Boonlai Sor Thanikul

Boonlai Sor Thanikul “The Iron Twin” – Biography & Best Fights

In the realm of 1990s Muay Thai, legends regularly collided, each exchange a symphony of technical skill and strategy, shaping the sport’s landscape. These epic encounters epitomised the essence of high-level Muay Thai in Thailand’s biggest stadiums, where each technique was executed with precision and strategic intent. Boonlai embodied this spirit of fierce rivalry and relentless pursuit of excellence, leaving an indelible mark on the history of Muay Thai.

Name:Boonlai Sor Thanikul
Birth Name:Chaichan Ramoon
Thai Name:บุญหลาย ส ธนิกุล
Date of Birth:November 16th 1970
Place of Birth:Bang Nam Priao District, Chachoengsao Province, Thailand
Nicknames:The Iron Twin, Wangyu Sor.Ploenchit
Height:170 cm (5 ft 7 in)
Style:Muay Thai, Muay Femur
Fighting out of:Bangkok, Thailand
Team:Sor.Ploenchit (1984-1986) Sor.Thanikul (1986-)
Trainer:Phairaj Lawiraj (Pueng Sor.Thanikul)
Occupation:Muay Thai trainer

Boonlai Sor Thanikul was born in 1970 in Chachoengsao Province. He and his twin brother, Boonlong, were born into a modest family of three, with an older sister. At the age of 10, the twins began training Muay Thai with their father at home, eventually progressing their training at the local Sitmabon Camp in their native Chachoengsao Province.

Their father pushed them to train and compete in Muay Thai, assuring them that it would pave the way for a brighter future. Indeed, Chachoengsao Province had produced many Muay Thai champions before them such as Samart Payakaroon and Kongtoranee Pyakaroon.

Boonlai and his brother embraced the words of their father, and went on to compete in approximately 50 matches representing the Sitmabon camp.

boonlai sor thanikul muay thai 2
A young Boonlai

When the twins were 14 years old, they were spotted by a talent scout from Bangkok, and they were subsequently transferred to the Sor Ploenchit Camp. Known for its opulence, the Sor Ploenchit Camp was among the most luxurious Muay Thai camps in Thailand. During their time there, they trained alongside several champions and future champions, including Manasak Sor Ploenchit, Warunee Sor Ploenchit, Saen Sor Ploenchit, and Kaensak Sor Ploenchit.

Two years later, the two 16 year-olds were purportedly transferred to the mafia-affiliated Sor Thanikul gym to settle a gambling debt, although the official narrative suggests they were sold to Sor Thanikul.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (right) with his brother, Boonlong
Boonlai Sor Thanikul (right) with his brother, Boonlong

Established in 1977 by the controversial businessman Klaew Thanikul, the camp housed around 50 fighters at its peak. Klaew, a prominent figure in both Muay Thai and boxing circles, wielded considerable influence as a promoter and the leader of the Thai mafia in Bangkok. During the tumultuous 1980s, marked by violent clashes among mafia factions, Klaew was frequently linked to assassinations that occurred in close proximity to Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums.

However, despite the gym being owned by a notorious mafia godfather, the gym’s fighters were treated well by Klaew, and received substantial financial support.

sor thanikul gym 1990s
Boonlai Sor Thanikul (bottom centre) at the Sor Thanikul Gym – 1990s

Boonlai – The Iron Twin

Having gone on a winning streak beating top contenders such as Parnpetch Muangsurin, Karuhat Sor Supawan, and Noppadet Sor Rewadee in 1989, Boonlai found himself in contention for a 115 lbs Lumpinee title shot against “Mr. Mean” Langsuan Panyuthapum. Langsuan had been a dominant force all throughout the 1980s, and had beaten the who’s who in Muay Thai such as Hippy Singmanee, Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai, Karuhat Sor Supawan, Dokmaipah Por Pongsawang and Veeraphol Sahaprom.

Boonlai beat the muay khao legend over five rounds in January, 1990, becoming Lumpinee champion at 19 years old. Boonlong fought Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai on the same card that night, but lost by decision.

After a win and a loss against the seasoned technician Kangwannoi Or Seebualoi the following year, Boonlai successfully defended his Lumpinee belt against “The Black Pearl of Andaman” Oley Kiatoneway, only to lose his title to Oley just two months later in a non-title fight rematch.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (purple) vs Oley Kiatoneway (blue) | April 24th, 1990 – Lumpinee Stadium (points victory)

By this stage, Boonlai was among the most skilful rope-a-dope Muay Femur fighters in Thailand, showcasing excellence across all offensive techniques, with a notable proficiency in counter-striking.

