Combat sports are an ever-changing landscape of fighters, with new names popping up constantly. All fighters have heart, and all fighters have talent, yet of all the fighters who have stepped up over the years, there are some who stick in our minds, who changed the way we think about the sports we love, and who are truly inspirational to today’s generation of martial artists.
In this new series we wanted to take a moment to appreciate some of the true legends of fighting, looking at some of the most inspirational, most influential, and the most fearsome fighters out there. For the first in this series I wanted to start with a fighter who’s personal story has inspired my own training; Ramon Dekkers.
So who was Ramon Dekkers?
Most people who have any knowledge of Muay Thai’s recent history have likely at least heard the name Ramon Dekkers. For anyone who hasn’t, his story as one of the early Muay Farangs (the name given to fighters from countries outside of Thailand) led a great deal to the popularity of the sport in the west today.
Ramon “Diamond” Dekkers unfortunately passed away in 2013 at the age of just 43, however after his fearlessness facing the Thais at their own game, and all of his wars in the ring (with a record of 223 fights, 186 wins) he’s widely regarded as a Muay Thai legend. Dekkers originally began learning martial arts at age 12, studying judo for a few months. He then switched to boxing. Eventually he settled upon Muay Thai, studying under Cor Hemmers, a coach who has since trained names such as Alistair Overeem and Bas Rutten. At the time Muay Thai was a much smaller sport in the western world than it is today, and Dekkers went on to become one of the handful of western fighters (to this day) who have been able to stand up and hold their own consistently with the best fighters Thailand has to offer.
He was known for his tendency to go head-to-head with his opponents, constantly advancing forward. He took a lot of damage in his fights, but he always aimed to deal more, making his fights exciting to watch and applying the strong mentality which is visible throughout many of this generation’s Dutch fighters. Of all of his weapons, his left hook was arguably his most feared, smashing into his opponents and contributing a large amount to the 95 knockouts he scored over his career.
The fights that will never be forgotten
The most notable rival Dekkers faced was multiple Lumpinee champion Coban Lookchaomaesaitong. The fights built up to such a rivalry that the two would step into the ring a total of four times, in one of the most notable feuds in Muay Thai history. In their first fight on 21 April 1991, after a strong battle between the two fighters, Dekkers was knocked out with a left hook. In the rematch, Dekkers won by returning the favour with his own devastating knockout against Coban. In the third outing of their rivalry, Dekkers was defeated by decision after five gruelling rounds, but he won the fourth and final fight evening his score against Coban.
The Coban vs. Dekkers fights are seen by many fans as one of the best fights in recent history, inspiring countless numbers of fighters worldwide and showing the Thais the influence strong boxing can have on the sport.
Striking analyst Lawrence Kenshin’s video below is an excellent breakdown of the sheer importance of these battles, and is well worth a watch.
Ramon Dekkers officially retired in 2001, but made a comeback in 2005 for 3 fights (one of which was actually under MMA rules). One of these fights, under regular K-1 rules was against Duane Ludwig who had been regarded as one of the UFC’s top lightweights in the world at the time. Duane Ludwig, for those who don’t already know, later became the head coach at Team Alpha Male MMA gym for several years, coaching fighters such as Urijah Faber and TJ Dillashaw, before leaving to coach at his own gym.
What makes this fight so special is that a few days before the fight Dekkers injured himself, tearing a ligament in his right shoulder. Most fighters would pull out after such an injury, but Dekkers went ahead with it anyway. The entire fight he could only punch with his left arm. Despite having a large part of his ability limited, Dekkers continued to knock Ludwig down in every single round, and eventually won the fight by decision.
Ramon Dekkers is truly an inspiration because of his fearlessness in the ring. He went to Thailand, fought under their rules, and he beat them. While he may be gone now, the legacy he left behind will inspire fighters for years to come. If you want to see more about Dekkers, watch the highlight video below from Muay Thai Scholar, looking at some of the best moments from Dekkers’ career.
If you liked this article, let us know. We’d love to hear the things you remember most about Ramon Dekkers, and which other inspirational fighters you think deserve to be featured in an article like this.