You’ve likely heard the name Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, and now wonder who is Dieselnoi. Few names resonate as powerfully as that of Dieselnoi. Born Charin Sorndee to a charcoal-selling family, he would rise to the greatest level of Muay Thai.
Towering over his contemporaries, he emerged as a force of nature during the sport’s Golden Age. He is the definition of a knee fighter, a Muay Khao. His fighting career was so dominant that he would run out of opponents in his time. He also holds legendary wins over iconic fighters such as Samart and Sagat.
Who is Dieselnoi?
|Name:||Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn or Charin Sorndee|
|Date of Birth:||December 27, 1961|
|Place of Birth:||Ayutthaya, Thailand|
|Nickname:||Mr. Sky Piercing Knee|
|Height:||1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|Weight:||61 kg (134 lb)|
|World Championships:||Lumpinee Stadium Champion|
Early Life of Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
Dieselnoi, whose original name was Charin Sorndee was born in December of 1961. He hailed from Hua Khung in the Nakhon Luang province of the Phra Nakorn Sri Ayudhaya region of Thailand. Charin was the youngest child in the Sorndee family, with an elder brother and sister. The Sorndees were engaged in trade on shipping vessels, specifically regarding the sale of charcoal.
This means that Charin spent much of his early life on the water aboard a boat. Legend has it that as his mother began labour for baby Dieselnoi while they were on the Pasak River. Quickly she was rushed to a hospital but gave birth to Charin before they arrived.
Financially, the Sorndee family just barely managed to stay above the poverty line. This is quite an achievement given the economic state of many agricultural families in central Thailand at the time, and even compared to now.
Charin’s initiation into the world of Muay Thai began at age 12, influenced heavily by the passion his elder brother and father held for the sport. Although partly driven by his family’s love for Muay Thai, Charin also faced an ultimatum from his father: to either commit to a life in the monastery or pursue a career in boxing.
However, young Charin had a health fear of ghosts. Fearing the supernatural tasks Thai monks often deal with – given the deeply-held Thai belief in spirits – Charin chose Muay Thai. Fighting humans was the path less frightening than fighting ghosts.
His early training days were overseen by his elder brother, Sunan Sorndee. Sunan’s rigorous training methods, stemming from a fervent desire to see Dieselnoi succeed, once led to a severe injury for the budding fighter. A tear in Dieselnoi’s spleen led to hospitalization and a temporary hiatus from the sport.
Following this incident, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn accompanied Sunan to the Trat region, where the Sorndee family relocated. Here, under the tutelage of Khru Banjong at the Sor Banjongsak camp, Charin adopted his fighter name, “Dieselnoi Sor Banjongsak.” This means “Little Diesel.” He debuted in the ring at the age of 13 with this nickname, marking his debut with a resounding knockout victory. The win earned him a modest prize of 50 Thai baht, less than two dollars.
The Fighting Career of Dieselnoi
Dieselnoi’s ascent to Muay Thai greatness leaves an unforgettable mark on the sport’s history. Noted for his impeccable technique, and powerful knee strikes. His journey from a young fighter in Trat to becoming one of Thailand’s most revered champions is the story of a legend.
He would use his incredible height to dominate opponents in the clinch and with knees. Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn was so tall for his weight class that he would have made a great outside fighter, and used his length. However, every Nak Muay would want to close the distance against him. So he became an incredible inside fighter and was relentless with his knees. Dieselnoi is the greatest knee fighter in history, the very definition of Muay Khao. His forte, the knee strike, became a source of dread for opponents. Dieselnoi’s ability to leverage his towering height and deliver powerful knee strikes set him apart in a league of exceptional fighters.
Because of his short fighting career and the era he fought in, we have very little footage of his actual fights. Most of what we know comes from witness accounts or fighters discussing their match against him. Even Dieselnoi himself has remained pretty quiet on his career.
His early fights, representing the Sor Banjongsak camp in Trat, set the stage for what was to come. With each victory, Dieselnoi showcased a distinct mastery over his opponents, utilizing his height and unique techniques. However, it was not long before he transitioned to a bigger stage. Joining the renowned camp in Bangkok, he fought under the name “Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn.”
