Buakaw Banchamek

Buakaw Banchamek: ‘The White Lotus’ Muay Thai Legend

Who is Buakaw Banchamek? The combat sports superstar Buakaw Banchamek is one of the biggest stars in Muay Thai and kickboxing history. The Thai-born striker has fought across the globe as a certified living legend. ‘The White Lotus’ became an inspiration and icon for the next generation of strikers.

Buakaw’s journey to superstardom is a story of betrayal and world championship titles. Despite fighting for more than thirty years, this Thai-born star remains active in combat sports to this day. Buakaw Banchamek is a living legend who has fought in front of the Thai Royal Family. He carries a stunning kickboxing and Muay Thai record of 240 Wins, 24 Losses, and 14 Draws.

Name:Buakaw Banchamek
Thai Name:สมบัติ บัญชาเมฆ
Date of Birth:May 8, 1982
Place of Birth:Ban Song Nong County, Samrong Thap, Surin, Thailand
Nicknames:The White Lotus, Black Gold
Gym:Por. Pramuk Gym (1997-2012), Banchamek Gym (2012 to Present)
Years Active:1997 to Present Day
Height:1.74 m (5 ft 8+12 in)
Weight:71.5 kg (158 lb; 11.26 st)
Weight Classes:Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight
Championships:20+ World Championships 

Despite being a major star in Thailand and being known as a Muay Thai striker, his major success came from the sport of kickboxing. ‘The White Lotus’ competed during the golden era of kickboxing and fought the very best of K-1 fighters.

The Early Life of Buakaw Banchamek

‘The White Lotus’ began his Muay Thai and combat sports career at the mere age of seven. After attending a local Muay Thai event, in his home of Surin, Thailand, the young athlete was inspired to become a Nak Muay.

Today he has a record with nearly 300 bouts. However, during his early life, he fought in many fights that were undocumented. Buakaw Banchamek said in an interview that he won his first match at 7 years old and earned approximately $2.75 for the win. Between the age of 7 and 12, Buakaw claims to have won over 100 bouts, none of which we have any documentation for, none of these wins are included in his official 300 bouts. ‘The White Lotus’ has truly spent a lifetime in combat sports.

Buakaw Banchamek Muay Thai Fighter

Why is Buakaw Banchamek Notable?

‘The White Lotus’ Buakaw Banchamek had a middling success in Muay Thai during his early career. He captured Muay Thai titles in Onmoi Stadium and the Toyota Muay Thai Tournament. Despite these impressive titles, the Thai striker was unable to capture a crown in Thailand’s major stadiums such as Lumpinee.

Buakaw was a relatively unknown fighter to international audiences in 2004. But with his entry in the K-1 Kickboxing World MAX Grand Prix, he was about to introduce himself with authority. His Muay Thai style was that of Muay Tae, a kicking specialist. With his thunderous kicks, Buakaw would find tremendous success in the sport of kickboxing.

In 2004, with his barrage of heavy kicks, Buakaw Banchamek would shock the world going unbeaten in his very first K-1 MAX World Grand Prix Championship. Along the way, he would successfully vanquish notable fighters such as Japanese Kickboxing Champion Takayuki Kohiruimaki, Muay Thai icon John Wayne Parr, and the all-time great Masato Kobayashi in the finals. With this major world championship title, the entire combat sports globe and Thailand began to take notice of ‘The White Lotus.’

In the 2005 K-1 MAX World Grand Prix, would fight to the finals after three consecutive wins. In the final match, he would face one the best kickboxers in history; Andy Souwer, of the Netherlands. Souwer and Buakaw would fight to a draw and would require two additional extension rounds to settle the title. In razor close decision, it was given to the Dutch-born Souwer.

In the following tournament, the 2006 K-1 MAX World Grand Prix, Buakaw wanted to ensure that everyone knew that he was the best kickboxer alive. After three victories in a row, Souwer and Thailand’s ‘The White Lotus’ met once again in the finals.

This time, Buakaw refused to leave it in the hands of the judges. The son of Thailand was able to win this bout, avenging his prior year’s loss, and capture the K-1 Kickboxing World Title, with a TKO finish in the second round.

Buakaw’s legend was beginning to rise. Winning two K-1 MAX World Grand Prix was an incredible achievement for this era. But even in between major K-1 tournaments, the Thai striker kept busy and had many fights during this time. He would never let his fame dictate who his next opponent was, nor would he demand a high-profile match; he wanted to fight and he was willing to take risks.

In between K-1 tournaments, Buakaw Banchamek would take fights against French Muay Thai legend Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, Greek Kickboxing icon Mike Zambidis, future kickboxing world champion Nieky Holzken, and against all-time great Giorgio Petrosyan. This was the most stacked era of kickboxing talent and ‘The White Lotus’ wanted to fight them all even in a non-tournament bout.

