SWEDEN – DISCOVERY OF NEW SPORT
Before commencing Thaiboxing, both of the brothers brothers Kai and Janne had some experience in Martial arts. Janne in Jiu Jitsu and Kai in Kung Fu. However, neither of they felt totally happy with their sports, this resulting in Kai seeking something more challenging. He found Thaiboxing in autumn 1983 while living in Sweden. He wrote to his brother Janne of his new discovery: "Lets check this out".
Janne visited his brother in Sweden the same year and also got very exited about the sport. After Kai moved back to Finland in –84, they continued to go back to Sweden every other weekend. Their instructor was Kristen Bergendalh . At the end of the year 1984 Turku Thaiboxing Club ry was established, the first Thaiboxing club in Finland . The club was offered a rather modest facilities from the school of Puropelto , where they were allowed to train a few times a week.
In the beginning, the Mustonen brothers had very little knowledge about the techniques and proper training methods, therefore training and sparring appeared to be quite heavy on the physical side. The first fight offers came from Sweden in spring –85. The Swedes also started calling Janne and Kai the MB's, the Mustonen brothers.
EUROPE - THE SEARCH IS ON
With all credit to the quality of Krister´s training, Janne and Kai yearned for more new ideas. It was especially the French fighters fights that they had seen on video that had made an impression on them. With this in mind they headed for France the very same summer, where they found themselves as sparring partners to "bigger blokes" ! Not only did they pick up new ideas, but the a positive surprise was to find out that their idols where also nothing but flesh and bones.
The next excursion was made to Amsterdam, Holland. There they visited the gym called Chakuriki, which even today produces strong fighters, such as Gilbert Ballantine. There was nothing to complain about as far as sparring partners were concerned as many of them were European champs. However their training methods differed quite a bit from that of the Frenchmen.
In Holland training was quite physical, whereas in France it was more techinal, quite close to that of Thais. This came from the fact that the French had some Thai trainers ( Krongsak, Pud Pad Noy etc. ), who were aware of how and what training should include. Soon the exitment of Holland and France wore off and they continued to look in to England, Germany and Spain. In these countries, however there appeared to be no organized Thaiboxing activity and the training there turned out to be something other than expected.
While in Finland , they returned to Sweden every once in a while to participate in competitions . As they remained hungry for more they asked Krister about Thailand. He advised them to go Pattaya and there to Sityodthong boxing camp.
THAILAND - THE SEARCH IS OVER
In 1987 MB visited Thailand for the first time. They commenced their 3 month period by visiting some of the best camps in Bangkok. They didn't stay in Bangkok for very long but continued their trip to Pattaya, which is best known for its beaches and vivid night life.
Training in hot and humid weather was an experience in itself, but this was overshadowed by Samart Payakaroon who was considered as the most skilful and technical fighter of all times. Samart was the champion at the Lumpini stadium , the most highly rated stadium. He was also Thaiboxing world champ and WBC champion ( = Wolrd Boxing Council ).
Samart seemed to be famous in whatever he decided to set his foot in. One year he was elected as the best actor and the second best singer in Thailand. The most hilarious thing about this was the fact that he really couldn't sing at all, but this didn't seem to lessen his fame at all.
MB's remember one occasion when everybody else set off for a run in a morning, but Samart only ran around the corner at the camp, there smoking fags until all the others came back from their run, then joined them and ran back to the camp. At the end of his career , he also worked as a photographers model and spend more time in front of the mirror posing in fancy boxing stances than sweating in the ring. Nevertheless this natural talent managed to fight very even fights with some of the best fighters – A lot of this being down to the fact that he had a remarkable eye to read his opponents next move and ability to stay relaxed – almost to flegmatig level. Quite often, however his physical condition gave up towards the final stages of the fight and "the flying General" had to ease off. Even today Samart is superhero wherever he goes in Thailand.
Samarts little brother, Kontaranee , also trained at Sityodthong . At his best he was Lumpini stadium champion and professional boxing federation WBA's first contender. It tells a lot about the toughness of Kontaranee as he often victoryausly foughts against nearly 15 kg heavier opponents from Europe.
