Drop everything else! There's an injustice to right! There's a
cause to champion!
A transvestite kickboxer is being stripped of his dignity!
Injustice No. 1: The bra thing.
Sure, 18-year-old Pirinya Kiatbusaba, who is known as Nong
(Va-Voom) Toom and has won all but three of his more than 30
fights, was permitted to wear lipstick and eyeliner and pink
nail polish. And mascara. And shiny yellow hot pants. But Toom
is planning to have a sex-change operation, and the female
hormone injections are kicking in. He's beginning to get some,
well, sizable breasts. So, for his recent fight in Tokyo, he
petitioned Japanese kickboxing officials to wear a bra during
the bout. And they balked!
True, they finally let him wear a sports bra under his short
tank top, but all the hassle was just plain upsetting, you know?
It's no wonder he lost the match on a decision. At the postfight
press conference, Toom, clutching a stuffed puppy, told how
every time he got hit in the breasts, he lost his breath. Plus,
his opponent made fun of them and said they felt "mushy" to the
punch. That's so disrespectful. They're only half the size of
Yeah, you think it's funny fighting this kid until he hits you.
He may look like Vickie LaMotta, but he punches like Jake. True,
Toom comes to the ring all dressed up--"I must look beautiful in
the ring," he says--and it gets a little weird when he does his
seven-minute version of the traditional prefight dance to
appease the spirits of the ring. Wearing garlands of purple
orchids, white jasmine and marigolds, Toom prances, pirouettes,
twirls his gloves, raises his legs and, for the finale, does a
split as he mimes putting on his makeup. (Extending one glove as
if he were holding a compact, he feigns powdering his face with
the other.) You don't think, back in the dressing room, Liston
was doing that?
One time the spirits-appeasing dance made Toom's opponent so mad
that when the referee asked them to shake hands, the opponent
planted a wet kiss on Toom's cheek. Toom then planted about 18
kicks on the guy's face on his way to winning the bout
easily--and gave him a wet kiss afterward. The poor guy looked
as if he'd had the crap kicked out of him by the local Mary Kay
distributor. (I'm thinking that if by some weird chance you ever
end up dating Toom, breaking up is going to get ugly.)
Injustice No. 2: The weigh-in thing.
Sometimes kickboxing officials ask Toom to weigh in naked, like
all the other fighters do. But Toom isn't like all the other
fighters. In his Bangkok debut 16 months ago he took a terrified
look around, saw all the cameramen and photographers, turned his
back to them, put one hand on his hip, the other on the bridge
of his nose and began to cry. Finally, he was allowed to weigh
in wearing his drawers.
By the way, until he turns 20 and saves enough money for his
sex-change operation, the equipment is very real. So is the
body: broad-shouldered, slim-waisted and ripped like an Olympic
swimmer's, only with B cups.
Why persecute the man? Do we pick on boxers who skip rope, covet
each other's jeweled belts and slow dance on pay-per-view?
Injustice No. 3: His own country may soon ban him!
After the operation Toom will be fighting as a woman, only he'll
still take on men. But instead of seeing this as the greatest
leap forward in the equality of the sexes since Sable, the Thai
kickboxing community will rally against him. In Thailand women
aren't even allowed in the same ring the men use, as it angers
the spirits. Yeah, right. They're not afraid of the spirits.
They're afraid of the Maybelline Mauler!
It's enough to wilt a guy's perm. Poor Toom doesn't know what
he's going to do. He's not having much luck getting hired as a
luk thung (Thai-style country music) singer, although he's got a
CD out. Yes, where's your transvestite kickboxer Thai country
music section? Japanese filmmakers are also looking at him
possibly to star in gangster movies. But is that realistic? I
coulda been a contenda, Cholly. I coulda been somebody. Do my
thighs look fat?
No, what we need is an American boxing honcho, like, say, Don
King or Bob Arum, to bring Nong (Va-Voom) Toom over here to
fight. After all, he smells nice in the clinch and can save a
promoter some real money.
Not only can Toom fight, but he also makes a wonderful
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Yeah, the transvestite Thai kickboxer may look like Vickie
LaMotta, but he punches like Jake.