Sport on TV: Thailand's not-so-sweet science leaves sour taste

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The Independent Online

Last year, four Plymouth women were in court for goading two toddlers into fighting each other. They were given 12-month suspended jail sentences. Quite why the hideous parents in Cutting Edge: Strictly Baby Fight Club (Channel 4, Thursday) haven't been charged with child cruelty I'm not quite sure.

In a parade of tattoos and shaven heads – and that's just the mums – the words "chav scum" came forcefully to mind as they put their kids through the rigours of kick-boxing. The opening shots were almost too much for this faint-hearted reviewer as Mia was cajoled into the ring by her father for her first fight. She was sobbing her heart out. She was five years old.

Another of them, Thai (geddit?) is a veteran by comparison. He had his first bout at two and a half, and he's been beaten three times – in 60 fights. He's 10. His mother, a former champion, says proudly: "I fought someone – I won't tell you her name – and I actually enjoyed splattering her nose all over her face."

Thai runs 15 kilometres and spars for 10 hours a week, and is taken to train and fight in Bangkok every year because there you're allowed to punch, knee and elbow the face and head (banned under our wussy rules, which seem for some bizarre reason to be designed to prevent excessive injuries).

For Sohan, nine, fighting is therapy. He's suffered all his life from eczema – "once I got out of the bath and the water was all blood" – and he has a lot of anger inside. His father has less altruistic motivations. "I've never had the opportunity to be a superstar," he says. "My son has. Sohan's living the life I should have lived."

The climax to the film sees Thai fight Conor, nine, at a Cage Brawl night in front of a thousand-strong crowd. "I don't mind getting hurt," Thai says. "You recover from it."

He's asked about time off. "Sometimes I think I'm doing too much, and then I say, 'can I have a day off?' And they say, 'no – you've got to do some more training.'" Conor's mum, meanwhile, signs the waiver which means she can't sue the promoters if her son dies.

The fighting, to be fair, isn't brutal. But the parents are. As Thai is outfought by Conor the underdog, his parents are furious. "Stop doing them shitty little trip-kicks!" his mum bellows. Conor takes a split decision, and sees a bright future.

"I want two Bentleys and a massive house worth £10m and a massive tent for my dogs. My house is going to be so big it'll be difficult to keep it tidy. I'm going to buy my mum stuff and my dad stuff – I'm going to buy everything for everybody."

It sounds sweet. But after an hour of watching kids punch each other's lights out, it left a sour taste.

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