. Samart’s fighting style was poetry in motion, a blend of grace, precision, and power that made him a nightmare for opponents.
Born on December 5, 1962, in Chachoengsao Province, Thailand, is one of Muay Thai’s most celebrated figures. He’s often lauded as one of the greatest Muay Thai fighters of all time and has achieved significant acclaim for his seamless transition to international boxing.
Samart was a four-time Lumpinee Stadium champion in different weight categories, a remarkable accomplishment given the competition in these divisions at that time. He is one of the best Muay Thai fighters in history, especially of the golden era.
2. Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn (56-11-1)
- Achievements: Undefeated Lumpinee champion.
- Skills: Known for his devastating knee strikes due to his tall build, earning him the nickname “Sky Piercing Knee”
- 1981 Lumpinee Stadium Lightweight 135 lbs Champion
Dieselnoi’s physical stature, standing at an impressive height, was a formidable advantage. But it was his ability to transform this natural asset into a dangerous weapon. Every knee strike delivered by Dieselnoi was to be feared and is one of the best Muay Thai fighters in history.
Born on April 19, 1961, in Phutthamonthon, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn is a legendary figure whose dominance in the world of Muay Thai is incredible. So much so, that he ran out of opponents and was asked to retire. The nickname “Sky Piercing Knee” is a vivid description of Dieselnoi’s fighting style, the definition of a “Muay Khao” fighter.
His dominance was so profound that finding worthy adversaries became a challenge. After traveling the globe to find new opponents, he retired as the division he competed in had been cleared out. There was simply no one left to defeat.
In interviews, he still looks back at the golden era as the best time in the history of Muay Thai. He explains:
“Today for me there is no so strong fighter as before, it is not any more the same thing, it changed since a few years without doubts because of the promoters, it is not the same any more, I do not see today fighting very, very hardly as there was a few years ago.”
3. Boonlai Sor Thanikul (300-95-5)
- Achievements: Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium champion.
- Skills: Known for his resilience and toughness, often overcoming opponents with relentless aggression.
- 1990 Lumpinee Stadium 115 lbs Champion
- 1992 Lumpinee Stadium 122 lbs Champion
Boonlai was a fighter who embodied the aggressive, forward-moving style of Muay Thai. His fights were spectacles of raw energy. Additionally, he captured championships in both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium, the two most prestigious arenas for Muay Thai in Thailand. A golden era legend who is also one of the best Muay Thai fighters in Muay Thai history.
4. Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth (266-35-2)
- Achievements: Held the Lumpinee Stadium title for six years.
- Skills: Excelling in the art of Muay Khao, he was famous for his knee strikes.
- 1991 Lumpinee Stadium Champion – Five Defenses
- 1995 WMC lightweight World Champion
Namkabuan was a legend from Roi Et Province, Thailand. He held the Lumpinee Stadium title for six years. A master of the ‘Muay Khao’ style, he was feared for his powerful knee strikes. Noted as one of the finest golden era fighters, also among the best Muay Thai fighters who have ever competed.
5. Sagat Petchyindee (266-35-2)
- Achievements: Five Muay Thai World Titles.
- Skills: Feared for his punching power.
- Rajadamnern Stadium 118 lbs Muay Thai World Champion
- Rajadamnern Stadium 135 lbs Muay Thai World Champion
- Rajadamnern Stadium 140 lbs Muay Thai World Champion
- Lumpinee Stadium 135 lbs Muay Thai World Champion x2
Sagat Petchyindee earned the nickname “The Tiger King”. Famed for powerful punches and roundhouse kicks. He was a multi time Lumpinee champion. Opponents faced a mix of aggression and technique. He became an inspiration for the iconic character in the Street Fighter video games. Easily ranking as one of the best Muay Thai fighters in history.
6. Jongsanan Fairtex (98-28-3)
- Achievements: Multi time Lumpinee Stadium champion
- Skills: Celebrated for his elbows and strong clinch.
- 1992 Lumpinee Stadium Champion – 126 lbs
- 1994 Lumpinee Stadium Lightweight Champion – 135 lbs
Jongsanan Fairtex was a two-time Lumpinee Stadium champion. Jongsanan earned his nickname, “The Woodenman” for his impenetrable defense. He was a master of elbows, the definition of a “Muay Sok” nak Muay. Additionally, was renowned for his fights with Sakmongkol Sitthichok.
7. Sakmongkol Sitthichok (232-19-4)
- Achievements: Multiple-time Lumpinee and Rajadamnern champion.
