Buakaw Por Pramuk – or Buakaw Banchamek, as he has been known since splitting with the Por Pramuk team – has become a Buddhist monk.
The top international Thai fighter took his vows at the weekend, shaved his head and donned the traditional orange robes of the monasteries. It follows the recent upheaval in his life, which began with a dawn flit from the Por Pramuk camp and a prolonged period hiding out from his former team and the media.
When he did emerge, he claimed that he had been mistreated by the gym and he gave details of his living condition which raised questions about the financial propriety of the Por Pramuk team – having taken the camp’s name to the heights of fame and earned millions of dollars in fight purses and seminar revenues, Buakaw was still sleeping on a bunk bed in a shared room, for example.
It looked as if Buakaw was going to be forced to return to the gym for legal contractual reasons, and he also seemed to fear some underworld contact or retribution, but then his sponsor Yokkao – a huge Muay Thai equipment brand – stepped in and set up a gym of his own for him. The move also carried an unspoken message that they were backing Buakaw, which required Por Pramuk to tread carefully if they wanted to maintain good relations.
Buakaw went ahead with a fight in early April which had been booked by Por Pramuk, and he competed under his old name, but the camp still took legal action against him. They have asked for a huge amount of money – over $3m – in lost revenues and they also want Buakaw banned from taking part in fights until the issue of his management contract has been resolved.
And so Buakaw has taken vows and entered Buddhist holy orders. This is a traditional part of the culture in Thailand and most Thai males will spend at least some time as a monk in their lifetime. Often the move is undertaken as a kind of coming-of-age process, although there is no barrier to entry at any age. Nor is there a minimum period one must remain a monk.
While he is a monk, Buakaw will not be allowed to have any physical contact with women whatsoever and the material world of money and contracts is off limits to him. Likewise, any legal action against him will be on hold until he returns to the material world.
How long that will take is anybody’s guess but entering the Buddhist monastery is not the same as taking holy orders in the west; instead it has perhaps more in common with the western idea of entering into a temporary retreat, although these are of course sometimes also operated by religious orders. Buakaw’s return to the ring is almost certain, unless the spiritual life really takes hold of him.