How a popular Muay Thai brand is reinventing itself for knockout success
As Prem Busarabavonwong wiped the sweat off Muay Thai fighter Stamp Fairtex’s cheek in between fight rounds, he felt right at home in the ONE Championship fight ring.
Though not a professional fighter, the 38-year-old managing director of Muay Thai equipment retailer Fairtex is no stranger to combat sports.
“I share the same passion for boxing as my father. It was one of the first sports I was introduced to in my childhood days,” shared Busarabavonwong.
From a young age, he would always tag along whenever his father Philip Wong, also Fairtex’s founder, watched Muay Thai contests or promoted fights held at the famed Lumphini Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
“He’s much crazier about Muay Thai than I am. Every day, he doesn’t want to go out for dinner with us because he hasn’t finished supervising the training sessions,” said Wong on his son’s dedication to Muay Thai in a 2016 interview.
Now, at the helm of much of Fairtex’s business, Busarabavonwong is up for the fight, and the immense pressure that comes with reinventing a successful 48-year-old brand.
Established since 1971, Fairtex has grown to become synonymous with the sport of Muay Thai and has since scaled up its product lines to cover mixed martial arts (MMA).
Starting as a small textiles business, Fairtex quickly changed course because of Wong’s passion and interest in boxing.
Disappointed with the poor quality and tardy delivery of boxing equipment from other brands, Wong took it upon himself to develop Fairtex’s boxing equipment for use in the company’s training centers, and for sale to distributors in Australia, Denmark, Russia, the U.S., and some European countries.
Over the next two decades, the brand, led by Wong, ventured into fight promotions and expanded its international footprint with the opening of new training gyms around Japan.
Back home, Fairtex’s top-class facility — featuring a hotel, sports club and top-range training equipment — is now settled in the bustling seaside town of Pattaya after moving from the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand.
Training out of the gym, Fairtex’s star-studded fight team has consistently produced top fighters including multiple-time Muay Thai world champion Yodsanklai Fairtex, 2018 Muay Thai Grand Prix Champion Saemapetch Fairtex and, most recently, ONE Championship Atomweight Muay Thai title holder Stamp Fairtex.
Part of the brand’s rising success inside the ring and in business thus far can be attributed to the shifting mindsets of the public toward boxing and martial arts.
“Many people used to have a negative perception toward boxing as a sport for the poor, or associate it with the mafia and gambling,” said Busarabavonwong. “But Muay Thai has changed a lot. More women are into the sport because it is fun and a good workout that teaches self-defense.”
Taking the fight global
A flurry of changes has come on the back of Busarabavonwong taking on a more active role in the business.
Until two years ago, Fairtex’s website was solely targeted at international distributors and partners who formed the majority of the brand’s customer base.
The unprecedented growth of e-commerce, however, meant there was an untapped opportunity of reaching out to consumers, especially the younger, more active audience — from major markets including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.S. — who have taken an interest in combat sports.
To grow the business in the digital era, Busarabavonwong spearheaded the development of the brand’s new e-commerce site with a mobile-first interface that simplifies the purchase process to within three to four clicks.
On these improvements, he said: “We will focus on how to make our products easy to buy, and ensure speedy delivery of purchases to our customers around the world.”
In recent years, the brand’s popularity has skyrocketed, thanks to fighters from the Fairtex fight team reigning supreme in the Asian martial arts promotion ONE Championship, which garnered a record 41.9 million viewers worldwide during a live event in April this year.
Marketing efforts to elevate the brand’s international profile have also gone far beyond Asia. Fairtex sponsors the official equipment and gear for fighters in the European kickboxing league GLORY, further underscoring the need for reliability in its worldwide, on-time delivery to emerging geographical markets.
Balancing tradition and modernity
The pioneering brand in the Muay Thai scene has extended its streak of success outside the ring as well. To date, it has forged creative collaborations with international brands across different sectors, including Dutch streetwear label Patta and global logistics company DHL Express.
As part of the logistics giant’s 50th year anniversary celebrations, for instance, Fairtex worked with DHL Express Thailand to design and launch limited edition boxing gloves, with only 300 collectible pairs available for sale.
“This exclusive pair of DHL boxing gloves represents our shared conviction — a determination to bring Thai pride to the world. With our 50 years of experience in global logistics, we will continue to support brands like Fairtex to grow internationally and reach out to more consumers,” said Parichart Pramukkul, Vice President of Commercial, DHL Express Thailand.
While Busarabavonwong seeks out new measures to develop Fairtex’s business, he insists on keeping certain traditions alive, without any compromise on quality.
For example, all Fairtex products are still handmade, right down to the stuffing of foam in its signature boxing gloves and boxing bags. “Handcrafted equipment provides users with a better feeling. Our quality control department runs tests on all products to ensure the top-notch standards of our products,” added Busarabavonwong.
Like his father, Busarabavonwong too exudes quiet confidence mostly seen in martial arts fighters.
“Fairtex aims to be known worldwide as the number one global sports brand,” he said, putting any lingering doubts over the brand’s international ambitions to rest.