Welcome back to Lethwei’s best, a series where we look in-depth at the best bouts in the history of the ancient sport. Today we look at Tun Tun Min vs. Cyrus Washington 2, which is perhaps the best fight to show somebody unfamiliar with the sport, as every technique is on full display for the entire duration of the contest. The fight took place on April 11, 2015, at Thuwunna National Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, under traditional Lethwei rules.
Cyrus Washington came into the bout with heaps of momentum, having captured the Air KBZ title in December 2014. Not only did he cause an upset at the event, but he also beat Tun Tun Min in what is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in recent times. The American was an accomplished Muay Thai fighter who had a vast experience of hand-to-hand combat; however, he was still the underdog heading into his 2015 rematch with Min.
Tun Tun Min may well be the most popular Lethwei fighter of the modern era. At the age of 23, the Burmese athlete had already compiled quite the track record, capturing the Openweight title in 2014 as well as the Dagon Shwe Aung Lan Special Award trophy in 2013. To top this off, he walked into his April 11 rematch with a record of 22 wins, 2 losses, and 12 draws – an unbelievable record considering the level of competition the young champion had faced.
Despite both men’s achievements, this fight was going to inflict more punishment on them than ever before.
Tun Tun Min vs. Cyrus Washington 2
Tun Tun Min and Cyrus Washington have a long and drawn out history with each other.
In December of 2014, Washington defeated Min via third-round knockout, handing the young fighter his second career loss and seizing the inaugural Air KBZ title. Just months later, a rematch was scheduled, and it would prove to be more exhilarating than their first meeting.
In the video attached, one can identify Tun Tun Min as the fighter in red shorts, while his opponent, Cyrus Washington, sported the color blue; both men wore white and red tape.
The bell rung, signaling the start of the first round. As both fighters walked towards one another, they showed mutual respect and took to their individual stances. Tun Tun Min started the opening round with ruthless leg kicks, firing three at his opponent, all of which landed flush. The two exchanged kicks before Min landed a 1-2, prompting Washington to cover up. The crowd erupted at the sight of their national hero landing on the chin of the foreigner. After a brief clinch, both men go back to exchanging, and Min falls to the floor after attempting to land a body kick. A tenacious Washington signaled for his opponent to get up – after all, fighting is what they were here to do.
The Burmese champion marched forward with an uppercut, forcing the American into the ropes. Min followed this up with a wild overhand left and stiff uppercut, opting to finish the combination with a headbutt. The crowd in the Thuwunna National Indoor Stadium grew louder, as Tun Tun Min was undoubtedly getting the better of his adversary. Immediately after the referee allowed the action to continue after a lackluster clinch, the 23-year-old hurled a head kick into the guard of his opponent, rattling him and causing a slight wobble. The youngest ever golden belt winner, like a lion stalking its prey, followed Washington into the corner, unleashing a wild barrage of strikes.
A short while later, Min connected with an elbow, sending his opponent falling through to ropes and into the spectators, all of whom enjoying every second of the bout. As Washington climbed back into the ring, the crowd let out a roar: they appreciated the performance both individuals were putting on. A cut on the forehead of the American is seen pouring blood, but the Phuket Top Team fighter pays no attention to it and continues to throw a series of punches. As the round comes to a close, it is evident that Tun Tun Min has been getting the better of his opponent.
As the second round begins, Tun Tun Min resorts back to piling on the pressure. He once again takes the center of the ring and starts attacking his opponent, leading him to take cover. Washington is not fazed by his rival’s approach and counters a powerful right hand with a strong leg kick, making Min crash to the mat. When the action returned to the feet, both warriors threw multiple feints at one another to trick the other into initiating: it was Cyrus Washington who threw first, aiming to land a wheel kick. However, his offense was unable to land, and he was countered with a kick to the body. Both men continued to throw heat, and it became clear that it was only a matter of time before one plummeted towards the ground.
Tun Tun Min threw a short yet solid right hand, dropping his opponent. On further inspection, it wasn’t the punch that dropped Washington, but a headbutt that he ate moments prior. As the foreigner rose to his feet, the spectators grew increasingly louder, obviously proud at the striking clinic their country’s own was displaying. Min had found his rhythm – his persistent and precise striking was looking all too much for the American, who had now been dropped twice. Just as Min walked forward in a bid to continue his assault, he was met with a wicked spinning elbow, knocking him out cold.
Not only did Cyrus Washington silence the Burmese champion, but the crowd, who were no longer cheering. Min’s team rushed inside the ring, ushering him awake while carrying his lifeless to the corner. As he regained consciousness during his timeout, one thing became palpable – this contest was far from over. The stadium erupted as Tun Tun Min got back to his fight, indicating that he was ready to return to competition.
If you have never watched Lethwei before, the sight of a recently unconscious human being returning to combat just moments later is baffling; however, it is a standard part of the sport and fully legal in the rulebook. The second round was rounded off with Washington sweeping his rival to the floor; momentum seemed to be shifting in his favor.
When the bell beckoning the beginning of the third round sounded, Tun Tun Min picked up right where he left off before being knocked unconscious, delivering a combination of punches and headbutts to his opponents face. As the American gained control of the ring, he dropped the Myanmar national with a spinning kick to the body. Washington looked as if he was having fun, throwing another spinning shot as well as an axe kick. His success would be short-lived, as he was mercilessly countered with a kick. Min began to tee off on his opponent; he was able to do this through his effective use of the right uppercut, which caused Washington to retreat to the corner a multitude of times. Throughout the time he backed his opponent into the corner, the 23-year-old was able to unleash whatever strike he wished, with his go-to attack being a headbutt.
Regardless of it being the fourth round, both men continued to up the pace, rapidly exchanging leg kicks as if their lives depended on it. Tun Tun Min was still in full control of the ring, allowing him to walk his opponent down and land large amounts of damage at will. The Burmese fighter caught a body kick, opting to push his opponent into the ropes and onto the ground, just as the bell signaled the end of the fourth round.
Both warriors started the fifth and final round ferociously, punishing each other with accurate and deadly kicks. Washington marched towards his counterpart but was subsequently dropped by what seemed to be an eye poke. He once again got back to his feet, but not for long – Tun Tun Min had other plans. With just minutes left in the fight, Min dropped Washington with an elbow, and the American’s corner threw in the towel. Tun Tun Min had won via fifth-round knockout and gotten his highly sought after vengeance.
After the fight was over, it became apparent that Washington attempted to call for a timeout. Nonetheless, the official rules state that you cannot use one in the final round; due to this confusion, Cyrus Washington’s team decided to throw in the towel.
Tun Tun Min was able to defeat Cyrus Washington through his effective use and timing of the right uppercut, which often landed cleanly on the chin. After landing, Min would initiate the clinch and follow up with savage headbutts and elbows, which would take a toll on anybody. Along with the uppercut, Min controlled the center of the ring, which allowed him to pick shots and walk his opponent down. Overall, he received less punishment than Washington.
This wasn’t the end of the road for Tun Tun Min and Cyrus Washington, as the two met for the third and final time in a grudge match eight months later. Stay tuned for the breakdown of their final fight.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.