On the 14th of November, 2016, the much-anticipated and highly-negotiated Female Fight of the Year (maybe many years) is taking place at Thepprasit Stadium in Pattaya, not far from where I live. And I’ll definitely be there to film it and Live Stream it on Facebook. The phenom “girl who fights the boys,” Phetjee Jaa O. Meekhun will be facing off against multi-time Gold Medalist Loma Lookboonmee at 45 kg and for a 100,000 Baht side bet ($2,800 USD). It’s a big deal. Negotiations for this fight have been ongoing for more than a year.
On paper this is a fantastic match up. Phetjee Jaa has recently won a WMC world title at 45 kg (video at bottom) and is best known for fighting against boys on televised shows at Aswindum Stadium just outside of Bangkok, and her pristine technique and clinch. Loma has been a top-tier Thai fighter for years and, indeed, tops my list of the best female fighters under 48 kg in the world. She fights for the Thai National Team and has won gold medals in nearly every event (with the exception of some dubious judging, imo) over the past 2-3 years. Arjan Surat, who coaches the Thai National Team out of Dejrat Gym, noted both fighters as being undefeatable at their own weights. He said this to me at a time when the concept of the two fighting each other wasn’t in discussion (openly) yet, so it would be interesting to hear his take on this upcoming fight.
For many of us coming from the West, Phetjee Jaa appears to be one of a kind. And, quite frankly, she is considered by many in Thailand to be the best female fighter. I’ve put Jee Jaa as #4 on my list of top fighters due to her having not yet been tested against the very best fighters. Part of this was that she was smaller than those fighters and giving up weight and fighting the best is not necessarily an enticing deal for her, but she’s also something of a protected fighter under her father’s management. Most of that is to due to money, which is understandable, as they try to cash in on her incredible fight name, and is just now reaching a weight where she can test herself against top girls. So she’s had mixed opposition (including a loss in Japan against a much bigger opponent, and controversial loss to Puengsiam out of Surat Thani). This is, for me, her first very high echelon fighter in the years since she’s been banned from fighting boys. Loma, too, has not fought the very best of Thailand in years. She is facing very good fighters when she hits the international world championship circuit, but the best fighters internationally do not necessarily pose the same challenge as the best fighters who have grown up fighting in full-rules Muay Thai. Phetjee Jaa is a big challenge for Loma.
above, Loma maybe 10 years old fighting for 100,000 baht side bet ($2,800 USD)
It’s important to understand that Loma was Phetjee Jaa in the sense that she grew up training with the boys in her camp and, indeed, she fought against boys in the provinces many times. Top female fighters who are now just entering into their 20’s (like Loma, Sawsing, et al.) also grew up fighting against boys and enjoyed a kind of celebrity in their rise as young fighters – but we don’t know this because we in the West missed it, as it was local news. We know Phetjee Jaa because she stands out as the only little girl to fight against little boys on television, because Khun Pinsinchai who runs Aswindum stadium is forward-thinking. He made explicit the history of these rising star young girls competing against boys in the provinces. He put it on TV and that’s what was banned when Phetjee Jaa was prohibited on live TV from fighting against boys anymore. But, this is still going on in the provinces; the rule, like many of the rules for Muay Thai, more or less only enforced in Bangkok or in promotions that might call attention to themselves.
When I was training at O. Meekhun more than a year ago, they were already talking about Jee Jaa vs. Loma, at times sounding unrealistically confident that she could be Loma even then. The difficulty then was that Phetjee Jaa only weighed about 42 kg and Loma drops to 45 kg, so the weight disparity was too much of a problem. But I mention it because this fight has been talked about, albeit quietly and only around the gym, for a long time. Jee Jaa’s camp knows that Loma is the target and the side bet has to be appropriately big for each fighter to take this fight. (Side bets are winner-take-all pots that each side contributes 50% to.) There was also some talk over the last year that Jee Jaa wasn’t fighting much because her family was demanding an extraordinarily high kadua (fight pay), so I really didn’t think this fight would happen for a while. Would the weight, the kadua, the side bet, and the carefulness of Jee Jaa’s family with matchups all come together? But suddenly negotiations accelerated. In fact when I was sitting on the floor of Loma’s house a few weeks ago, watching one of their fighters on TV before heading out to fight under their banner (photo below), Loma’s dad kind of off-handedly mentioned to me that the Jee Jaa vs. Loma fight was supposed to happen in October… that gave not even 2 weeks before the fight…asking me who I thought would win. Nothing, nothing, then BAM! It’s go time! The fight ended up being postponed to this date in November but it’s scheduled to take place at Thepprasit Stadium in Pattaya, which is on Phetjee Jaa’s home turf (something that can favor you).
watching TV in Loma’s family home just before my fight, Loma’s father said: “Hey, Loma’s fighting Phetjee Jaa”
I’m so excited for this fight, and that it’s in my backyard is incredible. With a 100,000 Baht side bet it’s sure to be a hard fight from both fighters and the gamblers will be nuts, I can assure you. It’s an interesting match up due to the point in each fighter’s career: most female fighters who achieve a peak do so at around 16-18 years old and a rare group fight at top level into their early 20’s. Phetjee Jaa is in the last months of being 14 years old, so she’s “new guard” and Loma is 20 years old and definitely falls into the “old guard” category. A friend of mine, who has fought Loma and is part of this “old guard” but retired from fighting and now instructs, Yodying, told me that she is cheering for Phetjee Jaa because of this “new guard” position she holds. Yodying wants to see the young star rise and let the old star fade. I want to see the stars burst into all the flame they can muster, regardless of time.