In Bangkok, Dieselnoi’s career reached unprecedented heights. He secured the Lumpinee Stadium title in the lightweight division and held it with an iron grip. This was after defeating a rival Koapong Sittichuchai in 1981. Such was his dominance that he often struggled to find worthy adversaries as no one wanted to accept a fight against him.
Dieselnoi’s matches with fellow Muay Thai legends further solidified his legacy. Clashes with fighters like Samart Payakaroon and Sagat Petchyindee remain iconic in the history of Muay Thai. Dieselnoi, Samart, and Sagat are Mount Rushmore status fighters in Muay Thai. Three golden age and all-time great athletes in Muay Thai. Dieselnoi beat them both. His formidable knee strikes were a major factor in his victory.
Defeating Samart was huge. It remains the most important moment of his career as well as his best payday. Dieselnoi in an interview recalled:
“I gained very good purses, one of my biggest purse was for my fight against Samart Payakaroon who was 400 000 bahts!”
However, his unmatched reign came with its set of challenges. After the defining wins against Samart and Sagat, Dieselnoi’s dominance became a double-edged sword. Between 1982 and 1984, he instilled such respect in the Muay Thai that he found himself without adversaries. With a dwindling pool of worthy opponents, Dieselnoi faced periods of inactivity. He took his gloves and shorts on the road and fought overseas, and he even tried professional boxing.
His global encounters included bouts against Japanese kickboxer Shogu Shimazo, Canadian karate champion Peter Cunningham, and American John Moncayo. In these matchups, Dieselnoi’s devastating knee strikes remained his weapon of choice, leading him to defeat each of these opponents.
With a lack of opponents in Muay Thai, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn retired at the age of merely 25. The challenge and sport were complete for him. Dieselnoi defeated everyone and was asked to leave the sport. He obliged and became a Buddhist monk.
Golden Age Muay Thai
The Golden Age of Muay Thai spanned from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, is remembered as a period of exceptional brilliance in the history of the sport. This era was characterized by an extraordinary level of competition, technical mastery, and the emergence of legendary fighters whose legacies remain revered to this day, such as Samart, Dieselnoi, and Sagat.
Stadiums in Bangkok, such as Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, were colosseums of unparalleled showdowns. Muay Thai stadiums attracted massive crowds during this era. The Golden Age not only elevated Muay Thai’s status within Thailand but also played a pivotal role in introducing and popularizing the sport on the global stage.
It is a deeply entrenched tradition in Thailand that each boy will spend some time in their life as a Buddhist monk. Even revered fighters such as Buakaw, Rodtang, and others, completed time as a monk. Dieselnoi’s time was a little longer than these two; he became a lifetime Buddhist monk.
By becoming a monk, even temporarily, a man is believed to be repaying the kindness and care of his parents, especially his mother, as she cannot ordain and make merit in the same direct way. During his time in the monastery, the novice monk follows the monastic code, engaging in activities like meditation, alms rounds, chanting, and studying Buddhist scriptures. This period allows for personal reflection, cultivation of discipline, and a deeper understanding of Buddhist teachings. The practice is so embedded in Thai culture that many view men who’ve gone through this temporary monkhood as more mature, disciplined, and responsible.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn was happy to leave Muay Thai behind for a life as a monk. In an interview, he said:
“Yes I was a monk for a moment, and it is a very beautiful experience in my man’s life.”
Reflecting on Muay Thai, he does not miss it. On the modern state of the sport, he said:
“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.”
After decades of denying trainers, he recently began training Muay Thai again as a coach. People today can enlist and train alongside the Muay Thai legend Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn.
Dieselnoi’s legacy in the realm of Muay Thai is undeniably monumental. As he emerged from a humble background, his journey from the boats of the Pasak River to the revered rings of Lumpinee Stadium, he was able to etch his name in greatness in Muay Thai history. In the Golden Age of Muay Thai, amidst legends. Diselnoi Chor Thanasukarn fought them all and walked away with gold and victories.
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.