ONE shot can change a career, or a life, or even end a life. Chatchai Sasakul knows all this better than most.

He has landed thousands of shots, yet his career is arguably defined by one he took, delivered by Manny Pacquiao, in a fight he was comfortably winning.

Eight years later, one shot from his fist ended a man’s life, and extinguished what little enthusiasm he had left for boxing. And long before all this, it was one shot – this time from a gun – that claimed another life and, in doing so, set Chatchai on a path that would lead to the championship of the world.

It was this flyweight crown he surrendered to Pacquiao in December 1998 after a 13-month reign. Pacquaio, just 19, won his first world title that afternoon in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, and would go on to have one of the most storied careers in all of sports. Chatchai spent the following decade boxing in obscurity, only emerging at 38 and utterly spent, to be brutally thrashed by Cristian Mijares.

At that time Pacquaio was preparing to fight Oscar De La Hoya. He’d already collected more titles, main-evented PPVs in America, and duelled with legends, and would go on to even greater heights still. But one can’t help wonder if any of that would have happened if not for the one fateful shot he landed against Chatchai, and if perhaps it might have been the Thai who instead went on to such bright lights.

For most, the what-ifs would be agonising, but Chatchai doesn’t dwell on them, as he makes a surprising admission for a man who’s reached the highest levels of his sport: “I don’t like fighting.”

And yet, he’s spent 49 of his 53 years involved in it. “My father took me to train in muay Thai after we moved from the countryside to Khlong Toey [a Bangkok slum] when I was four,” he says. “My first time in the ring, I was about seven or eight. I fought because my father liked muay Thai. I didn’t like fighting, but he never had a fight; that’s why he made me do it.

“He’d wake me up at 4am; I’d train and then go to school, and then train again after school, every day. Other kids didn’t do this. They could sleep until 7 or 8am, they could play, do what they wanted to do. But it’s an Asian family thing – if they want you to do something, you have to do it.”

Just as well young Chatchai was good at it, even if he didn’t like it. “I did muay Thai for a long time,” he says. “More than 150 fights. I fought with the best of that time and won some regional championships, then I changed to amateur boxing at age 15.”

This switch came when the Sasakul family moved to a better part of Bangkok and Chatchai started at a school which had an amateur boxing programme. He was backed by another fight-mad father figure, Klaew Thanikul, a notorious crime boss whose fortune came from casinos, prostitution, drug deals, protection rackets – and boxing.

Like so many gangsters, Klaew was drawn to the fight game. In the mid to late 1980s he was Thailand’s foremost promoter of both muay Thai and western boxing, and was president of its Amateur Boxing Association.

While the latter wouldn’t have offered as many opportunities for nefarious activities, Klaew dreamed of a bit of history for his country – a first Olympic gold medal in boxing. He saw potential for this in the teenage Chatchai.

“I won the amateur championship of Thailand [in 1985] in just three months, aged 15,” he says. “Klaew said he didn’t want me to go back to muay Thai, so he paid all my expenses.

“Yes, Klaew was mafia, but he was like Robin Hood – he gave everything to amateur boxing. The SAT [Sports Authority of Thailand, the state-run governing body for amateur sports] wasn’t giving us anything, but Klaew paid for many things. Everything was perfect at that time. Thanks to him, I could do my best, just fight and enjoy life.

“I went to the SEA Games [winning gold in 1987 and 1989], Asian Games [silver in 1990] and Olympics. I got to the [Seoul 1988] quarter-final and lost a split decision [to Hungary’s Robert Isaszegi]. Klaew wanted me to go to the Olympics again, but he got shot. After he died, everything changed.”

Klaew was assassinated in April 1991; a vehicle forcing his off a highway outside Bangkok, followed by a gunman fatally shooting him in the back as he emerged. Neither his killers nor their motive were ever identified, but Klaew’s career was one built on making enemies. There had been two previous attempts on his life, with grenades lobbed at him at shows he was promoting. Both times, Klaew emerged unscathed but several bystanders were killed.

Klaew’s murder was one shot that ended one life and changed another. Deprived of the income he required to continue chasing the Olympic dream, the now 21-year-old Chatchai entered the pro ranks ahead of schedule, turning over in August 1991 with Petchyindee Promotions.

He was matched in a 10-rounder in his third pro bout, and won a minor belt in his fourth. In his ninth contest he clearly beat world-ranked Alexander Makhmutov, followed by a rout of ex-WBC titleholder Rolando Pascua in his 10th.

Come September 1995, Chatchai was in Tokyo for his first world title challenge, against Japan-based Russian Yuri Arbachakov, the WBC and linear flyweight ruler. Arbachakov was three years and six defences into his reign and proved just a bit too seasoned for a challenger who, despite his Olympic pedigree and 20-0 pro record, lacked the smarts required to unseat the highly skilled champion. But it was a learning experience for Chatchai, who improved enough to win their rematch a little over two years later.

“Everything was new for me and my team; we’d never done anything like this before,” says Chatchai of the first Arbachakov bout. “We’d never fought for a WBC belt or in such a big fight. We were very excited – too excited. I over-trained; three months, very hard. [In the fight] I knew what I wanted to do, but I could not do it. I was too stressed.

“For the rematch [in November 1997], I had experience. I trained smart, not hard. I trained for six weeks, not three months. I felt good, not tired, not too stressed. I knew this time I would he champion.”

Having dropped a unanimous decision the first time, Chatchai won a UD of his own in the rematch, by wider margins, with a busy, versatile box-punching display at times dazzling a champion known for technical excellence.

“About 60 people came [from Thailand to Sapporo] to watch the fight, so after I won, I took them all for yakiniku [Japanese barbecue]. We ate a lot!”