- Skills: Skilled in every aspect of Muay Thai, especially his powerful punches and kicks.
- 1994 Lumpinee Stadium Lightweight Champion – 135 lbs
Sakmongkol was a multiple-time champion at both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums. Fights with Jongsanan Fairtex are etched in history. Additionally, he had earned multiple awards for fight of the year honors. One of the most entertaining fighters in history,
8. Chamuekpet Hapalang (200-48-2)
- Achievements: Multi-time, multi-division Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium Titles
- Skills: Known for his strong clinch game and vicious elbows.
- 1980 Lumpinee Stadium Pinweight Champion -102 lbs
- 1981 Lumpinee Stadium Light Flyweight Champion – 108 lbs
- 1982 Lumpinee Stadium Flyweight Champion – 112 lbs
- 1980 Rajadamnern Stadium Mini flyweight Champion – 104 lbs
- 1989 Rajadamnern Stadium Junior featherweight Champion – 122 lbs
- 1990 Rajadamnern Stadium Featherweight Champion – 126 lbs
- 1994 Rajadamnern Stadium Junior featherweight Champion – 122 lbs
- 1994 Rajadamnern Stadium Featherweight Champion – 126 lbs
Chamuekpet has an incredible list of titles in both Rajadamnern and Lumpinee Stadium, across a multitude of Muay Thai weight classes. A student of the Hapalang gym. His clinch and elbow game was one to be feared. With a list of accomplishments like that, he is remarkable for the golden era and one of the best Muay Thai fighters in this sport’s impressive history.
9. Kaensak Sor Ploenjit
- Achievements: 2-time Fighter of the Year, Lumpinee and Rajadamnern champion.
- Skills: A technical wizard with fast kicks and effective counter-striking.
- 1989 Lumpinee Stadium Champion – 112 lbs
- 1989 Rajadamnern Stadium Champion – 112 lbs
Kaensak earned the Fighter of the Year multiple times in his storied career. The Thai striker conquered both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadium Muay Thai titles. Mainly celebrated due to his kicking technique.
10. Charoenpont Sor Yor Klinmee (295-58-4)
- Achievements: Famed for beating formidable opponents in his era.
- Skills: Possessed powerful kicks and a robust clinch game.
Charoenpont hailed from the famed Sor Yor Klinmee gym. His kicks were powerful and swift. Every bout displayed his robust clinch game.
The Dutch fighter, Ramon Dekkers made a significant impact on Muay Thai during the Golden Era, earning respect for his ferocious style and battles with Thai legends. Certainly among the best Muay Thai fighters ever.
Renowned for his 30 fight win streak. A master of elbows, showcasing dangerous precision. One of the best Muay Thai fighters who has ever competed.
What was the Muay Thai golden era?
The Golden Era of Muay Thai refers to a period, predominantly during the 1980s and 1990s, when the sport experienced its pinnacle of popularity and competitive intensity in Thailand. This period produced legendary Nak Muays who engaged in some of the most iconic battles in the history of Muay Thai. This era saw the best best Muay Thai fighters in history compete against one another.
During this period, fighters such as Samart Payakaroon, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, and Namkabuan Nongkee Pahuyuth rose to prominence. These athletes were distinguished by their extraordinary skills, mastering every aspect of Muay Thai – from striking and clinching to defensive maneuvers. Matchups were highly competitive. These fights drew massive crowds in stadiums across Thailand, fans knew this was an important time to see the best Muay Thai fighters.
Television played a pivotal role in catapulting the sport to the forefront of Thai culture. Fights were broadcast nationwide, attracting millions of viewers and making household names of the era’s most iconic fighters. Unfortunately, much of this footage has been lost to time, many of these matches and best Muay Thai fighters, have nearly been lost.
‘The Art of Eight Limbs’ is thousands of years old in the nation of Thailand. In its current form, it can easily be traced back one hundred years. Throughout all that history, no period has been as influential as the Muay Thai golden. The fighters of this time are still inspirations for the young fighters coming up today, celebrated as being the best Muay Thai fighters. The Top Ten Best Muay Thai Fighters of the Golden Era are an incredible list of athletes who have inspired a nation.
Timothy Wheaton is a combat sports writer who covers MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Tim is the authority on kickboxing and combat sports journalist who has covered K-1, PRIDE FC, UFC, GLORY Kickboxing, Bellator, ONE Championship, and plenty more.