Soren Mongkontong Retires!

 

 

International Kickboxer Magazine, Vol.19, no.3

At age 31, Soren Mongkongtong has spent fifteen years in Muay Thai, which equates to very nearly half his life in the sport. A few things have remained consistent over that time, however; the main one being his trainer, Nugget McNaught. “Nugget used to run past my house when he was training for his fights when I was a kid,” Soren remembers. “He was a bit of a legend around town. He used to have a class near where I lived. One day, I went down and checked it out.”

It agreed with the young Soren, and a year later he had his first fight.

“It was modified Thai at fifteen years of age. I won!” This early win set the trend and as he grew, so did his interest and commitment to the sport. As a result, he continued to train hard and win fights. “In Australia, I was a big puncher. I used to win a lot of fights by way of knockout with my hands.” Soren very quickly became one of the most notable fighters in Australian Muay Thai, not least of all because of the exposure he received fighting on Nugget’s Evolution Thai boxing shows, which were on their way to becoming the most prestigious full Thai rules events in Australia. “2002 was my best year,” he remembers. “I won the WMC Super 8 competition at 66kg. I also won the WMC Intercontinental title. I ended up fighting Santi, who eventually became my trainer in Thailand.”

Soren found himself fighting on the K1 Max in 2006. “That was a career highlight”, he remembers. “Fighting alongside Masato and Buakaw on the same show, in front of 16,000 people.” He fought the Japanese fighter, Konami. “I had fought him before, and stopped him. That time around though, he beat me on points.”

His first outing under K1 rules was somewhat disappointing, so Soren made the move to Thailandin 2006 and stayed there until 2009. In that time, he was living and training out of the Eminent Air gym, near the Suvarnabhumi Airport. When I asked Soren how training in Thailand, the home of Muay Thai, affected his style, the answer is surprising. “It changed my style totally. I was knocking a lot of people out with my hands, back in Australia. Once I started fighting in Thailand, I found out that I had to change my approach.

“Fighting is more technical in Thailand; more of a game. I learned how to fight the way they did. A slower pace suits the gamblers better; they want to see a closer contest. If you think about it, no one wants to bet on a race where one horse is miles out in front of all the others. A closer contest is more exciting. After fighting in Thailand, fighting here in Australia is less fun. More aggro!” Soren has developed a strong sense of sportsmanship. “I have no intention of hurting my opponents. I get in there to play the game as best I can and if he can’t keep up, then that’s not my fault.”

Soren’s time in Thailand saw him fight many of the legends of the sport, which is the fastest way to become a legend yourself. “When I first got there, my trainer got me fights at smaller stadiums.” This early proving time gave him the opportunity to settle in to not only an entirely foreign culture, but the very different way he was expected to fight. As he improved, so did the quality of his opponents.

His first fight was at Theprasit Stadium in Pattaya, which he unfortunately lost. His second fight at Theprasit saw him facing off against a former Lumpini champion, Bakjo Sor Pannut. Soren didn’t waste the opportunity to resurrect his reputation and won the fight. This success earned him the opportunity to fight on the Channel 7 Live Muay Thai television show. This is a significant honour; over 2 million fight fans tune in to watch, every Sunday afternoon.

Soren’s opponent was Robert Por Cherdkait, a successful journeyman fighter formerly ranked at both Lumpini and Ratchamadern Stadiums. The fight was stopped by the doctor in the fourth round, as Soren had cut Robert with enough elbow strikes to force a TKO win. This victory earned him considerable coverage in the Thai press, as well as being awarded ‘Fight of the Week.’ It was the first time the accolade had been given to a foreign fighter. Throughout the duration of his stay in Thailand, Soren would eventually fight on the Channel 7 Sunday afternoon fight show a total of five times, which stands as a record number of appearances made by any foreigner.

“One of the real highlights of my career was fighting Jomhod at Lumpini Stadium. He’d always been one of my heroes; because of that, he had a scary aura.” It was a fierce fight that Soren eventually brought to a hard-earned decision. “That was better than a KO; beating him at Lumpini and doing it on points.” A points win in Thailand is the most difficult thing to achieve. A fighter has to convince three judges that his technique and ring-craft has been consistently superior for the duration of all five rounds. To do so is to literally beat a Thai at his own game, in his own stadium. As a result of this win, Soren’s reputation in Thailand was assured. Soren followed this success with another points win, this time over Orono, again on Channel 7.

In 2007, Soren featured on The Contender Asia. “I learned a hard lesson,” he says. “I fought Dzabar Askerov. We were good friends – still are – but I didn’t expect him to come at me like that. I thought it was going to be like fighting with your brother. You know, you come out and sort of progressively hit each other harder and harder?” Askerov took the initiative Soren’s relaxed pace gave him and caught the Australian with a succession of brutal punches. “I don’t hold it against him. That’s the game, you know?”

Soren’s last fight was in Australia, in December 2009 against Bruce ‘Preacher’ McPhee. He won, but had made up his mind to retire. “I was too old. It was time for me to grow up and be responsible. Make some money.”  

Life after fighting hasn’t seen a slowing in pace. “I’ve never been so busy,” Soren says. He now works full-time at his original gym, NTG. “I do personal training all day and then I’m working with the fighters at night. I do a lot around the place – my nickname is ‘Little Boss’.

Soren has an exceptional wealth of experience behind him. Not only has he amassed a huge number of contests, but he has also had high-profile fights in Japan and Thailand, as well as emigrating to the home of the sport. “I guess the things I try to pass on to the fighters are that because you spend so much of your life in training – in Thailand, some days I was training for seven hours – you have to learn to enjoy what you do. You have to try and find the fun in it. The other thing is that you can’t always win your fights, but if you have to lose, there is such a thing as losing well. This isn’t just a matter of good sportsmanship; it’s also about learning to play the game to the best of your ability and show your skills.”    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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