Until the early 1930s, Muaythai was very different to that of today. There were no timekeepers, rings, rounds, or gloves. Then for a variety of reasons, rules were established to make it an international sport. Five round contests were introduced along with eight divisions based on international boxing. Queensbury rules boxing gloves replaced the ropes binding on the hands.
Since then Muaythai, for both amateur and professional, has swept the world like a wild fire and developed into the premier ring sport – fighting art with no equal in terms of unarmed combat and spectator appeal.
During the late 1980s, the Thai government saw the necessity to establish a regulatory body for Amateur Muaythai – holding bouts around the world and dealing with regulations and safety measurements and get international recognition for Muaythai
The late Mr. Bunjuen Suvantadha made sacrifices beyond the call of duty. From both a personal and financial perspective, he put everything he had into the push for Amateur Muaythai to be recognized. He was instrumental in setting up the first Amateur Muaythai organizations named “Federation of Amateur Muaythai of Asia” (FAMA) and “International Federation of Muaythai Amateur” (IFMA). Both organizations were established with the objectives of promoting Muaythai as a cultural art form, self defense and ring sport as well as pushing Amateur Muaythai to be included into GAISF, Sea Games, Asian Games and ultimately the Olympic Games.
In 1988, Muaythai associations from Malaysia, Macau, Kazakhstan Uzbekistan and others officially joined together to form the Federation of Amateur Muaythai of Asia (FAMA); Mr. Bunjuen Suvantadha was voted as the first President. In the same year, the 1st International Asian Championship was held, organized by the FAMA. The great success of this event proved that it was essential for the establishment of another international Muaythai body.
An international meeting soon took place in 1989, in Thailand with 20 amateur federations from around the world in attendance. The discussion was focused on the first constitution, rules and regulations to establish a world federation, International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA).
In 1990, the IFMA was authoritatively instituted during its first world meeting. Soon after many elating amateur Muaythai events were held, including the Prince’s Cups in 1991, 1992 and 1994.
On December 5, 1994; His Majesty the King of Thailand graciously granted the first King’s Cup World Championship to be assembled under the IFMA banner.
In 1995, Muaythai world community received yet historical news of the inauguration of the world professional body under the directive of the Thai government, the body known as the “World Muaythai Council” (WMC). Both amateur and professional world bodies have always worked closely together for the betterment of the sport. Many talented boxers commenced their road of recognition at the amateur championships, with their skills being nurtured until they are ready for the professional field.
The IFMA and FAMA continued to work successfully together and jointly acted as the sanctioning body for amateur Muaythai during the 18th Sea Games in 1995. Then in 1996, the first Queen’s Cup Championship was held, organized by IFMA and FAMA.
Following the great success of the King’s Cup World Championship in 1998, His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya – the Privy Councilor to His Majesty the King of Thailand, accepted the position as the Honorary President of IFMA.
During that time General Vorayudh Mesommonta, General Secretary of the WMC was voted as the President of the IFMA and the AMAT.
Also in 1998, Muaythai was selected as a demonstration sport in the 13th Asian Games under the IFMA banner. This clearly stated an acceptance from the Olympic Committee of Asia for IFMA and FAMA as the controlling body for Muaythai. Sadly for all Muaythai enthusiasts, Mr. Bunjuen Suvantadha passed away merely 3 hours after the opening ceremony of the 13th Asian Games. General Vorayudh Mesommonta was then elected as the President of FAMA.
While Thailand celebrated the 72nd Birthday and 6th Cycle Anniversary of His Majesty the King, the world’s longest reigning monarch, in 1999; in conjunction with this commemoration IFMA arranged Muaythai World Championships.
The “Muaythai Against Drugs” campaign was officially established in 2001. Many events under this campaign were held, organized by the WMC, IFMA and FAMA. His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya, the Privy Councilor to His Majesty the King, was gladly accepted as the chairman of the campaign in which 50 countries adopted as their primary project to boost the image of Muaythai and spread the message of ‘Do Sport, Not Drugs’ worldwide. The campaign raised over one million dollars for Tsunami-effected aid under IFMA and FAMA banner.
