Boxer-turned-singer Namwannoi Sakboonma, nicknamed Kratae, captures her fans' hearts when she gets in the ring or on stage. She reveals she owes her career to first-love Muay Thai Attractive Namwannoi Sakboonma is a very popular Thai singer, but she says she owes much of her success to her original profession as a Muay Thai fighter. She took up Muay Thai at the age of 12 and her fame in the country's traditional martial art helped her become instantly popular when she switched to a singing career.
Namwannoi, who is better known by her nickname Kratae, had fought about 40 bouts before entering the entertainment world. She and three friends launched their debut album Yim Laew Ruay (Smile and Become Rich) in 2004. Kratae, whose real name is Nipaporn Pang-on, also has had two solo albums - Perd Jai Sao Tae (Open Tae's Heart) and Khongkhwan Sao Tae (Tae's Present). All of her albums have been successful.
Although she has fared better in music, the 19-year-old star admits that without boxing she would not have enjoyed instant success in her singing career. "I can't say which has made me more popular," she said. "But without fighting, I don't think I would have been able to make it as singer." Kratae has been familiar with music since her childhood because both of her parents were singers. "I learned how to sing before kicking because of my parents," said Kratae.
Unlike most Thai boxers, Kratae did not take up Muay Thai because of poverty. She entered the sport because she saw it as a challenge. She received 300 baht for her first fight, which she won. After fighting in the northern provinces, she came to Bangkok to seek more fame and fortune.
One of her most impressive fights was winning Thailand's 45kg title with a victory over Fahsang Sor Pranprai in Chachoengsao in 2002. Both had been unbeaten and were champions of the North and the Northeast respectively. A year later, Kratae missed the chance to be crowned an international champion after a narrow loss to Isabe Watanabe of Japan in a championship fight in Rangsit. The Japanese was one of only three boxers who defeated her. Among the trio, Watanabe is the only one who has not lost to Kratae. The country singer beat the other two in rematches.
Kratae says she wants to fight a male boxer but her mother won't allow her. She has not fought seriously for about two years because she has been busy with her concerts. "I do not have enough time to fight. I do not even have time for a break," she said. "For example, I am fully booked this month." Normally she needs around one month to prepare for a fight and she would lose the 100,000 baht she earns a month from her concerts.
"I would have to get more than 100,000 baht a fight because I would have to stop my show for a month," she said. However, there is a possibility she might return to the ring in August or later on this year when she takes a break from her concerts. "I will certainly return to the ring," she said.
Although her fragile face may force her to quit Muay Thai in the near future, Kratae says she will continue giving something to the sport like setting up a boxing camp. Apart from fighting and singing, Kratae, a first-year student in accounting at Sripatum University, also wants to try taekwondo seriously. She won three taekwondo competitions in Chiang Mai organised by the To Be Number One project a few years ago.