The head instructor and manager to Sityodthong camp and fighters was and still is today Mr Yodthong Senanan , who is over 60 years old. To his credit can be said that he really cares for his fighters and also understands about good financial investments. For example he wouldn't give Samart all the money he made from his fights, but invested in land near Bangkok. Couple of years ago, the value of Samarts land went up many times compared to its purchase value as Bangkok harbour wanted to buy it for its execution plans.
Even today MB's hold Yodthong as the most knowledgable Muay Thai instructor in the world. Bearing this in mind this comes as little surprise seeing that the gym has produced some of the best Thaiboxers in the world.
In the camp MB's also met Finnish professional boxer Jose Tuominen. Kontaranee was unknown to Tuominen and when sparring with the 54 kg fighter for the first time he had said: " He is such a small bloke, I wonder if I dare really hit him ?". He didn't however manage to do much damage to the WBA federation number 1 contender.
It was Sityodthong where they also met Rob Kaman . The world champion in – 81 kg. There's no Thai fighter to be found in these heavier weight categories, therefore these titles are more available to Europeans. The most challenging categories can be found between 57 – 60 kg and they produce probably more skilfull fighters than the bigger classes i.e. 63. 5 – 67 kg.
What came as a surprise to MB's, was the fact that for a hard puncher Rob Kaman was surprisingly weak in clinching (= sort of a standing up wrestling, where fighters try to gain a firm grip of their opponents head and use they knees, usually to their opponents ribs )
but this only goes to tell about the Dutch training methods, where the emphasis remains on kicks and punches. Kai carries painful memories about Kamans punching power. With his right hand punch, he fractured Kais solar plexus. At the end of his career, Kaman was having difficulties getting fights as he had knocked out so many of his opponents. (Rob Kaman won WMC world champion title in september 1999 when he beat by close decision Belarussian Aleksey Ignashov. He was then almost 40 years old.)
At Sityodthong training is twice a day. In the morning they start with half an hour – an hours run which is done at a slow pace. After this there is half an hour of light training. This usually consists of heavy bag, sparring, focus glove training or thai – pad training. During the day there is no running before the training. Training is much the same as in the morning, only that it is done at a faster and heavier pace. At the end of day sessions , there is 20 min clinching. Cutting it short to able to train this hard one has to be a full time professional and this is what Thai fighters really are.
After six weeks it became clear to Thais, that MB's hadn't come to Pattaya to have fun but to learn Thaiboxing, Muay Thai. Even since they started paying more attention to them and they got to spar with better fighters. Of course all that time MB's were paying money to camp for being "tortured" in this manner.
At the same time with MB's another European was training, who by encouragements from Thai promotors agreed to fight with much smaller Thai fighter. MB's followed the fight from TV as the much bigger European was getting beaten by this small elbow specialist. Later after the fight the promotors approached Kai with regard to him fighting the same fighter. Despite encouraging words from Thais, Kai thought at this stage he'd better not agree to accept the offer to fight this "out of shape" and "slow and old fighter".
The first trip to Thailand was quite an eye-opening experience and the training in Turku was guided into totally new tracks. Sityodthong had proved itself as an excellent place to train Muay Thai. This brought the two years search in to conclusion, but Thaiboxing in Finland was still pretty much in its beginnings in all areas and the next excursion headed, where else - but to Thailand.
THE DISCOVERY OF MAJ CAMP
Even though MB's had discovered brilliant camps they still wanted to look around different camps in order to gain wider picture of the sport.
As the training methods may vary between different camps, they also produce fighters with different styles. Sityodthong represents technical fighting, but also in some camps they train the fighters so that they become either very strong in punching or clinching. There are camps that make fighters very strong and skillful "kickers" which is probably the most common stream because of the effectiness of Muay Thai kicks.
Of course the technical arsenal of the fighters isn't this narrow - with the fighters being capable of demonstrating a varied repertoire of other techniques as well - but mainly using the techniques they most focus on.
On his second journey to Thailand Kai visited the camp named Sothanikun , whose main instructor was Smignum Sithiphutan ( in Finland –89 for 2 months ). To this camp MB returned on their 3rd journey for 4 months, after first spending 2 months in Sityodthong. In Sothanikun trained also Ronnie Green, an englishman who was also the World champion and who today acts as a ring referee at the IAMTF European and World championship meetings. In Sothanikun Jean Claude Van Damme also filmed an episode to his film "Kickboxer" where he got laughed out of the camp.
