CHIANG RAI – Chiao-jow sae Foong, known in the canvas ring as Dao Siam Rajapraja 15, has already fought 12 matches during the past year, winning nine and losing three.
Born as the 10th child of a large and loving but cash-strapped family in the far North, understands the need to make money to keep both herself and her younger brother in school.
She told The Nation her parents had to take care of her elder brother who had a physical disability and had already struggled financially.
“Now I earn more than Bt1,000 per match. I might also earn tips from people who appreciate my abilities,” she said.
Her physical-education teacher and boxing trainer, Seksan Sriwongwan, said Chiao-jow received Bt3,000 from her latest bout.
Chiao-jow is a Mathayom 6 student at the Rajaprajanugroh 15 School in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district.
Three years ago, the Chiang Saen Municipality gave the school boxing equipment, prompting it to look for a physical-education teacher who knew about the sport.
Seksan emerged as the successful candidate. Initially, he focused on teaching students how to box so that they knew how to protect themselves.
“But after some time, I asked for the school’s permission to start a boxing gym that fields contestants in matches. I’ve noticed money can be useful to students. Boxing matches can give them income,” Seksan said.
“We have tried to provide support that children need. The school has paid for their travel expenses and allowances related to boxing.”
Chiao-jow, an ethnic Yao, said: At first, I was offered only Bt450 a match. But now my wages have climbed.”
Boxing can, of course, be a bruising pursuit, but Chiao-jow said that will not hold her back.
“I have made my choice to fight in the canvas ring for money. So I have to be patient. I understand boxing is not a comfortable path,” Chai-jow said.
Ten other children, some as young as 11 or 12, also work out in the gym.
Seksan said that in leading children along the boxing path, he has striven to ensure that their boxing schedules do not clash with their classroom routines.
Safety is also a priority for Seksan. “I try to ensure that our young boxers won’t have any brain injuries,” he said.
By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn – The Nation