Over the next 18 months, Boonlai paved the way for another Lumpinee Stadium title shot by beating numerous top contenders, including Karuhat Sor Supawan for a second time in November of 1990, and achieving a points victory against “Remote Puncher” Superlek Sorn Esarn in late 1991.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (red) vs Superlek Sorn Esarn (blue) | December 27th, 1991 – Lumpinee Stadium (points victory)

Boonlai also faced another rising star, Somluck Khamsing, on four occasions at Lumpinee Stadium between 1990 and 1991. Their rivalry ended 2-1-1 in favour Somluck.

During this period came the eventual demise of Klaew Thanikul, when he was ambushed and killed in a coordinated attack in Sam Phran, near Bangkok. His car was attacked by assailants armed with M16 rifles and grenade launchers. The identity of Klaew’s assassins and the specific reasons for his killing remain unknown. Speculation suggests it could be linked to internal mafia disputes or potentially extrajudicial actions by government agents aiming to suppress illegal activities. However, these theories lack confirmation.

Boonlai’s Second Coming

The man standing in Boonlai’s way of the 122 lbs Lumpinee title towards the end of 1991 was the “33-Second Puncher” Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai, famed for his 33-second knockout of Namkabuan Nongkeepahuyuth 14 months prior.

In January, 1992. Boonlai defeated Wangchannoi in a points victory, becoming the new 122 lbs Lumpinee Stadium champion. This year would become one of the most successful periods in Boonlai’s career, evidenced by points victories against Namkabuan Nonkeepahuyuth, Jongsanan Fairtex, Nungubon Sitlerchai and Chamuekpet Hapalang. He also defeated Oley Kiatoneway on two occasions, one of which was a title defence.

Boonlai’s only defeats that year were two losses against “The Wild Rhino” Nuathoranee Tongraja and his rematch with Namkabuan in November.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (pink) vs Jongsanan Fairtex (black) | May 29th, 1992 – Lumpinee Stadium (points victory)
Boonlai Sor Thanikul (blue) vs Chamuekpet Hapalang (red) | December 30th, 1992 – Rajadamnern Stadium (points victory)

Boonlai started 1993 in good form, with a draw against Superlek Sorn Esarn, and points victories against Jaroensap Kiatbanchong (Fighter of the Year 1992) and “Top Master” Karuhat Sor Supawan.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (blue) vs Jaroensap Kiatbanchong (red) | April 6th, 1993 – Lumpinee Stadium

Boonlai’s third fight against Karuhat serves as an exemplar in technical kicking exchanges.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (red) vs Karuhat Sor Supawan (black) | May 7th, 1993 – Lumpinee Stadium (points victory)

Boonlai’s year took a downward turn as he lost decisions against Oley Kiatoneway, Namkabuan Nongkeepahuyuth and Chatchai Paiseetong (losing his 122 lbs title to Chatchai), and got knocked out in the second round by Rittichai Lookchaomaesaitong’s right high kick.

In 1994, Boonlai fought the cream of the crop in Muay Thai, with mixed success. After defeating Pompet Naratreekul in a display of technical mastery for the ages, he challenged Karuhat Sor Supawan for the 122 lbs Lumpinee title in Boonlai’s native Chachoengsao Province, losing by decision.

His fight against Pompet epitomises Boonlai’s clean, technical kicking style and defensive prowess.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (red) vs Pompet Naratreekul (blue) | January 7th, 1994 – Lumpinee Stadium (points victory)
boonlai sor thanikul vs karuhat sor supawan lumpinee title fight
Karuhat Sor Supawan defending a body kick against Boonlai Sor Thanikul | February 13th, 1994 – Chachoengsao Province

Later that year, he avenged his loss against “Samart 2” Chatchai Paiseetong, and defeated the young “Vampire Knee” Lamnammoon Sor Sumalee twice by KO.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul (blue) vs Lamnammoon Sor Sumalee (red) | March 25th, 1994 – Lumpinee Stadium (KO R2)

However, Wangchannoi managed to avenge his loss to Boonlai from 1992, beating Boonlai by decision. Disappointingly, Boonlai ended the year with a knockout loss to Silapathai Jocky Gym in the second round.

Boonlai’s loss to Silapathai would be his last ever fight in the stadiums of Bangkok.

Boonlai Sor Thanikul Legacy

Boonlai fought the best of the best in the greatest era the sport, and ended his career with around 300 wins, 95 losses and 5 draws.

Boonlai admitted that his fights against Namkabuan and Somluck were among the toughest of his career.

boonlai sor thanikul vs somluck khamsing muay thai legends
Boonlai Sor Thanikul (left) vs Somluck Khamsing | October 26th, 1990 – Lumpinee Stadium (points defeat)

Conversely, Oley Kiatoneway has since stated that his first match against Boonlai was the most agonising he has ever experienced, and was hospitalised following the bout due to severe headaches.

Today, Boonlai passes on his knowledge in camps around Bangkok.

boonlai sor thanikul bangkok
Boonlai Sor Thaikul – Trainer in Bangkok

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