Thai boxer Rose is as tough as they come

26 July 2017 - 08:28 By Reuters
TOUGH COOKIE Muay Thai boxer Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk, 21, who is transgender, prepares to be weighed before her match at the Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok earlier this month.
TOUGH COOKIE Muay Thai boxer Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk, 21, who is transgender, prepares to be weighed before her match at the Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok earlier this month.
Image: Reuters

Clad in a pink tank top and shorts, her face made up with rouge and red lipstick, transgender Muay Thai fighter Nong Rose Baan Charoensuk is a formidable opponent.

Just ask Karun "Priewpak" Kaemlam, a male fighter who lost a thrilling five-round match to Rose, as she is generally known, earlier this month.

"I wasn't able to fight her strength and big build," Priewpak said.

"She fights like a man because she is really a man," added Priewpak, who suffered a gash above his right eye in the fight at Rajadamnern Stadium in the Thai capital.

It was the second consecutive win for Rose in the arena after becoming the first transgender boxer to fight there last month.

The crowd was clearly in her corner, cheering wildly for her throughout.

"Being a transgender doesn't mean we're weak," Rose said after the fight. "We can achieve anything as well." The 21-year-old started boxing at eight, following in the footsteps of an uncle, a Muay Thai fighter who encouraged her to train. Her twin brother is also a Muay Thai fighter.

Born Somros Polchareon, Rose said she identified as a woman at an early age and began wearing makeup and a sports bra in the ring. In the rural towns where she has done most of her fighting, her appearance disconcerted some of her male opponents.

"They would say they didn't want to fight with a gay person, as it would be embarrassing if they won or lost," she said.

"I still face those insults, but I don't care about them."

Thailand is widely seen as a paradise for gay and transgender people, but many say they are treated as second-class citizens.

After more than 300 fights, racking up 30 of her 150 wins through knockouts, Rose said she was finally allowed to fight at Rajadamnern.

Rose is not Thailand's first transgender boxer. Parinya "Nong Toom" Charoenphol was the subject of the 2004 film Beautiful Boxer. Toom eventually ran a boxing school and Rose someday hopes to do the same. 

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