The Shady Weigh-In – What the Thailand Muay Thai Weigh-In Is Like

[All this below was written the day of my fight at Pattaya Boxing World in August 2014. When the fight came I performed poorly, her experience completely controlling the...

[All this below was written the day of my fight at Pattaya Boxing World in August 2014. When the fight came I performed poorly, her experience completely controlling the outcome, showing that whatever advantage I thought I had from this just evaporated in the ring. It is one thing to “win” the weigh-in, and another thing to win the fight. I ultimately learned my lesson from the first fight and killed the rematch for a stadium belt.]

I don’t have a lot of experience with cutting weight, and when I do it’s not a lot.  A couple pounds is all I ever have to drop.  While I do have my processes, I’m not practiced enough in it to know exactly how it’ll turn out and nine times out of ten I drop more weight than I need to and come in a bit low on the scale.  That’s fine, that’s what happens when I don’t cut any weight also.

For the record, Thai trainers don’t think coming in too low is “fine.”  You hit the number dead on or an ounce under, but anything below that looks like you don’t have control over your body, your fighter, whatever.  For me, I definitely want to avoid having to put on a sauna suit and skip rope or run to lose a kilo or whatever if you come in over.  It seems unprofessional to me to not hit your number – come correct, that’s all I’m saying.  But for Thailand that’s not so much how it’s seen.  Jogging around the parking lot or skipping rope a few feet away from the weigh-in area is incredibly common.  Thai boys and men strip down to their tiny, bikini underwear and sometimes even lose that to step on the scale.  How much can an inch of fabric really weigh?  But it’s all performance.  It’s part of this just inching down little by little to get to that number rather than being even a couple ounces below it.

I’ve had to weigh in only three times in Thailand.  The first time I had a trainer helping me the night before and the morning of weigh in, so I was jogging in circles in a waterproof jacket in insane heat of Isaan while the sun was going down.  I’d stop every 15 minutes to get my muscles massaged, through the sweat-suit, and then back up and moving.  Then I’d towel off, step on the scale, see that I’d hit the number and was told to go eat dinner.  You hit the number and then you just pop right back up, ready to repeat the process the next day.  It seems crazy to me, but it’s how it’s done.  The next morning I woke up and weighed myself (having not really eaten my dinner) and was on point, but when I got to the scale we both weighed in .5 kilos over.  You don’t know how scales are calibrated between the one you use and the one they use, necessarily.  So neither of us had to skip it off because we were both the exact same amount over.

The second time I was 1.5 kilos underweight and my opponent was over.  Den was pissed that I was under but waited until later that day to light me up about it.  My opponent had to go jog around outside for what seemed like 10 minutes and when she came back was miraculously on weight.  It doesn’t seem possible.  Same thing happened today.  I was exactly on weight and my opponent was 1.5 kilos over.  She put on a sauna suit and walked around the parking lotsat in a hot car, kind of bumbled around and then came back to check weight again.  I figured we’d be there forever, waiting for her to lose 1.5 kilos like this.

It was pretty sketchy.  When we first arrived there were a bunch of boys in various states of dress and sweatiness testing their weight on a scale.  Everyone hovers around, everyone wants to see the numbers for themselves.  The boys would step on – creeping on very slowly as if this affects the weight somehow – and then get off, remove their socks or something, step back on and then maybe go jump around.  Apparently this wasn’t even official weigh in; this was a pre-test.  They moved the scale over to a position in front of a pillar and then we were called onto it for the official check.  My opponent took off her running shorts and T-shirt to get on the scale, wearing spandex undershorts and a sports bra.  I’ve never seen a Thai woman weigh in like this.  Maybe it’s that it’s Pattaya and it’s less conservative than where I’ve been, but even then the promoter made a flirtatious comment about how my opponent dropping her shorts so close to him had “shocked” him (dok jai).  She was 1.5 kilos over.  She stepped off and back on.  Still 1.5 over.  They call me over and I kick off my sandals, wearing Muay Thai shorts and a tanktop I step on the scale at a normal pace and hit 47 kilos on the dot.  This scale is different from the scale I’ve been using all night, but whatever – the number is what was required.  So now my opponent grumpily puts on her sauna suit and goes and lightly jogs, never a full lap, around the parking lot.  Her father, who has been pointing at her and telling me “Baby, baby,” for 10 minutes (a typical head game tactic, trying to make me feel like I should fight moderately because she’s young or inexperienced or small or whatever) has suddenly shut up.  I smile to myself, waiting for him to say it again so I can point at myself and say, “professional.”