Mr Maj Muangkorn owned the camp named Kiatbanchong also known as the Maj camp . It was first visited by Janne. Back then the Maj camp was only on its way to fame, but is today recognised as the camp that has produced fighters who are able to reach the very top level - faster than any other camp.
Here is the list of some of the top names.
Wangchannoi – Lumpini champion in many different weight categories, very hard hitting and strong will fighter, who managed to beat fex. Samart
Ole – Lumpini champion – known as very clever and surprising fighter
Issara – Amateur boxing bronze medal in 1992 Olympics.
Samrantong – Lumpini champ, Charoenthong brother, steady fighter, good with elbow strikes
Charoengchap – Lumpini champ in some heavier weight categories: also known as the Lionheart
Charoengthong – Southpaw Lumpini champ, clever fighter
Rambo – Pound for a pound fighter
Cobal – Lumpini champ. Knocked out Ramon Dekker ( WC 67 kg –91 ) was knocked out by him. Nowadays fights & coaches in California, Usa.
Kiatsongkrit – Southpaw 67 kg Lumpini champ. Maybe the most hard kicking fighter in the world. Kicked so hard, that skin on his shin got cut in fights. Stopped some fights against farangs ( farang = non thai ) by just kicking hands.
As Kai later on visited the Maj camp he found himself as sparring partner to Charoengthong as they more or less matched in size. This three week training perioid was done so that every week there was a change of instructor., i.e. 1st week boxing, then kicks, followed by clinching at the 3rd week. Kai got to spar with Charoengthong as much as he liked over this 3 weeks period and still thinks of those three weeks as his most benefical ones.
Kai also experienced the powerful punching power of Wangchannoi. As he was sparring with Wangchannoi for the first time he allowed Kai to hit his guard couple of times before commencing to hit back. Even today Kai finds it hard to believe how a about 60 kg fighter could deliver such a hard punches. It is no wonder that Wangchannoi has beat Samart as well Kansak, who has been elected three times as Thailands best Muay Thai fighter. Kansak has extremely hard kicks for a 59 kg fighter which has enabled him to finish many of his fights before full time.
After evening training session Maj camp fighters did clinching for an hour. This may seem like exaggerating a bit, but it wasn't done in fast pace because of the time factor. The Thai way of sparring is often more like playing than taking it too seriously. In general Thais seem to spar by keeping kicks, boxing and clinching separate from one another. Europeans have combined boxing and kicking in to one, but still keeping (mostly) clinching as its own dicipline.
In –89 Janne and Kai were there to witness a rare occasion as the best Finnish boxer of modern times ( WBA no. 2 contender), Tarmo Uusivirta, climbed into a ring with a Thai bar fighter during his holiday trip to Pattaya. Uusivirtas opponent was one of the regular barfighters who was by no means an ex-fighter. Those of us who are aware of Uusivirtas punching power can only wonder how on earth did someone who is fighting for pocket money, out of shape and a visibly lighter fighter take up "Tare´s" punches. Especially when they used lighter boxing gloves. Afterwards Tarmo himself was as puzzled, amazed by the fact that the man managed to stand up full rounds.
The first Thai fighter came to Finland in 1989, Smignum Sithiphutan who stayed for two months. Smignum was the champion of Ratchadamhoe stadium in two different weight categories. Ratchadamhoe is the most valued stadium in Thailand straight after Lumpini. To Finnish fighters Smignum was a welcomed change to sparring partners. As far as the training methods were concerned, Smignum didn't bring anything that wasn't already known.
Smignum participated in the Soul Olympics in Thailands boxing team in –88 without considerable success. In Finland he fought against Paul Lamotte from Holland, whom he easily outclassed. Janne also fought in the same gala even though he had just returned from Thailand and was recovering from a serious stomach bug.
JANNES WAY TO EUROPEAN TOP
In 1989 it looked clear that Kai was going to put more effort into coaching and organizing fights, whereas Janne was concentrating on training and fighting. The plan was to gain the European professional title, as back then the Amateur Thaiboxing Federation never even existed. In the same year Janne was offered a chance to fight for the European title against Phil Nurse from UK. This opportunity, however, was not to be, as Phil Nurse broke his hand and the arrangements were cancelled.
