Ghot Seurnoi: Rare Breed

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International Kickboxer Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015

The first point of contact for the elusive Ghot Seurnoi is his trainer, Soren Mongkontong. When we spoke, I explained that I had made an appointment to interview Ghot at ten thirty the following morning.

“Don’t be silly, mate. There’s no way he’ll be awake. He’ll have been up all night on his PlayStation.”

After some ringing around, I managed to catch up with him. Even though it was late afternoon, he still sounded half-awake.

“I’ve owned every PlayStation so far,” said Ghot. “I can sit down, relax and escape reality. I usually stay up pretty late, and get up late. It’s always been that way. It doesn’t matter if I have anything on or not.

“Usually, the PS gets a good thrash. I’ve owned every one of them so far. I like everything that’s violent… violence is just more entertaining and no one gets hurt. There’s no consequence with video games.”

The Australian Thai boxer defining himself in Thailand against the best of the best is a common-enough story. The Thai boxer from Thailand making an impact on the Australian scene is a somewhat rarer variation.

“My father met my mother when he was working in Thailand,” said Ghot, one of the leading lights of Nugget McNaught’s NTG stable in Queensland. “My mother was from a remote village, about two hours drive from Bangkok. Anyway. They got married and came to Australia in about 1995.”

Total Carnage IV

Ghot was not a stranger to Thai boxing however, having trained and fought at home.

“I fought when I was about six. It was intense, because of the energy and all the people. It’s a whole new experience the first time; you don’t really know what you’re doing [because you’re] full of adrenalin.”

It was a long time in between drinks, which is hard to believe for a fighter who has come to dominate his weight class over the course of thirty-seven fights, earning himself a WMC Oceania Title and a WKN World Thai Boxing title in the process.

“I started training again here in Australia in 1997. I was training with one gym for two weeks. They offered me a fight and I took it, and lost. I stopped [training] because I felt bad.”

For a while, Got amused himself with basketball and Jiu Jitsu, until a chance meeting with Nugget McNaught.

“My mum has a good friends of hers who is Thai and used to own a restaurant where Nugget and his team would go for dinner every Friday night. She offered to introduce me. I wanted to find a good gym, but couldn’t find one hard enough.

‘I’ll introduce you,’ said my mother’s friend, ‘But I’ll warn you, he’s pretty rough.’ I went down and trained. Nugget liked my determination and I’ve been there ever since.”

It was six months of hard preparation until Nugget felt that Ghot was ready to fight.

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“I had my first fight for NTG in 2001. I won by KO. I felt a lot better; I was ready. And I’ve been pretty successful since then.”

Nugget has gathered a strong team around him in terms of ‘Little Boss’ Soren Mongkontong and an array of strong, talented fighters that provide plenty of sparring.

“Soren’s style is different to Nugget’s,” Ghot said. “He’s calmer, and cooler. But we get on really well.”

Dane ‘Daddy Kool’ Beauchamp has been a long-term fixture of Ghot’s career. They have been working together since Ghot’s early days in the gym.

“We’re usually throwing down every week-end,” said Ghot. “[Dane is] very sharp; very smart. Because we’ve been training together since day one, we know each other so well, we need to think a lot when we spar. Most times, we spar at – or close to – one hundred per cent. We’ve dropped each other a number of times. When we spar, it’s as close to a real fight as possible.”

“When we started, he had no idea,” said Beauchamp. “I’d had about ten fights… he was just a punching bag. He had a jiu jitsu background, and he was doing all these wacky kicks. He had no idea about getting punched and how to defend himself. His head’s like a granite bench [though], so he was alright.”

Dane was quick to summarize Ghot’s strengths as an athlete.

“He was always quick learning. Natural with the clinch and kicking. He really came into his own when we bought our Thai trainer over. They could speak their own lingo; [the trainer could] explain [things] to Ghot a lot better. That mixture of the Thai trainer and Nugget was just perfect for him.”

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“After Ghot retired,” said Soren, “He’d come down and spar Daddy every Saturday, and that’s all he’d do.” In this way, Ghot was never too far away from the sport which had become his anchor.

“I retired from 2008, or 9, until 2011,” Ghot said, citing a list of reasons. “I’d been training so long; my girlfriend, little bit of problems, the usual stuff; life. That, and [the fact that] I couldn’t be bothered training.”

Soren said that was only part of the story.

