Children of the Ring is part of the E:60 series on ESPN.
In this episode Jeremy Schapp travels to Thailand to shed some light on Muay Thai and the children as young as seven that compete in the sport.
The focus is on Petchdam, a seven year old from Northern Thailand that has had nine professional Muay Thai fights. As always the topic of kids fighting draws the attention of critics, but this documentary does a good job touching on both sides of the subject.
They cover how Petchdamn, he is a provider for his family and the $5 to $20 earns per fight is a tremendous help for his family. They live in poverty, and that money helps keep food on the table. The money he brings in is half of what the family earns.
They speak to his parents, who explain that Petchdam not only fights because he likes to, but because he knows how important it is for them. You have to admire a kid that young who is helping support his family at such a young age.
On the other end of the spectrum, Schapp brings up some good points when speaking to doctors and the government official in charge of Muay Thai. The doctors want to get rid of children fighting in Muay Thai because of the the damage it can cause long term, and it seems there are laws in place to prevent that.
The government official explain how it is legal because of the Boxing Act that is in place. The kids are considered athletes and it is not the same as children being used for manual labor. This is one of the ways that they are not affected by the Child Protection Act that is in place.
One of the more interesting things that is brought up is that kids fighting exists because of gambling and organized crime.
Gambling is a big part of Muay Thai and it is flat out said that if gambling wasn’t allowed, then kids would not be fighting. If this is true or not is up to debate. The one good point for the argument that Schapp brings up is that children by law are not allowed to be around gambling, but this happens at their fights. Once again it seems that since they are considered athletes this rule does not apply.
Near the end the film Schapp also talks to a young girl that is 11 years old who has been fighting Muay Thai as well. He talks about the growing popularity of girls fighting.
Whatever side of the fence you fall on, if it should be allowed or it shouldn’t, everyone can agree that it is a very interesting topic. The fact that a seven year old kid can bare the weight of his family on his shoulders and feels the need and desire to fight so that he can provide for them is amazing. I have seen kids older than that who feel entitled to everything, but that is because western society is allowing this. Here you have a young boy who is not only attending school, but holding down what is a job at the age of seven. Some might say training and fighting isn’t a job, but it is and it isn’t easy. Kudos to Petchdam and hopefully he is able to make his way to Bangkok and all his hard work pays off.
You can watch E:60 “Children of the Ring here and let us know what you think .