As no other fights seemed to be in the vincinity, Janne decided to have a go at ordinary boxing. He had no previous experience of boxing fights and as he entered the ring many seemed to have written off his chances by laughing at his efforts. Either they didn't know or were just underestimating Jannes training inThailand, where he had been sparring with much harder professional boxers. At the end of the fight it was Janne who was declared as the winner and it was his opponent with experience of tens of fights that had to resign to the dressing room as a beaten man.
In the same year MB traveled to the USA. There they met Pud Pad Noy who was looking after Joe Prestia. He had been a fighter himself but today acts as an instructor and referee in France.
In Los Angeles Janne was to fight with Edmar Dos Anjos from USA . Before the fight there were four medical checks and an IQ test, which quite understandably did very little in terms of reducing Jannes prefight anxiousness.
The fight came to end in the 4th round as Janne couldn't go on any longer due to his old shinbone injury that was going from bad to worse. Later on Janne had to have an operation to his leg as it was causing too much pain and he was unable to practice.
Janne wasn't too pleased about the way his fight went in the USA and his next opportinity to fight, after his leg got healed, came from Sweden. He had to settle for a kickboxing match as it had become difficult to arrange Thaiboxing fights becouse most fighters were just after easy fights. The fight was over in the first round as the Swede dropped his guard and Janne knocked him out with perfectly delivered kick to his head.
By now Thaiboxing had spread over Southern and mid parts of Finland. There were Thaiboxing clubs in six different cities and gym tournaments between different clubs started to take place. The purpose of these gym tournaments was to gain fighting experience and even though they were full contact fights the main emphasis was on the technical side.
1991 Janne fought against Ralf Kussler from Germany in Kisahalli, Helsinki. The stronger looking Kussler started with full speed from the word "box". His technically weak-looking kicks were followed by strong boxing combinations. Janne managed to guard himself and was able to counter attack quite easily because of his better ability to read the fight and superior techniques. Kusslers tactic was to outbox his opponent which is the most common mistake from fighters coming from kickboxing / boxing backgrounds. Experienced Thaiboxers are able to put their whole body weight behind their kicks and as this gets combined with the right timing, it is nearly impossible to " run through " throwing punches.
Janne got invited to UK the same year to fight against Brittish champ, Eval Denton . Juha Mustonen ( not related ) was to fight Steve Holt, another Brittish champ. This was the first fight with Finnish fighters to be shown on Eurosport , so it had very good commercial value thinking of Finnish Thaiboxing.
Juha was to fight first. His fight seemed pretty evenly matched as the fight went on. This five rounder was however to end in probably the most peculiar way in Finnish Thaiboxing history. During the third round both fighters got each other nearly simultaneously with a head kick sending each other to the canvas leaving a puzzled referee to start to count to ten. It was Juha who only just managed to get up as Steve Holt continued in the land of nod in front of his home audience and TV spectators. Juha won the fight that could have just as well been from the Rocky movies.
The next fighters to climb in to the ring were Janne and the dark -skinned Eval Denton. From the very first round Janne started to dominate the fight with better techniques. He was in top form. The only thing that Eval was able to do effectively was tripping during clinching. This is not allowed in Muay Thai, in which to take an opponent down one must use throws where legs are not used in the clinch-like manner. The referee, who clearly wasn't aware of the rules of Muay Thai, didn't react to Dentons tactics and the home audience cheered on as the Finn went down. Even the TV commentator commenting European fights praised Dentons performance, by saying " Nice low kicks".
Janne however won the fight and holds the fight as the hardest of his fights so far.
Even though Kai was never to return to Muay Thai ring again to fight, he still wanted to try out boxing. He fought his first boxing match in 1992 in Sweden against then unknown Fredrik Alvarez. The same Alvarez went on to become the WBF professional boxing title in 1998 in 78 kgs. WBF is small and unknown federation so the title can not be compared with those of WBC, WBA or IBF. Afterwards Kai has joked about beating the world champion.