Read my article: Judging Youth: Young Great Male and Female Fighters to learn about why the best female fighters in Thailand tend to be in their teens.
What to Watch For In This Fight
I trained with Phetjee Jaa for over a year, almost daily. And I’ve fought and lost to Loma 4 times, so I’m in a unique position when thinking about this fight and who is going to win. These are the things I’m watching for: Phetjee Jaa has a very strong, well-timed teep and if her middle kicks land unexpectedly they can result in a TKO, but her main danger is a very strong clinch and knees, especially in the late rounds. Most of her KO’s are from knees. That said, Loma has very solid blocks and the chance of clean middle kicks is not high. Lately in her fights Phetjee Jaa has been relying a lot more on her hands, which don’t seem to do much damage, but I do notice that Loma didn’t like being punched in our fights together. Loma’s strengths are a very strong right kick when moving backwards (it’s almost her only striking weapon when we’ve faced off), which works great against an advancing fighter, but her real strength is in the clinch. This is where the fight will likely be decided: strength against strength. Jee Jaa’s advantage in the clinch is clinch technique itself and knees, which score and can KO; Loma’s strength in the clinch is more defensive: throws and off-balancing. So, I anticipate that the fight will come down to how well Jee Jaa can maintain her balance when Loma goes to her throws and how well Loma can avoid taking knees (either in terms of scoring or damage done) when they lock up. Both fighters have won a lot of fights in their careers against opponents who don’t know how to clinch at a high level. In this case both fighters are very well-schooled.
Not to be overlooked, Loma is far more experienced than Phetjee Jaa, both in years and in fights. Loma began in Muay Thai at about 8 years old, which gives her about 12 years of experience. Phetjee Jaa began at about age 7 and has fought prolifically; that gives Jee Jaa 7 years of experience and over 100 fights, but Loma has over 200 fights, no doubt and has faced higher caliber competition. In terms of size, I haven’t ever seen them standing next to each other, but I suspect Jee Jaa is taller than Loma by now, but Loma will be cutting to 45 kg, whereas that’s probably pretty close to Jee Jaa’s walking weight. They’re both incredibly strong and both have the skill and strength to fight opponents significantly larger than themselves, so it will be interesting to see how much strength is used versus how much finesse. I would say that Phetjee Jaa has largely won her fights in the clinch against less skilled clinchers (the one fight she lost a year ago was against Pueng Siam a Muay Khao fighter), so facing another top-skilled clinch fighter will be interesting. She’s been so dominant in so many of her fights, I question whether it will come down to her mental response to the challenge of facing Loma’s skill and difficulty. When I was training at O. Meekhun I was still just getting a grip on clinch technique, certainly not as skilled as Phetjee Jaa but bigger than she was and strong. Anytime I would get an advantage over her, her father would stop the action, calling a dramatic time out – he did not want her to taste too much defeat, which I think was maybe a mistake. Only once or twice did he let me advance upon a dominant moment and Jee Jaa’s response was not good. It’s not her fault, really, she was very young, and she’s better than nearly anyone else she trains with (the exception being her brother) and so she’s used to being dominant and maybe isn’t used to being challenged or bettered in training. I also suspect she’s been somewhat protected in her fights, almost always outclassing her opponents by quite a lot. The one time I watched her lose to a much bigger opponent in Surin I was astonished to see Jee Jaa quit once she got out muscled in the clinch by a bigger girl. To be clear, she had no way of winning that fight, it was just a bad match-up. But when she was thrown to the ground her response was breaking. To be sure, that was a few years ago and Jee Jaa is absolutely a tough fighter, and she knees and kicks very hard, but what I’m saying is that her inexperience at having faced fighters who can really test her heart might be her biggest challenge in this fight. It’s a real chance for her to prove herself, and that can be a lot of pressure. That said, even thought his is Jee Jaa’s greatest challenge, if she wins she still faces a dearth of opponents and will not have broad horizon as a young female fighter. Just as she’s peaking, as a female fighter in Thailand, she will find her opportunities to grow close down (unlike male prodigy Thais her age). Loma has not fought top Thai competition in many years and, other than some dubious decisions abroad and legitimately being KO’d (and outweighed) by Erika Kamimura in Japan a few years ago, she has not lost many fights at all, but her fights have been somewhat few and far between. It will be interesting to see how Loma faces strength and skill in traditional, high-level Thai Muay, as it’s something I haven’t see from her, either.
I will be live-streaming this fight from the stadium on my Facebook page, probably around 11 am Monday EST – if you don’t want to miss it subscribe to my updates, I’ll be sending out a reminder. But I’ll also be filming the fight in any case, in HD. I do suspect that, regardless of the outcome, this fight is ultimately geared toward a bigger, higher-stakes rematch. And I’m never opposed to a rematch.
Recent High Profile Fights
Loma vs Kim Townsend (Australia)
Fighting maybe 4 kilos above her weight against an experienced westerner from Caley Reece’s Riddlers Gym in Australia
Phetjee Jaa vs Penphet Sor. Tianchai
For the WMC 45 kg belt. I’ve never heard of Phenpet despite following the weight class very closely, which makes this match up a little curious. I thought Phetjee Jaa actually lost this fight, a very close decision.
Meet Loma Lookboonmee
I interviewed Loma a few weeks ago, along with her girlfriend Chommanee (also one of the best fighters in the world). You can read about that here or watch below.
I’ve written almost 20 articles on Phetjee Jaa.