A Force of Nature

Phon Kingphet

In the annals of Thai sports history, Phon Kingphet (โผน กิ่งเพชร) holds a distinguished place as Thailand's first-ever boxing world champion and the only flyweight boxer to win the crown three times. His journey from the tranquil seaside town of Hua Hin to the pinnacle of global boxing encapsulates, not just his indomitable spirit, but also the burgeoning aspirations of a nation keen to mark its presence on the world stage.

Formative Years

Phon Kingphet had humble beginnings that rooted him deeply in the culture and essence of the coastal fishing town of Hua Hin in Thailand. Phon was the seventh child in a brood of nine to Hoi and Riew Sidokbuap. His early education spanned from Sathukarn Secondary School to Hua Hin District School, finally culminating at Hua Hin Vittayalai School (pictured), where he completed his secondary education.

He was introduced by his older brother to Mr. Thongthot Inthara, the owner of the Kingphet Boxing Camp, which at the time was located on Phetchaburi Road. It was here he was to meet co-founder of Kingphet, Niyom Thongchid, the man who became his trainer and helped develop Phon into the fighter he became. It was here that he adopted the name of the gym.

The Squared Circle

Born Mana Seedokbuabon on February 12th, 1935, Phon's venture into the squared circle was nothing short of extraordinary, transcending the national boundary to etch his name in the annals of boxing legends.

From a young age, Kingphet was not just another face in the crowd; his passion for sports, especially boxing, distinguished him. He harboured, not just an interest, but a fervent dedication to boxing, confidently sharing with friends his dream of becoming Thailand's first boxing world champion; a lofty goal at a time when another Thai boxer, Chamroen Songkitrat, had faced setbacks in clinching the world bantamweight championship, with losses to Jimmy Carruthers and Robert Cohen. Mana's early life, filled with determination and a clear vision, set the stage for his historic journey in the world of boxing, illustrating the power of dreams backed by an unwavering commitment.

Early Career

Phon worked tirelessly with Niyom Thongchid and after only 7 fights, Phon took on Kunoi Vithichai for the Thai flyweight title; he was defeated in a TKO after his eyebrow was cut in the fifth round. That was in April 1956. Phon fought Kunoi Vithichai again in July of the same year and this time he won the Thai flyweight title with a KO victory. He then defended the Thai title against Vithichai on October of that same year, winning a PTS decision.

In January 1957, Phon defeated Danny Kid in Bangkok to win the The Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) Flyweight title. He made one title defense of the OPBF belt against Hitoshi Misako in September 1957.

World Championship

On an historic night on the 16th April 1960, at Bangkok’s Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and with his beloved King and Queen in attendance, Phon Kingphet shattered a five-year-long reign by defeating the defending NBA champion and Argentina's first world champion, the legend, Pascual Pérez, in a split decision over an arduous fifteen rounds. This victory was not just about securing a title; it was a testament to Phon's resilience, skill and determination, marking Thailand's foray into the world of international boxing champions. The subsequent rematch on September 22, where Kingphet travelled to the Los Angeles, saw him knock out Pérez in the eighth round, further solidifying his reputation as a world-class fighter, elevating him to an almost mythical status back home.

After Pone Kingpetch became world flyweight champion, he stated in an interview that Kunoi Vithichai had been his toughest opponent,

We Know Hua Hin

Title Defenses

Fighting Harada

In Phon's second title defense, on October 10, 1962, he lost the newly named WBA title to Japan’s Masahiko Harada, better known as Fighting Harada, in an 11th round knockout at the Kuramae Kokugikan building.

Showing the same tenaciousness he had when he defeated Pérez, Phon regained the world championship after outpointing Harada in a rematch on January 12, 1963 at the National Stadium Gymnasium in Bangkok; it was a Majority Decision over 15 rounds.

Phon's second reign as world champion proved to be rather short, though, as he again travelled to Japan, this time to take on Hiroyuki Ebihara at the Metropolitan Gym in Tokyo. Ebihara was brutal, knocking Phon out in the first round of a scheduled 15 round bout to become the new WBA & WBC World Flyweight Champion.

In an event unprecedented in Flyweight boxing, Phon challenged Ebihara for the WBA and WBC title only four months later, winning in a Split Decision over 15 rounds at the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium in Bangkok. Phon Kingphet had done something no other Flyweight boxer had ever done before; he had won the Flyweight World Title 3 times. His fighting spirit shone through once again and he was elevated to legendary status in his beloved Thailand.

Hall of Fame

In June 2023, Phon Kingphet was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame; the category for induction was Old Timers. In this category, he joined with other Old Timers such as Jack Dempsey, but his name also sits alongside some of the greats like Muhammad Ali, Jake LaMotta, Joe Louis, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Robinson and Floyd Mayweather.

Phon's record stands at 35 bouts, 28 wins (9 by knockout) and 7 losses.

End Of An Era

Boxing Gloves

Phon only had three more fights after that bout; seeing successive losses in April 1965 and February 1966, before his final bout in April 1966. The long break of 15 months between his regaining the WBC and WBA title in January 1964 and his defeat by Unanimous Decision to Salvatore Burruni in 15 rounds at the Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome, went a long way towards explaining that defeat. It was the first time Phon had ever gone that long without a match. At one time, Phon won 13 bouts in a row, before the loss to Fighting Harada in October 1962. He was to lose 4 of his final 7 bouts, marking the end of his illustrious career.

It is not clear when Phon was diagnosed with diabetes, whether early in his life, or late onset, but after a freak choking incident at home, he developed blood poisoning. As his condition deteriorated rapidly it was also discovered he had pneumonia. He was admitted to Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok.

On March 31, 1982, the fire in the heart of Thailand's greatest boxer was extinguished. The official cause of death was pneumonia and heart failure. This gritty little boxer with the lightning jab had brought a nation together and done something no flyweight boxer had ever done before. He has been honoured all over the world, but nowhere more so than in his home town of Hua Hin, where there is a park adorned with his name, as well as a magnificent statue.