The same year Kai and Janne fly to Pattaya again. After several weeks of training Janne got his change to fight at the Link stadium in Pattaya. The Link stadium is relatively small and its champions are nowhere near as respected as those of Lumpinis. That was to remain the last time Janne was to fight against an easy opponent in Thailand. During the fight Janne managed to land a hard elbow strike to his opponent´s head opening a nasty cut. The fight was finally over in the 4th round after Janne´s hard high kick to the Thai´s head. Compared to the Western style 1 – 10 count and measuring of wounds Muay Thai has rules that may seem a bit peculiar. The fight gets stopped if the cut is wider than the width of 3 fingers and deeper than one finger or it is situated so that it is hampering eye sight ie. directly above the eye. The 1 – 10 count happens only if the fighter hits the canvas or he is unable to continue. Technical Sityodthong fighters are usually "lean" as far as their face is concerned but there can be found a number of fighters who aren't quite as fortunate. This only goes to tell about their more sacrificing fighting style ( ie. Rambo ).
MB IN FINNISH BOXING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At the end of 1992 Janne and Kai got on a boxing camp for Thai army officers in order to prepare themselves for 1993 Finnish boxing championships. There they were coached by Joe Cloach, an american boxing instructor. According to his own words, Cloach had been part of Muhammad Ali´s team in his forthcoming fight against George Foreman in Zaire. This may as well be true as during that time Ali often travelled accompanied by large group of people.Cloach had also been a trainer to the USA Olympic boxing team. Cloach never used focus gloves during the training, instead he had fighters to do various exercises with each other. These very same same exercises are still being used at the Finnish national Muay Thai camps.
After Janne and Kai returned to Finland they gained more sparring experience by sparring with Finnish amateur boxers. In Pori and Tampere they had the opportinity to spar with such men as Jyri Kjäll, Anssi Peräjoki, Ville Punto and Juha Turkka. This proved to be quite useful in terms of forthcoming championships fights as their styles differed considerably to that of the Thais more professional style.
When it came to actual championships, Janne fought in 71 kg and Kai in 75 kg. Kais fight record allowed 1 offical fight in which he beat Swedish champion and Janne couldn't better this by much. However, Janne won his first fight against Ulf Eklund, then Aki Korhonen and lost to Anssi Peräjoki in the semifinals. Kai also came in third by first beating the former Finnish champ Ville Punto but finally loosing to Saarinen. Arto Koski, who acted their cornerman, later said: "had judges not known about their backgrounds in Thaiboxing, they would have scored more points and more easily.
MB - center , the Finnish Mecca for Muay Thai opened its doors in 1993. The "center" causisting of 700 m2 provided very good facilities for training as well as organizing "gym fights" indeed. This new facility also fulfilled Janne´s and Kai´s long lasting dream about their own gym. Now after 7 months hard work and refurbishing it was finally true.
After the opening ceremonies, Janne was due to fight against the Swedish fighter, Markus Jakobson for the Scandinavian champion title in 67 kg. This ment that Janne had to lose weight more than ever as he would normally fight in 69.85 kg. 3 extra kilos would have to came off somewhere.
The fight had been organized to take place in Stockholm which gave Jakobson home advantage. This however proved to be very little advantage indeed as Janne pretty much mastered all the rounds. After the fight Janne was quite rightly declared the winner and the new Scandinavian champion , leaving Jakobson to demand for a rematch. For Janne this was just another reached milestone towards the European title fight.
At the same tournament fought Tomi Makkonen , probably the most talented fighter to train at the MB – center so far. He fought against the Swede, Jorgen Krut who was later to become the double amateur world champion. Makkonen beat Krut twice and of his 15 fights didn't lose a single one.
After the fight Janne headed back to Thailand for three months. This culminated in his fight at the Samrong stadium in Bangkok. In general when foreign fighters fight in Thailand, they give them smaller and lighter opponents. Jannes opponent however was taller than Janne – the fact that over surprised the local TV – commentator. In the opening round the Thai was able to control the fight due to his size advantage and better timing. In the second round he manged to cut Janne´s head with an elbow strike, but towards the end the fight got more even and in the fifth round Janne managed to deliver a good punching combinations clearly making the Thai a bit disorientated. As Janne was trying to finish him off the Thai got in to clinching and was saved by the bell. The Thai was declared winner but Janne was satisfied with his performance nevertheless.