“He was so good he couldn’t get fights any longer,” said Soren. “There was no one left for him to fight, or no one that was willing.”

“He stopped for three years and literally did not do a single thing,” Dane said. “I’d go around to his house and say, ‘At least go for a run or something’. ‘There’s no need,’ he’d say. He wouldn’t even run to get the phone.”

With little other than the PlayStation to make a claim on his time, Ghot soon felt aimless. It was that directionless feeling which bought him back to Thai boxing.

“I’d done it for so long, I felt empty; I didn’t feel grounded. The only thing that kept me going was the gym. It was a chore, living day-to-day without it, so… here I am again. After that break, I appreciate it more than ever now. I’ve been here every day since then.”

Ghot’s routine is well-established.

“I train pretty hard, but mainly to keep fit. Four or five weeks before a fight is when I turn it on. Before a fight, I triple the intensity. Regardless, I’m here Monday to Saturday, six days a week.”

Daddy Kool told a somewhat different story.

“We worked together, training twice a day together, drove back and forth in the one car, staying at my house. Nugget didn’t trust us on our own. If we were together, we’d both suffer the consequences [for not showing up]. The only time we didn’t see each other was when we’d have a shower or go to the toilet. For a couple of months. It was torture.”

The real indicator of a fighter’s quality is in their opponents. According to Soren Mongkontong, the calibre of Ghot’s opponents is crucial to his performance.

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“The problem with Ghot is that he’s a nice guy,” he says. “He’ll fight to his opponent’s level; that’s why he has a low KO ratio. He won’t necessarily go for the KO, just because he can. It’s always good when he fights someone like Joe Concha or Thomahawk, because they’re so good and they’re always trying to kill him… he has to fight at that level. They bring the best out in him. It takes a lot of confidence to fight that way.”

Confidence, and a whole lot of ability. Joe Concha, who bought Ghot to a split draw on April six of this year, testified to it.

“He’s very skilful,” said Joe. “I stood taller, so I felt I could manage myself in the clinch. [Ghot] moves well and counters well… [he’s] very unpredictable. Very tricky.

“He does a lot of feints; changes up his combos. I knew he was very much a counter-fighter, so going forward would have played to his game plan. When he’d trade, I would move, so as not to fall into his plan. My approach was to fight skill with skill.”

Joe was analytical in his summation of their first and only engagement.

“[Next time] I’d go heavier on the legs and in the clinching. The first few rounds, I was too cautious of his style and didn’t stick to my game plan. As the fight went on, my kicks were finding their range. I’d love to do the rematch if we could agree on the weight.”

Michael ‘Thomahawk’ Thompson, the rising star of Australian Muay Thai, has met Ghot twice, and was unable to prevail against him.

“The first fight was in 2005,” Ghot said. “He was very young, like seventeen. [He was] probably the toughest opponent yet. Not just strong; pretty smart, too. Got a lot of courage [and] won’t stop coming. Unless you’re prepared, [you’ll] be up for a hard fight.”

The second time Ghot met Thomahawk was to contest the WKN World Title. Ghot repeated the performance. He remains characteristically tight-lipped about his success, attributing his win to the fact that he was “well-prepped for that fight.”

Ghot’s last few fights have provided a few more scratches in the ‘win’ column.

“I just fought Sone Vannathy from New Zealand on Destiny 3. It went pretty well; I had a win. My opponent was a puncher. He didn’t catch me. Before that, I fought in Malaysia for Evolution. I won [against] Ali Yaakub [who is] one of the best Malay fighters around. He fought Daddy Kool in 2008. I dropped him in the first; I didn’t want to go five rounds with him if I could help it. It ended up going the full five. It was a war.”

When asked who was next on the hit list, Ghot was characteristically detached:

“Whoever.”

Ghot Seur Noi is either supremely confident or terminally laid-back; it’s hard to say which. Perhaps the last word is best given to Dane ‘Daddy Kool’ Beauchamp.

“He is the most underrated fighter in Oz; his natural ability is right up there. Skill, agility; it’s phenomenal. He’s a good athlete; he can do anything he puts his mind to. He could have been anything. It wouldn’t matter what he did. But if he’s not interested, he is not interested. PlayStation should be his job. If he put as much energy into training as he did into playing games, he’d be Superman.”

It’s a long way from world champion to Superman, but it should make for interesting viewing. Stay tuned.

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