Buakaw Banchamek Muay Thai Legend

Training Routine

It is absolutely stunning that Buakaw was fighting multiple fights in one night during these tournaments, and often would require extension rounds. In his 2004 victory, for example, he would fight a shocking ten rounds over three bouts in just one night. In 2005, he fought eleven rounds in one night, and in 2006 he fought seven rounds over three bouts in a single day.

Given his impossibly challenging fight schedule during tournaments, his training regimen had to be supreme. ‘The White Lotus’ had a rigorous training routine that exemplifies his incredible dedication to combat sports.

Rising promptly at 5:30 am, he embarks on a challenging warm-up routine, covering an impressive distance of 6 to 10 miles, which is approximately 9 to 16 km. With his heart pumping and muscles primed, Buakaw delves straight into his demanding training program. This regimen encompasses a formidable array of activities, including fifteen rounds of pad and bag work, strength and conditioning exercises, and intense clinch work or sparring sessions.

At approximately 3:00 pm, he embarks on yet another run, fueling his determination and maintaining his impeccable conditioning. Following his second run, Buakaw Banchamek seamlessly transitions into his regular training routine once more, completing another gruelling fifteen rounds of training. This intense schedule typically concludes around 8:00 pm, leaving just enough time for a well-deserved dinner.

Buakaw Betrayed

At the age of twelve years old, Buakaw Banchamek began training at the Por. Pramut Gym. There were many great fighters at this training camp including Namsaknoi, Chokdee, and others. Much all his world success came from his experience at this gym.

In 2012, after collecting multiple world titles under the Por. Pramut Gym tutelage, Buakaw would leave this training facility. While ‘The White Lotus’ has remained quiet on the issue, many insider experts explain that despite his worldly success, Buakaw was left with no money. Nearly of his K-1 and other world title winnings were taken by his manager and trainers.

One such story explains that he won ten million yen from a K-1 MAX victory, of which Buakaw Banchamek was left with only 20,000 for himself meanwhile Por. Pramuk was purchasing multiple houses. He was at the very top of superstardom and yet had no money. Feeling betrayed, ‘The White Lotus’ left this gym behind.

It was not an amicable split. Shortly after the news broke in 2012, the Por. Pramuk Gym would attempt to bring Buakaw to court and sue him for a whopping 100,000,000 Thai baht, which is approximately $3.2 million.

Afterwards, Buakaw Banchamek would found his own gym after his own name; The Banchamek Gym. This gym would help raise Nak Muays into professional athletes. While also ensuring these young Thai fighters were not being taken advantage of by their trainers and managers.

The lead trainer of The Banchamek Gym, Kru Dee, spoke to VICE and 2015, and said:

“For me, I’m not here for money. I want to give these kids a better life. An activity. A form of discipline. All I expect in return is that when they reach the big stadium, they look back and acknowledge me. And I’m happy.”

Buakaw would add some of his philosophy. It’s not about just winning, he explained:

I tell them to mind their parents and elders. It’s important to me that the kids are able to take care of themselves. I want them to understand Muay Thai is a way out of poverty, but there are other ways too, like being a good person and using your brain, your talent.

Buakaw Banchamek at weigh-in

Buakaw the Superstar

Buakaw Banchamek never stopped fighting. He took dozens of more bouts in his storied career. He would sell out stadiums in Thailand and even fought in front of the Thai royal family. Bouts involving ‘The White Lotus’ were often celebrated with a national holiday in Thailand.

The legacy of ‘The White Lotus’ can clearly be seen in the next generation of Thai strikers. In an interview with Tim Wheaton, former ONE Kickboxing World Champion Superbon Singha Mawynn explained:

“I was like a little kid. He’s done everything. He’s a role model for me and for everyone in Thailand.”

The Muay Thai phenom Tawanchai PK.Saenchai in an interview refused to even be compared to ‘The White Lotus.’ Speaking with Wheaton, the ONE Muay Thai World Champion said:

“I’d never want to be compared to a hero like Buakaw. I admire him a lot!”

Muay Thai superstar Rodtang Jitmuangnon said his two biggest inspirations were Nai Khanom Tom being the father of Muay Thai, in addition to Buakaw. The ONE Muay Thai World Champion said:

“The legend or someone that I look up to is Nai Khanom Tom, one of the legendary boxers in Thailand, and the other person is Buakaw who inspires me in [Thai] boxing.”

In conclusion, Buakaw journey from a young boy inspired by Muay Thai to becoming a combat sports superstar is nothing short of remarkable. Through years of dedication, hard work, and relentless training, he rose to the top of the kickboxing world, capturing multiple world championship titles and earning the admiration of fans and fellow fighters alike.

Buakaw’s success in the face of betrayal and financial hardships serves as a testament to his resilience and unwavering passion for the sport. Moreover, his impact extends beyond his personal achievements, as he continues to inspire and mentor the next generation of Thai strikers, leaving an indelible mark on the world of combat sports. With his incredible talent, legendary bouts, and the establishment of his own gym to support young athletes, Buakaw Banchamek has solidified his status as a true superstar and a beacon of hope for aspiring fighters in Thailand and beyond.

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