I say “3 World Champions” in the title of this post, for brevity. In truth it is one standing World Champion (Tanonchanok), one person I believe would be World Champion if she were not Tanonchanok’s townmate/friend – and thus they don’t fight and she remains #1 contender for the title – (Cherry), and one multi-time World Champion (Loma). If all goes right I should be fighting these three women between February 6th and February 15th of this month. And I’m excited.
We know that anything can happen in Thailand, and probably does, so until I’m in the ring with each we won’t know for sure – I’ve had 7 fights canceled in the last month or so, some of them (including one with Loma) abruptly – but we feel about as confident as we can feel about these 3 fights going through. I’ve fought both Cherry and Thanonchanok before, and I’ve been looking at Loma for some time now. The rematches are very exciting to me because I beat Cherry once and then lost to her, and lost against Thanonchanok over a year ago – so I’m eager to see how my growth will stand up against their growth in that time. I hope be fighting 3 of the best female fighters in the world in a 10 day span. Such a beautiful opportunity to run head-first into a challenge! I’ll say that none of these fights could have developed as a plan without the support of my friends and fans through Go Fund Me, who made this kind of fantastic opportunity possible. I just could not afford this kind of travel, as Chiang Mai is a 10+ hour drive North and the fight on the 15th is near Khorat, maybe 4 hours Northeast.
Chiang Mai – a Rematch of the Two Lampang Girls
First we are going to Chiang Mai. We’ll be renting a car and in the early hours on Thursday we’ll head up to Chiang Mai, where I lived for more than 2 years and really cut my teeth with lots of fights, not only in the city but also in festival fights in the surrounding area. I did not realize it at the time, often not even knowing who I was fighting until I got to the event and even then not knowing the “rank” of my opponents while in the ring with them, but some of my opponents then really were among the best in the world. And two of those are Cherry Gor. Twin Gym and Tanonchanok Rongrian Lampang; indeed, they are the standing WPMF World Champion and the number 1 ranked challenger at Light Fly weight 108 lbs (49 kg), technically two weight classes above mine (Pin Weight). I can viscerally remember what good fighters each of them are and I am nervous and excited to get back into it with each of them, only a few days apart.
Cherry Gor. Twin Gym
I’ve fought Cherry two times before. I first beat her in a very big fight at Thaepae Stadium (9/13), on the night that was dedicated to raise funds for Kem. The win was very big development for me. I had the advantage that she just was not prepared for my unusual strengths as a clinch fighter, and I was able to control the fight to a favorable ending.
above, my six fight losing streak – you can find my complete record here
I rematched her a month and a half later (above), in what would be the middle of a 6 fight losing streak against opponents who were just too big and too skilled for me at the time. For the second meeting in the ring she came prepared for my clinch tactics and effectively countered them. I really didn’t know how to clinch (compared to now), though I still was a clinch-first fighter, winning my fights more on strength and determination. This losing streak was a real test of the upper limit of where I was at, then. It also involved the first time I’d fought Tanonchanok, right after fighting Cherry.
Cherry is an excellent fighter, and even arguably best in the world at 50 kg (Lommanee would be another that I’d nominate). We saw first hand her more or less completely dismantle the much respected Nong Em in a sizeable money fight in Chiang Mai. She took Em apart with aggression, elbows and combinations, in a surprising manner. I’m a very different fighter than Nong Em (who is a patient counter striker), and have grown a great deal in the time since we fought, finally having the clinch skills to go along with my determination. She surely has improved since I saw her, and she also has very likely gotten bigger. She probably walks around above 52 kg now. This is an challenging rematch.
Tanonchanok Rongrian Lampang (Kaewsamrit)
When I fought Tanonchanok I hadn’t a clue who she was (she is formerly Tanonchanok Kaewsamrit, I’ve heard others talk of her as Kaewsamrit’s daughter). I fought her in a festival fight in her home town up in Lampang, and Cherry, who I had just lost to, was in her corner. Both fighters are from Lampang, and in fact as they will never fight each other it is Tanonchanok who has in some ways prevented Cherry from acceding to the WPMF World Championship, a title that Tanonchanok has held since December of 2012. She was also the 100 lb champion, my weight class, back in 2010. In Lampang I was fighting a multi-time, and standing World Champion that day and had absolutely no idea of it. Only in Thailand. She brought it to me in that fight, and if I remember I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t start fighting aggressively forward until late in the fight, when I started to have an effect. I’ve really wanted to match with her again, knowing what I have to do, and see if my clinch game has grown enough to take on a champion several weight classes above mine, someone larger than Cherry.
Tanonchanok last defended her title, I believe, beating Sarah Rankin in August of 2014. I could never quite get the weight they fought it, but it seems likely that it wasn’t at the 49 kg that the title is for. It is my guess that Tanonchanok fights more comfortably at 52 kg now. So, just like in September of 2013 I’ll be fighting the Lampang women back to back, but this time it will be in the span of 3 days (it is yet to be determined which one I’ll fight on the 6th and which one on the 9th).