Jannes next fight was at the Link stadium in Pattaya. His opponent was a 30 years old Lumpini fighter Thanonsak Sithpope. During the fight it became clear that this fighter as well was good at using his elbows. He got the corner of Janne´s eye with his elbow causing it to bleed and distructing his field of vision so much that Janne decided to call it a day in order to avoid more serious damage.
In 1994 Pat Kothasak, technique trainer to Maj camp fighters, got invited to Finland. Pat used to train Lumpini champs Samramtong and Charoenthong. When " Pate " was younger, he used to fight himself. His trademarks had been technical and wise fighting style. In his own words his only disadvantage was a chickens heart, therefore as the fights grew tougher he decided to to hang up his boxing gloves and become a trainer.
Within 3 months " Pate " gave loads of new ideas in terms of training methods and young fighters gained experience as they sparred with the skilled Thai. Later as he was watching the gymfights, he was amazed how some of the fighters were able to fight they first fights just as well as the Thais. Of all the Thais to visit Finland, "Pate" has been the most beneficial one.
At the same year, MB – center organized its first championships . This was to built a foundation to the success in the first amateur Muay Thai championships in 1995.
In autumn 1994 Janne finally got his change to fight for the European title. His opponent was to be Nordin Bensallah, a former professional boxer from Holland. The fighters looked pretty evenly matched during the opening rounds, with Bensallah perhaps marginally ahead. By the third round Janne had however caught up with Bensallah and it looked as if Janne was getting on top of things just as Bensallah got a very unlucky knee to Janne´s ribs followed by a hook in to the very same place. This pretty much ended the fight in Bensallah´s favour as Janne was unable to continue despite a brave attempt. The knee had landed pretty heavily as it had caused a large rupture in Janne´s ribcage muscle. Nordin Bensallah later went on to become the WBO boxing world champion. He later lost his title when he got caught for illicit substance abuse.
FINLAND TO MUAY THAI ELITE
There were no high hopes about success as the Finnish amateur team set off to the first amateur Muay Thai World Chanmpionships in 1995. 27 countries with over 200 fighters participated. The Mustonens expected to be amongst the best 15 but were positively surprised to find themselves in 7th place after the tournament. The two bronze medals went to Kimmo Muona in 60 kg and Sami Sorsa in 63,5 kg. This was only the beginning of the forthcoming success from big tournaments.
As they returned home with them came Jomhod Kiatadisak ,, WMTA world champion in 68 kg. Jomhod was also Lumpini and Rachadamhoen champion. During his 3 month stay he proved to be a valuable sparring partner to Janne and other fighters. A couple of months later Jomhod returned to Finland to spar with the fighters.
Janne was also to get an other shot at the European title ( EMTA ). His last attempt had left him frustrated but not beaten. After Bensallah gave up his title, it was now vacant. An englishman, Tim Izli was to climb in to opposite corner as he shared the top of the ranking list with Janne . The five rounder ended up before full time with Izli retiring in the third. Soon after Janne was crowned the new European champion .
The 2nd amateur Muay Thai World Championships were in 1996 in Bangkok. 42 countries and over 300 fighters participated. Finland´s aim was to better last years result so the goals were set high.
This time the Finns brought home 3 medals including one gold medal. Bronze medals went to Antti Kiikko from Turku and Manu Varho from Tampere, who lost a close fight to Thailand´s representative. The gold medal was won by Vesa Puranen from Turku. Despite having to face the toughest fighters in his gategories only one of four managed to see the end of the final round with Vesa. In the final fight, Vesa knocked out the Russian fighter with a knee kick in the third round. Finland now had another champion. Puranen´s biggest advantage to his fellow fighters seemed to be his superior physical strength (which propably came from his weight lifting background) rather than better Muay Thai skills.
In the same year officials from Thailands Ministry of Education came to Finland to visit some of the local "camps". They brought with them 3 fighters that were to fight with representatives from the Finnish national team. Olli Anttila fought well against a more experienced Thai losing only marginally. Varho drew against the same fighter he had lost to in the World Champioships. Finnish Muay Thai received nothing but praise from the officials whom also told that MB – center was the biggest and finest gym they had ever visited. In Thailand camps are very modest but they serve to their purpose.
