All of the bouts in this list affected the landscape of martial arts, ushering change into the next wave of martial artists in their respective sports.
#1: The Legendary Low-Kick Fight: Changpuek Kiatsongkrit vs. Rick Roufus
Muay Thai has a longstanding history in fighting against the other martial arts of the world. This was not the first Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing bout in North America, but it was one where it received massive exposure.
American kickboxing was at the height of its popularity at the time in North America. American Kickboxing, also known as full contact karate, did not incorporate low kicks, clinch, knees, or elbows. Stylistically, American Kickboxers essentially represented karate and boxing.
Muay Thai, also known as the art of 8 limbs, use the full arsenal: punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Relatively speaking, the rules are much less limited. However, in this bout, the Thai was not allowed to use knees, elbows, or clinch throws… but low kicks were allowed. Targeting the weakness is a common theme in fight strategy, and while the American was one of the the greatest Heavyweight American Kickboxers, he was not at the time skilled in defending low kicks.
In the first round, Changpuek would get hurt by Rick’s hands, unorthodox strikes and hard high kicks. But he held on with grit, and kept going for low kicks. Eventually, despite Rick’s will and heart, his leg was worn down until he could no longer stand.
#2 The Fight That Changed Muay Thai For Westerners:
Ramon Dekkers vs. Coban Lookchaomaesaitong
If you’re a Muay Thai practitioner, you’ve probably heard the name Ramon Dekkers. Why was Ramon so legendary? Well, he was as tough as they come, he never said no to a fight no matter who it was, even if he was badly injured.
At the age of 21, he’d fight Thailand’s Lumpinee stadium champion (Lumpinee is Thailand’s most prestigious fight arena) in Holland and he’d beat him. This opened up the doors for him to fight at the Lumpinee stadium, where no foreigner before him had much success.
He’d win some and lose some against the elites at the stadium, until one day he met Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, a feared Lumpinee champion. In front of national and international television, he’d knock Coban out, inspiring practically the next decade of Muay Thai fighters to fight with the Thais in their national sport. In terms of impact for foreigners, Ramon Dekkers was the greatest of all time. To this day, he’s the only foreign fighter to be awarded “Fighter of the Year” in Thailand.
#3 The Fight That Gave Birth To Global Kickboxing:
Benny Urquidez vs. Katsuyuki Suzuki
If there was a single North American kickboxer that influenced the most people, it’s probably Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. As a teen, Rick Roufus saw a Urquidez fight and adopted the same name.
In fact, Urquidez fought Narang Noi, a Thai champion in the first big Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing bout in North America. This bout however, was not widely televised and the good version of the fight isn’t released anywhere on the internet… the secret tape trading society is withholding some of the most historic fights out there!
Rules weren’t really set at the time, and Urquidez agreed to fight Muay Thai thinking Muay Thai was a name instead of a ruleset and style. So when clinch and knees started flying through, Urquidez started using his judo. The Thai and American crowd would get rowdy, and when Chuck Norris got punched (seriously), the crowd just erupted into mayhem. Fight was stopped because everyone was brawling with each other.
Anyways, back to Benny’s fight with Katsuyuki Suzuki–Benny felt that he couldn’t truly call himself a world champion unless he was challenging the champions around the world for their title. Benny was also one of those fighters who would fight anyone anywhere. So he went over to Japanese Kickboxing (which essentially branched off Muay Thai–a history overview for another day) and challenged their #1 ranked fighter, Suzuki.
He’d beat Suzuki in a dramatic fashion, which ushered a new wave of American vs. Japan fights. Years later, K-1 would be born in Japan, which became the biggest stage for kickboxers for a long time.