What is beautiful is that I won’t be the only one fighting on short rest. Cherry will be a part of a 4 woman tournament on February 3rd, and Tanonchanok will be, I believe, defending some sort of title against an opponent I do not know on February 8th. Fighting like this is exactly how I like, and is not uncommon for Thais, male and female. I simply fight better when I fight with very little rest between fights. And an added bonus is that because they have significant fights around my fights with each of these two champions, it ensures that they will have prepared and be in top condition. That means good fights.
Loma Sitjaou – Khorat, Isaan
I came close to fighting Loma once before. In a fight arranged to be my 100th overall fight through the matchmaker at Giatbundit Gym, in late December we drove up to Phutthaisong days before and prepared to fight the woman who by most accounts is the best active fighter at my weight (45 kg) in Thailand – Yodying, who has never beaten Loma, but has beaten the standing WPMF World Champion Little Tiger is another. Loma is a multiple time champion, and it was with great enthusiasm that I anticipated the challenge. The night of the fight drove out to the venue, and assembled outside the gate, only for me to learn that I wasn’t on the card at all and that Loma had canceled 3 days before due to recent engagements as a member of the Thai National team. I was told that a replacement opponent may be/was coming, but nobody was there as the fights were starting and having an unknown, probably not high-caliber opponent as a last-minute replacement was more than disappointing. It was an important fight for me and we’d taken pains to confirm that it was against Loma; the matchmaker had known for three days already that she wasn’t going to be there and hadn’t communicated this to me (or to anyone) and it felt like both a betrayal of trust and indicative of lack of control over finding me opponents. So we canceled whatever replacement fight may have been in the works only hours before I expected to go into the ring, and sadly this closed my relationship with Giatbundit Gym, someone I really enjoyed fighting with. We drove home very disappointed and with the feeling that I was never going to be able to fight Loma.
I then asked every contact I had, in Isaan, Bangkok and Pattaya to help me find a fight with Loma, but it seemed to get no headway. Sangwean O. Meekhun even told me that she was rumored to be up near 55 kg, and therefore he was unwilling to ask for the fight himself. (I fight opponents that big, but having a combination of World Champion and 7 kg weight advantage isn’t something my trainers go for.) That turned out to be determinately false. In fact, after I beat Muangsingjiew for a 2nd time in January, I walked into Petchrungruang Gym and was told by Kru Nu that I had a fight scheduled with a huge side bet. He reached into his memory for the opponent’s name and when he pulled out “Loma,” much to my surprise, I was elated. With such a big side-bet there will be a weigh in, so the 55 kg rumor issue is null. It’s still a very big challenge for me, but when I excitedly told Kru Nu and the two men who helped arrange the fight that I enthusiastically want to fight Loma, they all grinned.
Returning to Chiang Mai
While Petchrungruang was trying to gradually build me for this big Loma fight, in the usual method, I asked Kru Nu to find me at least one fight in early February to keep me fresh. I simply fight better when I fight more often and with a big money fight on the line I wanted to keep sharp. With the fight schedule as-was, there would have been three weeks between my last fight against Muangsingjiew and my big fight against Loma. That’s simply too long for me. I told Pi Nu: if you want me to fight best, get me a fight. It was looking bleak in the local match ups (there really aren’t many women my size in/near Pattaya), so I turned to my friends Pi Den and Pi Daeng of my old gym Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai. I asked them to try and book me 2 fights close together, ideally with top fighters. It is just so expensive to drive up, and so many hours in the car (10-12), we hoped to get two significant fights against opponents I had lost to. My wish list included Cherry, Tanonchanok, Sudsiam, Nong Em, Baifern and Saomuangpai (formerly Nong Mai), all fighters I had lost to. But what I really hoped for was Cherry and Tanonchanok and I flipped a lid when Daeng said over the phone that both fighters were confirmed. We’ll see if my dream match ups hold up when we arrive – anything can happen in Thailand -, but I’m VERY thankful to both Den and Daeng for helping to make this possible.
I’ve often said that in Thailand I’m in fight heaven. Not only have I been able to fight 30 times a year against opponents that regularly test me and force me to grow as a fighter and a person, but there are also these kinds of opportunities which are just remarkable. Fighting even one of these women could for a western fighter like myself be a crowning type moment in a fight career. I certainly would have felt so for myself. But now I get to fight all 3 of them in 10 days time. I count myself as blessed and owe it to the opportunity and challenge to meet it full-on.
And if all goes well, and indeed I am able to get through these fights unscathed, I am set to be fighting on February 20th again in Khon Kaen against a high-profile gym opponent, and then back in Bangkok on the 22nd, against Namdtaan’s gym. Thank you so much to my Go Fund Me supporters who have helped make this dream possible, through the covering of my expenses of travel, as I get ever closer to 100 fights in Thailand. (If all these fights go through in February, my fight on the 22nd will be #99 in Thailand, #108 overall!). I’ll keep you updated.