It's been an interesting few days in the life of former K-1 MAX champion Buakaw Por. Pramuk. Last week, he pulled out of a scheduled March 17 fight against Fabio Pinca in France. His camp in Thailand then reported him as "missing" according to the Bangkok Post.
Now, the story has escalated and taken something of an ugly turn as it looks like Buakaw has left the Por. Pramuk gym amidst rumors of corruption. In an interview on Thai TV, Buakaw spoke out about his frustrations with his longtime training home. In particular, he noted that he wanted to retire in 2009, but that his gym would not let him. Instead, Buakaw has been fighting through injuries over the past years and is now looking to recover both mentally and physically. Last week, he left his gym and went into seclusion, refusing to take their calls.
Recent issues seemed to begin with the departure of the gym's physical therapist Theerapat Yewyim. Along with his departure, new leadership took over at the gym. Buakaw states that he has felt disrespected for years by the gym, and that these changes were the last straw, leading to Buakaw and his personal trainer to leave:
I left because they hurt my soul with bad words insulting me. I have done my best. I have been honest and diligent but they kept telling me, "I'm so tired of you, you are such a trouble maker, you're useless," but in fact I have been working hard. I've done my best, but they seemed to not be satisfied with me so I decided to leave. It has been years like this.
Buakaw says he is taking an indefinite amount of time off to recover for the moment. As for his future with the camp:
In my deepest heart I want to be Buakaw Por Pramuk, I want to do my responsibility... [but] I don't think I will be back there. I just want to take care of myself more than other things now.
The unspoken issue in this interview, and one that Buakaw refuses to directly address, is financial. For years there have been rumors of financial disputes inside the Por. Pramuk camp, with Buakaw in particular being taken advantage of. At Thai gyms, taking a fee when fighters compete is common, however in the case of Buakaw and the Por. Pramuk gym, there are long-standing accusations of the gym taking a significant majority of Buakaw's earnings, leaving the Thai champion with relatively little. Former Por. Pramuk fighter Namsaknoi has also allegedly been taken advantage of over the years.
Whatever comes of this, it's definitely an unfortunate situation. Buakaw is one of the most internationally successful Thai fighters, whose 2 championship runs in K-1 MAX are legendary. But he seems to have lost a step in recent years, and has not fought at the highest level lately - his desire to retire, combined with mental and physical stress would certainly account for this.
We'll keep an eye on this situation as it develops.