Events under the IFMA banner were held annually, with another highlight of the World Cup 2002 held in honor of the 50th Birthday of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Thailand. 50 countries were carefully selected to participate, one country represented each year of his life. The opening ceremony of this prestigious event was honored by the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Siriwanwaree Nareeratana, who graciously enjoyed the tremendous action in the ring.
The World Championship in 2003 held in Kazakhstan was the first championship ever held outside of Thailand. His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya traveled to Kazakhstan to preside the opening and closing ceremonies, represented Thailand. The event was well received, showing the depth of amateur Muaythai talent around the world.
Another sad incident also took place in 2003, the passing of the IFMA President, General Vorayudh Mesommonta. Dr. Sakchye Tapsuwan, former Governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, was elected by the world and Asia executive committee as the new president of the IFMA and FAMA.
Today the main objective of the IFMA is to unite all national federations in working mutually for the sport and the athletes. Although this is not an easy task and there have been many drawbacks along the way. Efforts to unify with another sanctioning body have failed twice and have now been abandoned in favor of consolidation of its own members.
Another milestone for Muaythai was taken place in 2004 when Amateur Muaythai was included in the 1st Asian Indoor Games.
Also in June 2004, the IFMA World Meeting was attended by 78 representative executive board members as well as His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya, General Chetta Thanajaro and Dr. Santiparb Tejavanija, Governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand. Followed by the World Championships held during November 5-12, 2004 with 69 participating countries, fighters from all over the world competed in male, female and junior divisions.
During this same year, The General Assembly of International Sports Federation (GAISF) recognized the IFMA as a true international body following international sports law and structure, and recommended IFMA for inclusion as the world recognized amateur body for Muaythai.
In 2005 Muaythai Cultural Festival was held and organized in cooperation with the Thai government. Amongst the dignitaries attending were the GAISF President and Secretary General, Mr. Hein Verbruggen and Mr. Don Porter who were the guests of honor. Included in the activities were junior Muay Boran and skillful demonstrations of Muaythai by male and female boxers.
2006 was undoubtedly the most successful year for Muaythai when it was confirmed at the World Congress in April in Korea, Muaythai were overwhelmingly voted into GAISF and become a full member of the world sport community. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Thailand granted audience with the President of GAISF, the Privy Councilor to His Majesty the King, the IOC member of Thailand, the President of the WMC, the President and General Secretary of IFMA; in order to congratulate and show his appreciation for IFMA and Muaythai inclusion into GAISF.
In mid 2006, the largest World Championships and the first Muaythai Expo brought 82 countries of athletes, equipment manufacturers, event promoters and fans together under one event; an immense effort for Muaythai by IFMA. The opening ceremony was presided by Her Royal Highness Princess Siriwanwaree Nareeratana and the closing ceremony was honored by the His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya who has been supporting the sport of Muaythai for over 3 decades.
As in any sport, there should be only one recognized body.
Over the years, IFMA has held nine events of Prince’s Cup Championships, five events of Asian Cup Championships, five events of King’s Cup World Championships. Additionally many continental championships were also held throughout North America, Australia, Europe and Africa; under the IFMA, FAMA and other associated continental federations.
IFMA started as a small federation with several enthusiastic countries more then a decade ago. Currently at the dawn of an exciting new century, the federation can claim 110 member countries worldwide.
The enthusiasm and commitment of the members, boxers and officials are the greatest assets that IFMA brings to this ancient sport of Muaythai.
2007 will be another historical year for Muaythai and IFMA. Muaythai as originated in Thailand more than a thousand years ago has become a world recognised sport today. To mark this recognition, the World Championships, over one week period (27th of November to 5th December), will be held in Thailand to celebrate His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday with the whole nation. Muaythai athletes from 100 countries are expected to participate, which makes the biggest single sport event ever held in the Kingdom of Thailand, and to honour the traditions and value brought to the world through Muaythai.