Lethwei athlete So Mi Ong’s quest to find his father

It was 31 January in Thein Phyu Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar. The world’s biggest bare-knuckle organization, World Lethwei Championship, was holding its 11th event, WLC: Battlebones. A diminutive individual captivated the hearts and minds of fans all over the world that night. Standing 158 centimeters tall, So Mi Ong would be unrecognizable in a crowd, but inside the ring, he is arguably one of the world’s best fighters at 54kg.

As the sold-out 5,000 capacity crowd cheered after he knocked out his opponent, So Mi Ong looked around the audience, hoping to find a clue that would lead him on his quest. As he celebrates in the ring, he remembers why he finally came back to his home country and signed with World Lethwei Championship. That quest: to find his father.

His parents were originally from Myanmar but So Mi Ong was born and grew up in Thailand. At 11 years old, his parents split and his father returned to Myanmar and he has not seen his father since. He was a veteran of the Muay Thai circuit in Thailand but has now set his sights on lethwei. By signing with World Lethwei Championship, the world’s most popular lethwei organization based in Yangon, Myanmar, So Mi Ong hopes his fame will translate to him reuniting with his father.

“One of the reasons I decided to join World Lethwei Championship is that this is the biggest and most popular Lethwei organization in the world. I hope that with the popularity maybe my father will notice. I am happy that my debut went well and I am on track to become champion as well.”

The fight in January was the first time he officially competed in lethwei in Myanmar, and his first return to Myanmar in more than a decade. After the victory, he asked his close friends from Myanmar to help to post his siblings’ and father’s photo on social media. He then went back to Thailand to train, hoping to hear some news. Two weeks later, one of his friends got in touch. He knows where So Mi Ong’s father lives. So Mi Ong started planning the reunion. He wanted his father to watch him fight and to show his father the career he made for himself. Unfortunately, the current pandemic derailed those plans physically but he is still committed to seeing this through.

He explained “I have come this far I will not give up on meeting my father. We have gotten in touch once on the phone. He lives in a province and I plan to go and visit him the next time I go to Myanmar to compete for World Lethwei Championship. It will be the first time I see him in 13 years. I plan to become World Lethwei Champion and bring the belt home to show him.”

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