|A shocking new documentary reveals the pressures on Thailand's child professional fighters who risk brain damage and death to lift their families out of poverty.|
The bouts can leave kids brain-damaged, but adults gamble huge sums on their fights, and their families put enormous pressure on the kids to fight and win to help them escape poverty.
Unreported World on Friday night will show one child as he runs miles inside a rubber suit in 30-degree heat to make the weight for his fight.
Channel 4 reporter Mary-Ann Ochota follows 11-year old Nat Thanarak, one of the best child boxers in the North of the country where many families struggle for money.
Ask why he likes Muay Thai, he replies: “Because I get money. And it will make my village famous.”
He is preparing for the biggest match of his career so far, against a 12-year-old champion from another province.
Nat will get a fee for the fight, but his chance of earning big money comes from gambling.
His whole village has raised a stake to bet on him. If Nat wins, he’ll get a cut.
They sometimes fight for a fee of as little as £4, but their winnings can make them breadwinners for families and local heroes in their villages.
Mary-Ann said: “Muay Thai isn’t only for adults. Children as young as seven are regularly paid to fight and gambling on them is big business. But it comes at a price.
“The fights are brutal and kids batter each other with their fists and feet and elbows.
“Gamblers surround the ring, they like child fights because they are unpredictable. This is what fuels this business.”
A study in Thailand of 200 Muay Thai child boxers compared with 200 normal children shows abnormalities appearing on the brains of the fighters.
Mary-Ann says the results show brain damage similar to road traffic accidents when there is head trauma.
Young fighter Nat is shown training seven days a week, four hours a day, before and after school.
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