Thai boxing tragedy – Anthony Durand: “I can’t do it again”

In a ring in Bangkok, Anthony, the French champion, fought Phanphet. This one did not rise.

Anthony Durand was inconsolable. Many nights without sleep, waking up with red eyes and repeating bad dreams … In Nemours, this 22-year-old chicken father, is the father of three children aged 5 months to 3 years, Lyna, Inaya and Haïm are trying to forget, with the love of their little children, the tragedy that happened almost three weeks ago in Bangkok. A terrible and indelible “hapax” that he could happily do without. Muay Thai, Thai boxing, this martial art that was born in the kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 14th century, he was 12 years old when he fell in love with it. With an obsession: to make it his job, and box in Bangkok against the masters of discipline.

With nearly 50,000 members, Thai boxing is extremely popular in France, the European country with the most practitioners. There have been two French champions in muay thai, imposed by Anthony. “He is one of the best boxers of his generation. The project is to become world champion before the age of 25,” assured, very moved, Faousi Arfaoui, his coach at the Thai boxing castle in Nemours. The young Frenchman has already realized his dream and has made many trips to in Thailand. The training camps in the direction of the hard way, where we run ten kilometers from 5:30 in the morning, in an oven and a warm place to turn off our heat waves for in announcements of great expense. Every day, you need to lift tons of cast iron and increase your pull-ups, series of thousands of abs, knee strikes with a punching bag. And above all the hand -hand-to-hand fights against sparring partners who died of hunger, stiff with pain and with muscles. The young French, bosses of their clubs, who came to mingle with the local champion is the legion. Most leave peacefully lsulon, covered in bruises, always lined up for the count in the first round of their first competition. But not Anthony.

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With just one sock lap, back elbow, one of his favorite techniques, the Frenchman ended the fight one minute and eighteen seconds from the end.

© Dr

In each of his fights in Thailand, in 2019 and then in March 2022, this good giant with a gentle look and gentle timbre won. Also, when he fell into the ring on July 15, in Pathum Thani, at the Thupatemi Air Force boxing stadium, in a larger suburb of Bangkok, his only thought was victory. As always, to make the weight (73 kilos), it is necessary to multiply the races under an oppressive heat, wearing a combination of sweat, by drinking only water. His opponent, Phanphet Phadungchai, 25, a muscle ball with button eyes, represents his country in international competitions. Anthony, who doesn’t speak Thai or English, has never heard of it.

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When they enter the ring, the fighters are covered with a sacred hairstyle: the mongkon. Phanphet Phadungchai bowed his head three times, in each corner, to salute Buddha (the religion), Rama (the king) and the sangha (the clergy). Anthony is in his bubble. The Thai ends his ritual dance, the ram muay, to the sound of a small orchestra that, composed of a drum, a cymbal and a nose oboe, punctuates the circles with high-pitched syncopation . The fight started. The Frenchman is good at his game. He dominates. His tips (frontal kicks) and his khao loy (knee jump) hit the mark. His opponent cashed. Stunned in the fourth round, this one was unable to avoid the K.-O. only by holding the ropes, to the extreme limit of regularity.

Before returning to France, he met the mother (in white) and the wife (pink) of his opponent, then between life and death, and gave them his victory bonus of 270 euros.

Before returning to France, he met the mother (in white) and the wife (pink) of his opponent, then between life and death, and gave them his winning bonus of 270 euros.

© Dr

“In Europe, in these types of conditions, the game is stopped, Anthony determined. The enemy is counted and we check that he has all his means. But not in Thailand. I think it will end in a victory But in the fifth round, with only 1 minute and 18 seconds left in the match, the boxer from Nemours unleashed his special, just the sok lap, a returning elbow strike, that he had hit in each of his fights. Hit in the head, the Thai collapsed, his arms were stretched, and he fell heavily to the mat. In the images of the fight broadcast live in the kingdom, it was clear that he had been knocked out, his eyes were closed, but he was breathing. They wheeled him off on a stretcher. There was no apparent emotion around the ring. “I never raised my arms or showed too much joy,” Anthony said. Then he returned I’m at the hotel, tired, but can’t sleep. The adrenalin eh.”

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I was shocked, confused

The next day, when you wake up, it is destruction. Anthony knew that his enemy was rushed to a nearby hospital: he was suffering from a brain hemorrhage and was oscillating between life and death. “I was shocked, confused, testified to the young Frenchman. Very quickly, I went to his family, to give them all my scholarships [10 000 bahts, soit 270 euros]. I hesitated, telling myself that I was the last person they wanted to see. Surprisingly, they accepted and comforted me, were touched by my pain, assured me that they did not hold it against me. A fatal outcome seems inevitable. But there was no sadness or excessive outpouring for those close to Phanphet. In Thailand, death is just a continuation of life. Faced with this, one attitude: accept and move on.

With his two daughters, Inaya (left) and Lyna, his belt and his championship titles, on July 29, at his home in Nemours, where he received us.

With his two daughters, Inaya (left) and Lyna, his belt and his championship titles, on July 29, at his home in Nemours, where he received us.

© Eric Hadj / Paris Match

In the kingdom, the news is made on the front page of the news. Thai boxing can be very unusual and fierce fights, serious accidents are rare. Anthony: “It was difficult. Images of the fight flashed through my head. I said to myself: it is impossible that I “killed” him. That word alone scares me. I have to go back to mine. On Saturday July 23, in Nemours, surrounded by his family, he learned of the death of his enemy. The young man then announced that he was going to stop his boxing career. For all time. “I will never be able to train again or even take a stroke,” he said. This is beyond my strength. “Ladda Klinming, the mother of the deceased, answered immediately: “I saw that Anthony was sad. I don’t blame him. It was a fight. Whether he stops fighting or not, I forgive him. It was a combat sport accident. »

Today, Anthony, whose passion and only livelihood is muay thai, does not know what will happen to him, even if he is tempted by the profession of sports trainer. “Thailand, I hope to go back there one day on vacation. There, I will go to meet Phanphet’s family. The Frenchman created a kitten to help his opponent’s wife and grandchild financially.
On the eve of the funeral, which took place on July 31 and August 1 in Kong Krailat, Sukhothai province, the widow of the slain boxer, Chadaporn Thongchua, sent a final message to Phanphet and Anthony, who are now brothers in misfortune. “Phanphet, from now on, I will do everything to ensure that our son is a good person, just like you planned. When the funeral is over, I will quit my job and go back to live with your parents, to take care of them for you. I don’t want Anthony to hang up his gloves. I want him to fulfill your dream of becoming a champion. »

In Nemours, looking at his belts and his two daughters enthusiastically pointing the finger (“Daddy!”) In his combat photos, Anthony Durand oscillates between spleen and nostalgia. He had to live with it for the rest of his life. It will be difficult. But he also has to accept it and move on.

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