FIGHTING FOR THE WORLD TITLE
As Jannes dream about the European title had came true, there was nothing else left but the World title. Preparations for this final milestone had been going adequatly well, the only problem being the lack of sparring partners as Puranen was waiting to have his leg operated on and Jomhod was dwelling in Helsinki. Other than this, Janne appeared to be in the top form. His opponent, Jerry Morris, came from Holland whose best if not his only weapons were his strong punches. Morris represented the typical strong Dutch "street-fighter" – type of fighter, who didn't have a clue about Muay Thai technicality.
The 25th of November in 1996, a huge crowd of Janne´s friends and supporters had gathered in Helsinki´s ice hockey arena to support him on his big night. At the same gala the audience witnessed several spectacular fights, ie as Jomhod once again played his games with the poor opponent from Belarus, finally ending his misery in the third round. However, everybody seemed only eager to see the final title fight between Janne and Jerry. Finally they were in the same ring . After the national anthems the spirits were sky high amongts the audience as the fighters seemed visibly anxious to get on with it.
From the word go, Janne started with 100 % as Morris merely just covered himself from his attemps. Going in to the second round Janne started to show signs of exhaustion. Fast pace had clearly taken its toll as after the third round Janne looked absolutely shattered. In the fourth round ring referee ( Thomas Rassmussen , Jannes friend and former European champion ) had to stop the fight and daclare Morris the new World champion. After the fight Janne announced of his retirement.
At the press conference Janne admitted to starting the fight too hard and as he got tired he couldn't take Morris punches or guard himself from them. Despite his announcements of retiring, everybody hoped that he would came back to have another go just like he did with the European title. He has however stuck to his decision and this pioneer of Finnish Muay Thai hasn't been seen in the ring since.
Janne Mustonen , during his career fought 33 fights with 27 wins, six with knockouts. Eight boxing matches with 3 defeats. Biggest achievements; Scandinavian champion –93, European champion ( EMTA –95 ) Bronze medal in –93 Finnish boxing championships.
The next fights for world titles were fought in amateur rings in Bangkok 1997. Compared to to some of the bigger countries, Finland didn't have enough "material" to make up a full team but nevertheless the result was something that many wouldn't expect from a such a small country. 4 Finns were still in at the semi-finals.
Manu Varho, the 1996 bronze medalist, again had to settle for bronze, losing the close fight to an Algerian. Other three Finns hit it big time. In 57 kg Olli Anttila took an easy win and in 60 kg Harri Nieminen from Turku beat Thailands fighter, who looked rather depressed after the fight. In the semi-final Harri had beaten Ben Garcia the only USA representative, who also was a much praised star on the Internet. In 75 kg Vesa Puranen renewed his title.
In overall standings Finland came second, straight after Thailand who only manged to better the result by one silver medal. This couldn't be coincidental bearing in mind 54 countries with over 350 fighters participating.
Sweden did quite well, managing two gold medals in 63,5 kg and in 81 kg.
By 1997 Vesa Puranen had won the amateur title two times in a row. Now he needed to win the professional title. As there are no Thais in heavier categories this left the gate open for Vesa to the title fight straight away, as during his amateur career he had already beaten most of the opponents in his division who also appeared on the professional list. Before the fight Vesa faced the hard task of getting rid of his physical fighting style. After intensive training with Kai he manged to develop a less aggressive style where he would be much harder to get hold of. This proved to be helpful as in the other corner was Brian Murphy from Australia also a former professional boxer. The fight took place in 1997 in Bangkok. Brian never seemed able to get his fight going and Puranen always came out stronger, this leaving an easy task for the judges in declearing him the winner after the fight. MB now had their first professional world champion . ( WMC )
Finland also succeeded in the first European championships in 1998. Riku Immonen from Turku won the title in 71 kg and was also awarded the title of most technical fighter in the whole tournament. The other three medals were bronze medals. In overall standings Finland only managed the fifth place. Some of this was due the fact that the majority of the judges came from kickboxing backgrounds without having any experience of Thaiboxing, this resulting them to favour kickboxers as they weren't able to see other techniques apart from kicks and punches. There were no Thai judges and the head of IAMTF was there only to observe.
