© Reuters. The Wider Image: Out of Poverty: Despite the risks, the nine-year-old Thai boxer is eager to return to the ring
By Athit Perawongmetha and Jiraporn Kuhakan
BANGKOK (Reuters) – 9-year-old Thai boxer Pornpattara “Tata” Peachaurai is eagerly returning to the ring after coronavirus restrictions put his season on hold over five months ago. The money he earns is an important income of his family.
“All the money from boxing, regular payments and tips, is all passed on to the mother,” said the skinny young boxer.
“I’m proud of being a boxer and making money for my mother.”
Tata’s final battle was in October, before the second COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand shut down sporting events due to the re-enactment of a crowd-gathering ban.
“I can’t can cans. I haven’t practiced boxing either … I help my mom sell things.”
Tata lives with his mother and 16-year-old sister, Poomrapee, who is also a martial artist in the national youth team.
The family is relying on Tata’s income as a way out of poverty and hopes he can become a professional Muay Thai fighter, or represent the police or the army in the ring and be rewarded with ranks and the bonus is higher.
“He usually gives his income to his mother,” said Tata’s mother Sureeporn Eimpong, 40, said.
“Sometimes he asks for some toys after a fight.”
Fights among children in Thailand can be as common as adult battles and take place at tournaments, festivals and temple fairs. An estimated 300,000 boxers are under the age of 15, according to the Thai Professional Boxing Association.
However, some health experts are calling for a ban on boxing against minors, saying it can cause stunted growth, long-term neurological problems, brain damage and disability.
Parental consent is the only current requirement for kid boxers.
“I’m not worried about boxing,” Sureeporn said, adding that the boxers are trained to protect themselves.
“There aren’t many injuries in kid boxing. I trust the system.”
But this doesn’t always work.
In 2018, Tata fought in the same tournament where a 13-year-old boy died of a cerebral hemorrhage after being knocked out in the ring. Sureeporn said the referee intervened too slowly.
Adisak Plitponkarnpim, director of the National Institute of Child and Family Development at Thailand’s Mahidol University, is a member of a team that scanned the brains of 250 child fighters, some showing facial lesions Extensive range can affect brain development and intelligence levels.
“Boxing produces traumatic brain injuries, as we can clearly see in older boxers,” Adisak said.
“Parents who rely on income from their children aged eight or nine should ask themselves what they really expect from them.”
Some Thai lawmakers have sought to ban boxing against those under the age of 12, but a bill fails to reach parliament and will likely face opposition over the prevalence of child fights. and the revenue they generate.
Sureeporn said boxing was her son’s life.
“I come from a lower class and I just make enough money to survive and have no savings or luxury homes,” she said.
“The future of Tata is boxing.”