She bumbles around the parking lot for a while and then her father calls to her and says, por laew! (“enough already”).  There’s no way she’s even sweating yet.  She comes over and grabs her phone out of her bag and then goes and sits in their car, I assume because it’s hot in there and this is a very mild sauna.  While she’s sitting in the car another Thai guy rolls up, this one wearing shorts that read the name of her gym across the front.  He skids to a stop and kind of lets his motorbike do a half-doughnut and a plastic bag slips out of his hand while he does this and skips across the ground.  It’s a different scale.  All the kids who were weighing themselves when we rolled up are now nowhere to be seen.  In fact, for a moment the scale that we used went into the back of their van between the pre-weight check and the official weight check.  Not only is it strange that these guys brought their own scale, but to have it go into the van for a moment for no reason would make someone like me – who I don’t believe to be a very paranoid person – believe that it might have been recalibrated in that time.  Anyway, now we have a different scale because the first one is gone, although the van is still parked there.  Hmmm – so the only person who has to make weight is now going to step onto a different scale after walking around for 20 minutes.

They have this guy stand on the scale, then they grab a second digital scale and stand on that one, followed directly by the new one.  The scale they’re calibrating it against seems to have come from the men’s bathroom of the stadium itself.  Why not just use that one for everyone in the first place?  They nod their heads and remove the stadium scale, using only the one that fell off the motorbike – the one that was brought over by the trainer of the gym that my opponent is fighting out of.  Why don’t I just bring my own scale or use the honor system and say what I weigh?  So she towels off and steps back on this new scale and she’s lost nearly a kilo.  Bullshit, but okay, she still has .6 to go.  So she suits back up and one of the promoters who was a little late tells me to get on the scale.  I explain that I weighed in already and have now had water to drink, so I don’t weigh what I did before when I hit the weight without a problem.  He looks disappointed, like maybe she could not have to do more running if I don’t weigh what I already was marked down as weighing.  But then I figure I should see what this scale says compared to the other one.  I didn’t drink a lot, so I should be maybe .5 kilos above what I was before.  I take off my long pants and jacket (I’d put it back on because a monk had showed up and I was in a tanktop) and step onto the scale.  I’ve somehow lost .3 kilos after drinking water.  I laugh and point this out to the promoter who was here when I first checked and he laughs too, then starts telling the other promoter.  I joke that maybe she should just drink some of my water, since it seems to be a weight-loss miracle.  They both laugh.

Now that the trainer from the gym is here and the calibration of the scale is in question, the number of guys yelling at my opponent to actually run around the parking lot is increased.  Everybody wants to go home and this kind of plodding around in a garbage bag to get one droplet of sweat going isn’t flying anymore.  Her trainer yells for her to run 3 kilometers.  The promoter tells her to run when she walks.  Her trainer comes over to me and tells me I ought to go shower.  Yeah, right.  I tell him I’m not the one sweating and I can wait until his fighter makes weight.  He pulls a face.  One of the promoters asks me if my name is really “Weekly,” as it’s spelled on the flyer and I tell him, mai chai (“not right”) and take his pen to write my name correctly in Thai.  Both promoters balk and start freaking out that I actually do understand Thai (I’ve been pretty quiet so far) and all of a sudden all the verbal joking and intimidation tactics from my opponent’s dad completely stop.  Completely.  Now the promoter is talking to Jozef, the Slavic father of one of the young fighters at my gym who has come out to the weigh in to make sure my opponent makes weight, asking if his son can fight on the 25th.  Jozef doesn’t speak Thai at all, so I start translating and now the promoter is super happy with me, organizing weight, a photograph, whether or not the fight is for a title, all this between the promoter, Jozef and me.

Finally my opponent comes back from her jogging to towel off and weigh in again.  Her attitude is such shit.  This girl does not work hard, maybe ever.  I can see how easily she gives up when pushed, I feel confident that her will can be broken.  She’s no slouch.  She has tons of experience (far more than I do with over 100 fights) and outweighs me, but the will to quit is a serious handicap that I do not share with her.  She steps on the scale and we all gather around.  It says the same number mine said when I re-weighed after drinking water.  Good enough, let’s all go home.  Everyone cheers and we all shake hands (Thais love shaking hands with westerners) and head out.  By the time I got home my opponent probably weighed over 50 kilos again.  Making weight like this isn’t about starting from the same point; it’s not even necessarily about making the number.  In Thailand it’s a demonstration of who has power – coming in over, taking forever to come down on the off-chance that your opponent will get tired and bored and leave or just let you have extra weight, bringing your own scale, trying to intimidate your opponent… all of these things are part of weigh in and they are perhaps more important than the number on the scale.  What was brilliant for me, however, who never has the advantage on the scale, was that all the peripheral gaming that happens around the weigh in – for the promoters, gyms, gamblers, etc. – ended up working in my favor because I got to watch my opponent quit.  I got to see her weaknesses up close and personal before ever stepping into the ring with her.  And while I don’t know how the fight will go, all the disadvantages I walk into the ring with are absolutely worth having seen this.

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FightingMuay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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