In autumn 1998 Finland participated in the unoffical World Championships, organized by the professional federation, WMTC ( nowadays WMC ). The offical World Championships weren't organised this year. The tournament, called the King's Cup, was observed by members of the Olympic committee in order to move forward with the plans of accepting Muay Thai as an Olympic sport ( in its amateur form ). For the first time there were fighters from five continents, from 50 countries.
Again Finland´s success was extraordinary; two golds, two silver medals in overall standings. Thailand was once again the best, followed by France ( Pud Pad Noi and Krongsak were leading the team ) with Finland the close third, only two medals behind. Now the majority of the judges were Thais, so the catastrophies seen at the European Championships were avoided. A good example of this how Russia, the best country of the above mentioned tournament, got seven medals of which 2 golds, 4 silver, and 1 bronze. In King's Cup they had to settle for 2 silver. This wasn't even helped by the fact that they had sent two full teams ( 2 x 12, Russia and C.I.S. ?). Finland had sent only 7 fighters.
Along with th Finnish team traveled Ari Mennander, the reporter, who after visiting the Lumpini stadium and Sothanikun camp was convinced that Muay Thai could succeed in Finland as an audience catching sport. This is undoubtedly true, as long as the sport receives enough public exposure.
HAPPENING OVER THE YEARS
Mustonens have organiced an open martial arts tournament called the Master cup , two times. This was an tournamentopen to all different Martial Arts. Rules were modified so that nobody was given an advantage of disadvantage over somebody else. Neverthelessthere seemed to be a shortage of fighters as Thaiboxers usually collected the pot.
Mustonens have also invited couple of film stars to Finland. Master Sken ,seen in Batman 1, ran a Thaiboxing weekend camp during his visit to Finland. Another star was Jean Frenette, a karate star. He told how he once saw Jean Claude Van Damme prepare for a show and how his assistans filled his kicking pads with powder like hay, which during the show blew all over the place whenever he would kick them. Meanwhile the audience looked in amazement and admired the power of his strong kicks. Frenette had a part in Police Academy 4.
The word "kai" means in Thai language, chicken. And chicken means in Muay Thai world, fighter with no guts. So every time when Kai has to introduce himself to the Thais, he adds:" Kai, mae kai". "Kai, but not chicken ! ".
Janne has also fought a demonstration fight against the TV presenter, Simo Rantalainen. This howeve ended before it really started as Simo dropped his guard just as Janne was about to do a high kick to his head. Luckily no one was seriously hurt.
Simos ex-workpartner Jari Sarasvuo ( about 190 cm tall ) also experienced the effectiveness of Muay Thai as he held the Thai pads for Jari Parkkali in the live TV show called the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He had to seek support from surrounding walls as Parkkali kicked the pads as hard as he could. Later he wondered: "How can a man survive kicks like that ?".
Perhaps the funniest coincidence happened to MB whilst they were an ferry crossing to Sweden. This was soon after an article was written about them in a Finnish Martial Arts magazine called Budoka. This was the bible to some Finnish Martial artists at the time, so word got passed around. Before going to bed they decided to visit the night club, where two quarrelsome young blokes confronted them.These two didn't, despite their best efforts, manage to provoke the brothers known as men of peace, so the quarrelsome couple played their final card by saying: " By the way, you don't really know who we are, e brothers had no idea. "We are them Thaiboxing brothers !!!" Speechless and holding back laughter the brothers retired to bed.
After reading this one hopefully realizes that Finnish Muay Thai today is not something to be underestimate or undermined. The work done by Janne and Kai Mustonen has been huge and valuable. Through the success of their own and later through success of those they have trained, they have gained motivation to carry on their life commitment. It is good to bear in mind that many countries haven't received one single medal from tournaments.
By the year 1998 MB s have visited Thailand 30 – 35 times also learning to speak their language in the process. They have also visited places like the Caribbean, The Republic of Chech, Spain, USA, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and France. Hard work has been rewarded as over the 15 years Finland has become one of theleading Muay Thai countries and it is still going onward.
Hopefully by the time the sport is accepted as an Olympic sport, The Finns are again amongst the top five countries. This would make this sport known to the whole of the Finnish nation.
Copyright © Riku Immonen All rights reserved.