Locals—half-soused housewives and their drunker halves—cheer their boys’ efforts—win, lose or draw. After the last fight, before the sun has sunk beyond the mountains and border soldiers resume their vigil, the Burmese crowd dissolves back across the Moei River. Back in Mae Sot the following afternoon, another fourteen matches are scheduled. Strategies differ. Burmese combatants willingly incur the indignity of collapsing rather than sustaining a full combination of their opponent’s blows; if they can escape the knockout, they can battle on. Their strategy is born of survival. Well-trained Thais are drilled not to go down. Modern Thai rules confer more points for a knockdown than any single strike. For them, the point of bare-fisted fights is pride.
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