Muangchai Kittikasem: Thailand’s Two-Weight World Champion Boxer

Muangchai Kittikasem, born Nattawut Jantaweemol, was a Thai professional boxer who etched his name in the annals of boxing history as the first Thai to become a world champion in two weight classes. His relentless pressure fighting style and unwavering determination propelled him to the pinnacle of the sport, where he reigned as the IBF junior-flyweight and WBC/lineal flyweight champion.

Born on November 11, 1968, in Tha Chai, Chainat Province, Thailand, Kittikasem grew up in poverty, with his family earning a meager $3 a day. Driven by the need to escape destitution, he turned to Muay Thai at a young age, competing in an estimated 40 to 50 fights before transitioning to professional boxing in 1988.

Kittikasem’s rise to stardom was nothing short of meteoric. In just his seventh professional bout in 1989, he captured the IBF junior-flyweight title with a hard-fought split decision victory over Filipino Tacy Macalos. He successfully defended the title twice before facing the undefeated American amateur star, Michael Carbajal, in 1990. Despite being knocked down four times and sustaining a chin injury, Kittikasem’s resilience shone through as he battled valiantly until the seventh round.

Undeterred by the setback, Kittikasem moved up to the flyweight division, where he achieved his most significant triumph. In February 1992, he dethroned his countryman, the formidable Sot Chitalada, to claim the WBC and lineal flyweight titles. Their first encounter was a vicious affair, with Chitalada repeatedly tangled in or draped over the ring ropes before succumbing to Kittikasem’s relentless onslaught. The rematch a year later saw Chitalada suffer a brutal ninth-round stoppage, cementing Kittikasem’s dominance.

Kittikasem’s reign at the top was short-lived, however, as he faced the extraordinary Russian boxer, Yuri Arbachakov, in 1992. Despite putting up a valiant effort, Kittikasem was ultimately dethroned by the superior Arbachakov, first via a knockout in Japan and then a technical knockout in Thailand the following year.

After a few more fights, Kittikasem retired from boxing in 1999, leaving behind a legacy as one of Thailand’s most accomplished pugilists. His battles with Chitalada and Arbachakov are etched in boxing folklore, and his status as the first Thai to conquer two weight divisions solidifies his place among the greats of the sport.

Post-retirement, Kittikasem ventured into various endeavors, including running a used car dealership and pursuing a career in local politics under the Pheu Thai Party. Today, at the age of 54, he remains an esteemed figure in the Thai boxing community, occasionally attending fights as a special guest and sharing his wealth of experience with the next generation of fighters.

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Boxing

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