Buakaw Banchamek, real name Sombat Bunchamek, 34, is the world’s most successful Thai K1 fighter. Following the drama of leaving his old agent and opening his own boxing gym, the prize fighter is now set to play the leading role in a movie. In Bin Bunluerit’s Thongdee Fun Khao, Buakaw plays the part of Phaya Phichai, the ancient Thai warrior hero from the King Taksin era. Here, he opens to BK about his studying, boxing, life in the military and retirement.
How did you get involved with this movie?
I’m often contacted by entertainment productions, both local and international, wanting me to show up as a guest actor but I’ve always turned them down as I’ve never really wanted to be an actor. My focus is my boxing career. When I was first contacted to play this movie, I turned it down right away but [director, actor and screenwriter] Bin Bunluerit came to beg me in person to take the role because no one matched the part of a great boxer and warrior in the time of King Taksin as well as me. Once I got the chance to read the part, I gave it a chance.
Did you take to acting easily?
It’s a lot harder than being a boxer! When I box, I just have to fight in the ring. But being an actor needs you to think about how good that kick’s going to look on camera, or deliver a punch in slow motion.
What was the hardest scene?
When I needed to ride a horse. I had never even touched a horse before. They sent me to train at a horse farm. When I arrived, I just jumped straight on the horse despite not knowing a thing about how to ride. I was afraid of falling off but thought, I’ve already said yes to this role so now I have to do whatever it takes. I learned how to ride successfully after just half a day.
We hear you’ve gone back to university? Why now?
I chose to be a boxer because I felt I wasn’t good at studying. Now though, I have the chance to look at education again. I have the power and passion to study, so have taken up business management since I own a boxing gym. I hope to use it for my business.
How does it feel to be back in school in your 30s?
I was super excited! Even more than when I enter the ring to fight. I missed the vibe of studying with friends and teasing each other. I was curious about how the other kids would treat to me, being so much older than them. I just told them to call me by my name, no pi. Now they’re my friends. I’m in my final year.
You are also in the military. Tell us about that.
I dreamed of being a soldier when I was young so just decided to apply. I got to train for three months and finally passed into the rank of lance corporal. I help with public relations work, traveling to meet people and other soldiers. I just came back from the three southernmost provinces.
What’s your daily fitness routine?
I wake up at 5:30am every day and eat a light meal before running about 7-10 kilometers, followed by boxing at the gym till 10am. Then I eat again and sleep before waking up around 2-3pm for more running. Then I train from 4-7pm. I have a day off on Monday but I don’t really like to go out—just play football with other boxers in my gym.
Note: Buakaw is set to fight again on Dec 30 at Wuhan, Hubei, China. His new movie 'Thongdee Fun Khao' will hit screens this Jan 26.