I’m going to spoil the end of the story before I tell it. Undersized, “unknown” female fighter beats two World Champion level fighters in a 4 woman tournament seemingly out of nowhere. And she looked wonderful! Watch these fights, both of them are great fights from everyone involved.
When I saw the poster online for this past Sunday’s 4-woman tournament in Phuket’s Bangla Stadium, there was only one woman on the poster who I didn’t recognize: Michela Galli from Italy. The tournament was with Sophia “Cocopuff” Torkos (Canada) who fights in the North of Thailand and twice recently fought for a WPMF World Title; Nung Ning Sitsongpeenong (Thai), who is a well-established and very experienced fighter in Phuket, often facing larger opponents, and who was coming off a big win versus World Champion Teresa Wintermyr; and Farida Okiko (Germany) from V.Hemtanon Gym, a two-time world champion and highly-esteemed fighter with lots of experience in Thailand. While this wasn’t a formal tournament with weigh-ins, it’s still a collection of very good, top fighters and I was interested to see how it panned out.
So who is Michela? She’s an Italian fighter, who arrived at Sutai Muay Thai in Phuket in December of 2015 set on training with Suthai female fighter Marcela Soto for 6 months and has spent the past 5 months training and fighting out of that gym (4 times since arriving on the island, twice against fellow tournament competitor Nung Ning, to a 1-1 result). She has thrived so much since her arrival she’s been offered to become a sponsored fighter. In terms of experience while it is significant for a western fighter, it is very light compared to her competitors in this tournament. She’s 28 years old, and began training Muay Thai in 2010, but not seriously. She visited Pattaya for a month in 2o11 and had 2 fights in Thailand prior to her current trip (total Thailand experience 3-3), has a handful of pro fights in Italy (maybe 4), a few amateur fights (~5), making her total fight experience around 15 fights over a few years. Again, that’s significant for a western female fighter but it’s by far the least of the 4 women in the tournament. And her trainer at Sutai tells me that Michela walks around at about 53 kg, which made her smaller than both fighters she would face in the tournament as well. Weight isn’t everything, but it is something, especially when giving up ring experience. The tournament was stacked against her.
I watched the two videos of Michela’s fights (below), first against Cocopuff and the final against Farida, and I’m super impressed by her! Her style is definitely difficult because she can come forward with aggression that’s at once controlled and very persistent. She doesn’t let her opponent breathe and take breaks by going backwards without her following right on top of them, and, while she is a very strong with her hands and handles pressure amazingly well, given her experience, what’s really impressive is her clinch, which is something she’s begun training in earnest only since arriving in Thailand in December. As I often talk about, clinch is the big equalizer, and hers is effective. She keeps her hips in, she changes position, she walks her opponent once engaged, she shows energy, and she throws these very wide, very visible “chicken-wing” knees that score well and can tired an opponent out, and she can clinch against taller opponents, which can be very difficult. What she was doing was working against her two opponents who absolutely know how to control and score in fights. These are very good fighters.
What’s so inspiring about Michela’s performance is that she was up against disadvantages, in both size and experience, but she was focused in what she chose to do and remained composed and relentless. Michela’s trainer at Sutai, Mau, tells me that everyone in the tournament got 4 days’ notice for the fights, which means that none of the fighters had time to “prepare” for any of the other opponents and basically came in “as is,” fitness-wise. That’s important because a lot of us assume that facing top-level opposition requires a lot of preparation, studying tape, getting ourselves “ready.” But this is the thing: you can fight and win against opponents with more experience or with size on you. These fights are inspiring because anything can happen in a fight. What’s so beautiful about Thailand is that the fight itself ascends, because you can get into the ring with somebody who is a world champion – and you don’t even know who they are – so you don’t get psyched up, you just get in and fight. Michela didn’t know any of these fighters. Where else in the world can you get in the ring with a world champion and you don’t even know it? It’s just a fight; you just go in and fight.
Round 1 of the Tournament – Cocopuff Santai vs Michela (Galli) Sutai Muay Thai
Round 2 Finale of the Tournament – Farida Okiko vs Michela (Galli) Sutai Muay Thai
Sutai Muay Thai Gym
Below, a Google Map of where Sutai Muay Thai is located in Phuket, you can contact them easily on Facebook: Sutai Muay Thai – Thailand Facebook