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Gloves off on the Thai-Burma Border

Boys to men do battle, where smashing an elbow in the face is part of the sweet science of bare-fisted boxing.
by James Fuller

Another punch and Tun Oo is down. He hauls his small frame from the canvas, grasping the ropes for balance. A separate referee represents each opponent, one Burmese and one Thai. The Burmese ref gives Tun Oo a standing count. Musicians hammer feverishly on cymbals and drum, accompanying the screeching reeds of an oboe. Tun Oo’s trainer shouts orders at him over the din. Advance blocked by the Thai ref, Super Kay tightens a stray strip of hemp that binds his fist. No gloves are worn in these bouts. The refs shake hands for the fight to continue. Super Kay leaps forward, delivering a rib kick and vicious hook, crumpling Tun Oo to the canvas for the full count. Cornermen feed the boy through the ropes to make way for fresh contenders.

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