Rungnarai Mor Rattanabandit has been named the ‘Fighter of the Year’. The award us voted on by the Sports Writers of Thailand and is considered the most prestigious in the Muay Thai world.

Ten fighters were shortlisted but Rungnarai got the nod. The final other two candidates to make the final cut were Tawanchai PKSaenchaigym and Kiewpayak Jitmuangnon, whose older brother Panpayak is a three time winner.

There criteria used to decide the winner is strict. Only fights in Thailand are assessed and quality of opposition is key, wins against low level opponents on local shows won’t impress the panel.

Credibility is also important. If a fighter has a bad reputation or their name has been associated with corruption then they won’t be considered for the award.

Tawanchai, who already won the Sports Authority of Thailand ‘Fighter of the Year’ award and had yet to register a loss during the relevant period was the favourite to win the award. But he missed out after losing to Sangmanee Sathiangym just two weeks ago.

Rungnarai fought 11 fights in the relevant timespan. He faced elite opponents across a wide range of promotions, taking on fighters at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium, winning the flyweight title at the latter stadium by beating Jomhod Eminentair.

This is Rungnarai’s record for the year:

Win (Decision) Petchmuangchon Por Suanthong, Rajadamnern, 9th May 2018, 112lbs
Win (Decision) Palangpon Petchyindeeacademy, Rajadamnern, 11th June 2018, 114lbs
Win (Decision) Petchsuphan Por Daorungruang, Rajadamnern, 5th July, 2018, 113lbs
Win (Decision) Kiew Paranchai, Lumpinee, 7th August, 2018, 113lbs
Draw Petchphuthai Sitsarawatsua, Lumpinee, 4th September, 2018, 114lbs
Win (Decision) Wacharapon PKSaechaigym, Buriram 5th October, 2018, 114lbs
Win (Decision) Jomhod Eminentair, Lumpinee, 7th December, 2018 115lbs
Win (Decision) Detchaiya Petchyindeeacademy, Rajadamnern, 17th January, 2019, 116/117lbs
Lose TKO, Round 2 Detchaiya Petchyindeeacademy, Rajadamnern, 21st February, 2019, 118lbs
Win (Decision) Densiam Krudamgym, Rajadamnern, 9th May, 2019, 117lbs
Win (Decision) Diesellek Petchyindeeacademy, Lumpinee, 7th June, 2019 118lbs

On many of these occasions Rungnarai was fighting bigger opponents. He started the year fighting at 112lbs and it’s no secret that he can still comfortably make that weight.

As the year went on he was forced to move up and fight opponents as much as 6lbs above his optimum weight and that would have been taken into consideration.

This contrasted with the record of Tawanchai who has taken some criticism of being bigger than his opponents, and probably explains why Rungnarai was the recipient of Muay Thai’s most prestigious award..