Before the 1980s Muay Thai was a relatively unknown sport to people who never visited Thailand. Back in the day, sports like Boxing, Kickboxing, Karate, and other traditional martial arts dominated the scene in North America.
These were the years before the UFC when every Martial artist believed that their style was the most effective art. People legitimately believed (and some still do) that 70 year old Grand Karate Masters could take on 10 fighters at once.
Read our full article on Kickboxing vs Muay Thai – Same Same but Different HERE
During this period in North America, American Kickboxing was also developing into a sport that was a hybrid of Karate and Boxing. The rules for American Kickboxing were the following:
- 4-point striking system
- Kicks only allowed ABOVE the belt (no low kicks)
- Throws, sweeps, and takedowns not allowed
- Clinch forces immediate reset of fighters’ position
Given the prevailing attitude of Martial artists at the time, many American Kickboxer’s presumed it was the most effective striking system in the world.
Putting Kickboxing to the Test
This theory would be put to the test when one of the top American Kickboxer’s at the time Rick Roufus would challenge Muay Thai fighter Changpuek Kietsongrit in a non-title fight that would take place in Las Vegas.
Watch the first documented Kickboxing vs Muay Thai fight that happened in 1977 between Benny Urquidez vs Narong Noi Here.
This would be one of the first fights that showcased Kickboxing vs Muay Thai to a large televised audience that followed the sport. Although the rules handicapped the Thai fighter with no elbows or clinching allowed, it allowed low kicks – something not allowed in American Kickboxing.
The Fight – Rick Roufus vs Changpuek Kietsongrit
Here are a few things that are very apparent after you watch the fight.
- Rick Roufus had better hands than the Thai boxer – He ended up breaking the Thai’s jaw in the first round after a knockdown
- The Thai was tough as nails - If you do a quick search of Changpuek Kietsongrit you will notice he has been KOed countless times (Although he often fought much bigger guys in K1 and Kickboxing rules)
- The Low Kicks were devastating to the Kickboxer
This fight was monumental because it showcased to the large American TV audience the effectiveness of Muay Thai and low kicks in fighting. Even though immediately following the fight the American’s dismissed the Thai fighters win as a fluke, both Rick and Duke Roufus would implement some of the techniques they learned from the loss to Changpuek.
If you watched the full interview after the fight (HERE), you will see Rick Roufus’ brother Duke, sounds extremely ignorant as he discredits the Thai fighter, “I don’t think it takes much talent to kick somebody in the legs.” This showcased the general attitude that many martial artists had at the time regarding their own style.
Following his loss to Changpuek Kietsongrit, Rick Roufus would continue to have a successful career in Kickboxing and K1.
Unfortunately for Rick, he never did master the art of blocking low kicks. Throughout his career he would go on to lose a few more of his fights via TKO legs kicks (American Kickboxing style is not conducive for blocking low kicks) before retiring from the sport.
If you didn’t get enough of Rick getting smashed from Changpuek’s leg kicks here are some more of his losses:
Watch Rick Getting KO’ed with an inside low kick Here
Watch Rick Get TKO’d via Brutal Leg kicks by Jerome Le Banner Here
The Lasting Impact of the Fight
While the immediate reaction to the fight was that of disbelief and ignorance, both of the Roufus brothers would later change their opinions and actually implement Muay Thai techniques into their training – Something that would have a huge impact on kickboxing in America.
Duke Roufus would state in an interview a few years later with Mike Miles:
“I really changed my opinion after I saw my brother Rick fight Thailand’s Chuengpuek. I did an interview after the fight and put down the leg kicks, and said that they did not require much skill. I went to a few seminars that used leg kicks and it changed my mind very quickly.”
Duke Roufus would also talk about his views on leg kicks in fighting. Later talking about how his brother Rick changed his fighting style to incorporate using shins and hips when kicking:
“Mike Miles: What is your opinion on Kickboxing (with kicks to the legs)?
Duke Roufus: I only promote leg kicks in my area. It is the only way to go.
Mike Miles: Does your brother (Rick Roufus) have anything to say about that?
Duke Roufus: He thinks Kaman and all of those fighters are great fighters. He was just never trained in these techniques and that style. Pudparnoi comes to Atlanta to visit and train Rick in the Thai kick using the shin into the pads. Rick uses the Thai pads to train with and the belly pad.
Mike Miles: After the Kiatsongrit encounter he definitely changed his kicking style. He quit flip kicking and started using his hips.
Duke Roufus: He learned how to smash using the shin. He has a lot of head kick knockouts from this training.” Full Interview HERE
This interview showcased how much the fight had an affect on both Rick and Duke’s training. Instead of remaining ignorant about other styles, both Duke and Rick adapted and evolved their own style to implement techniques they felt were effective in fighting. Given how big both of these brothers were in world of kickboxing, it is something that would change the sport forever.
Duke would go on to have a successful fighting career in fighting eventually becoming a highly regarded striking coach. He has trained some top UFC fighters such as Anthony Pettis, Alan Belcher, Pat Barry and Ben Rothwell. Currently, he is one of the top striking coaches in North America and quite ironically is considered one of the top Muay Thai trainers outside of Thailand.