Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Sweet Science

I made this picture while I was in Cambodia in 2006. I was driving back to Phnom Penh after a day in the countryside and I saw a crowd standing under a billboard of boxers. I stopped and went into the business, which turned out to be the studios of Cambodia’s main television network and they were telecasting the weekly fights. 
I photographed for a couple of hours while the boxers pummelled each other and the crowd went nuts. I made the observation to a local that it was just like Thai boxing and he became quite indignant (in a thoroughly friendly way). It seems that boxing, like everything else in Southeast Asia, becomes very complicated when it involves Thailand and Cambodia. 
My new friend told me that I was watching Khmer Boxing and that the Thais stole it from the Cambodians centuries ago during one of the frequent wars between the ancient Siamese (now Thai) Kingdoms and Khmer Kingdoms based in Angkor. Cambodians make the same claims about classical Thai dance, which they claim is purloined from Khmer Aspara dancers. 
There are more photos of Cambodia and Khmer boxing in my archive and available from ZUMA Press