Upon returning to Bangkok, Chatchai burned off the calories by making good on a pre-fight promise. “I’d prayed in front of the statue of King Rama V and told him that if I win, I will run from the airport back to him. After I got off the plane, the first thing I did was run all the way there [about 12.5 miles] to say thank you.”

Beating Arbachakov was one of the best wins ever scored by a Thai, but he found, like so many before and since, that holding on to a championship can be more difficult than winning one, once the hunger that drives a fighter to a title is replaced by complacency.

While he still had enough to repel two routine challengers, Chatchai found this change in mindset was a dangerous one to carry into a fight with Manny Pacquaio – even a Pacquaio who at the time was little known.

“Many things had come my way – money, fame, everything,” he says of his time as champion. “Many problems, too. But I didn’t think he was different to anyone else. I was not training hard, about one month. For four rounds, it was easy, but after four rounds passed, I had no more energy.”

Indeed, through the opening third of the contest, and even for a couple of rounds after what Chatchai identified as the turning point, he boxed and moved, his jab rarely missed and his combinations were thrown with impeccable timing. Pacquaio was easy to hit and often left swiping at shadows.

By the middle rounds, Chatchai still looked to be winning, but he was gradually slowing. As the eighth round neared its end, Chatchai lingered just a little too long in a neutral corner – long enough for Pacquiao to laser in with his trademark southpaw straight left to send the Thai ricocheting off the ropes and down on to his face for the 10 count.

“I had no more,” says Chatchai. “I saw the punch, but couldn’t move. He hit me and everything shut down. I woke up in the dressing room.”

It was one shot that changed two lives and careers. Chatchai would never recover from the defeat, while Pacquaio went on to vast fame and riches.

But Chatchai is pragmatic. “I don’t regret it,” he says. “I’d made history already, so I could handle it. I don’t think my life would have been different if I’d won. I’d have carried on doing everything the same way and somebody else would have beaten me. I wasn’t really thinking about boxing anymore, it was just a job.”

He’d keep that job for another decade, but worked without passion. It was simply a means to make money and maintain his WBC ranking. When the call finally came, nearly 10 years and more than 30 bouts on from Pacquiao, to once again challenge for world honours, it was far too late.

Cristian Mijares was bigger, taller, 11 years younger, a two-belt super-flyweight titleholder, in his prime and fighting on home turf in Mexico, the other side of the world from Thailand, and a difficult journey reduced Chatchai’s already negligible chances to nigh-on impossible.

“I flew from Thailand to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong had a typhoon and I couldn’t go on,” he says. “I waited in the airport for two days and then had to fly back to Thailand and change flights. Now I had to go from Bangkok to Frankfurt, then to Mexico, then change flights in Mexico to get to the fight [in Monterrey]. I arrived the day before the weigh-in, then the next day was the fight.

“I fell asleep when I was getting my hands wrapped – that’s how jetlagged I was. I don’t remember anything about the fight except feeling dizzy.”

He was slow, flat-footed, ungainly and his punch resistance was shot. Mijares breezed to victory in three rounds, and Chatchai announced his retirement, on August 30, 2008, at 63-4-1 (38).

Naturally, age had stripped Chatchai of much of his physical prowess, while the events of 17 months prior had removed any last vestiges of enthusiasm – for that was when Chatchai killed a man with one shot in a boxing ring.

Journeyman Lito Sisnorio was clearly a mismatch for Chatchai, but an unfair fight is hardly unusual in this sport. Greater controversy lay in the fact Sisnorio was, at the time of the fight, unlicensed in his native Philippines. The Philippines Games and Amusement Board, which sanctions professional boxing there, also requires overseas promoters to secure their permission for their nationals to compete abroad – something Petchyindee Promotions evidently failed to do.

“I knocked Lito down, but he was sat on the ropes and the referee didn’t say stop, so I hit him with one more, really strong right hand,” says Chatchai.

“I talked to him later and he said he had a headache. After that, I went home and at 9pm my team called to say Lito had gone to hospital for brain surgery. Two hours after that, he died. I cried all night, asking ‘why, why, why?’ I didn’t mean to kill him.”

Again, one shot that ended a man’s life and, again, one that changed another man’s career.

“After that, my boxing changed,” says Chatchai. “I stopped trying.”

And so, you’d think, after going through the most harrowing event a boxer could face, followed by that ignominious defeat against Mijares, Chatchai would have been done with a sport he claims to have not even liked.

First, he opened a restaurant. Then, he tried his hand at a new sport, opening a snooker club and playing professionally. But boxing pulled him back in when Virat Vachirarattanawong, the owner of Petchyindee Promotions, offered him a job,

“Virat called me and asked ‘do you want to take care of my boys?’, because he was looking for someone with a more international style. I said okay, and went to train Pongsaklek [Wonjongkam] for Edgar Sosa [in October 2011], and Kompayak [Porpramook].”

Chatchai coached world flyweight champion Pongsaklek to one of his career-best victories against Sosa, followed two months later by Kompayak lifting the WBC light-fly belt. He continued to work with Petchyindee fighters until opening his own Sasakul Boxing Gym in 2014. In addition to Pongsaklek and Kompayak, his star client list past and present includes the likes of Knockout CP Freshmart, Panya Pradabsiri, Petch Sor Chitpattana and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep.

“I’ve started to like boxing,” says Chatchai. “No, I love it. I didn’t like fighting, but I love teaching. When I get a champion, I feel good.

“To succeed in boxing, you have to love it. If I’d loved it, I could have been the best in the world.”

For 13 months, and for seven rounds against Pacquaio, he actually was. One shot does not change that.