Rags to riches: Srisaket's story
2017 was a dream year for Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Cameron Gillon has researched Srisaket’s early struggles to bring us a story of triumph over adversity...
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is on top of the world after winning the WBC super flyweight title from Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez and knocking out Chocolatito in the rematch in his first fights in the US.
He is now able to provide comfortably for himself and his family. Yet today’s reality for the 31-year-old was only a dream whilst, as a boy, he picked through garbage collections looking for food.
Thailand will always be his home even though he made a significant amount of money in the two fights with Chocolatito. While he respected the Nicaraguan four-weight champion he never regarded him as anything more than a very good boxer. Srisaket studied Chocolatito’s fighting style by the hour, almost every day, with his team.
Srisaket’s life isn’t much different than before his rise to world champion status. He still spends his free time sitting on the edge of muddy river banks down the hillside of his friend’s home in Thailand, his dogs for company, seeking to catch fish to gut and cook whilst other people in the area use the river for washing.
Srisaket knows what it’s like to have to fend for himself with no help from anybody. This is why he dedicates a lot of his time to helping out the community. He has become a hero to many of his compatriots. That became evident on arrival back home after his initial world championship victory, when hundreds gathered at the airport to welcome him and followed him as he made his way through the crowd.
As a child, he was brought up in extreme poverty and his family struggled to provide for him. His father was a Thai-style boxer of very limited income. This meant that Srisaket had to look out for himself and compete with others just to survive. The family moved from Sisaket province in north-eastern Thailand to Bangkok to escape the life of poverty, but even after the move Srisaket and his family faced uphill battles.
When a teenager, he worked as a security guard and garbage collector. He would wake up in the early hours to walk miles through his town in the humidity to get to the hills of uneaten food people had tossed away. Everywhere he looked as he was travelling, there were people washing their clothes in the puddles on the roads due to no fresh water being available in certain areas. Others were looking for pieces of wood and metal to replace the rotting parts of shacks that they had put together and would use metal poles connected to wooden panels as washing lines.
Some of the parts that were available were taken from train tracks that were no longer in use.
When Rungvisai reached the large, green land where people went to look for food, there were other children with their parents, some of the children much younger than himself, burrowing through the piles of boxes that contained items such as fish and pork ribs, all dumped as waste. Digging further through the garbage uncovered various fruits and vegetables.
Other times, Srisaket would sit inside the shopping malls when retail outlets would be closing for the day. He would wait for everybody to leave and retrieve foodstuffs discarded due to an imminent expiry date, then carry it home on a big bag slung over his shoulders.
Srisaket eventually met a young woman who was also struggling with a life of poverty. The pair lived in a very small room where the rent was manageable. They shared the same experiences and interests and developed a connection very quickly.
He wanted to look after his girlfriend and give her a better life. When low in spirits he had moments when he almost lost the will to live. His girlfriend was a pillar of support, his best friend - one of few that he had around him. It was just her and two other people that he had staying inside the rented room. [Srisaket and his girlfriend (now fiancée) Patchareewan Kanha are due to be married later this year, Srisaket told Boxing Monthly’s Luke Williams. - Ed.]
Srisaket’s story is inspirational for people not only in Thailand but around the world. He wants people to know that when things get tough they should focus on achieving their goals.
From a very young age Srisaket came to understand the problems that many people face, especially in Thailand. His message is that people shouldn’t become discouraged, no matter how hard things become, and to fight and not give up - which, of course, is also Srisaket’s philosophy as a fighter.