April 14, 2016 – Nakhon Naiyok – full fight video above, full video with commentary below
I’m looking at the program and listening to the announcer as he runs through the list of fights scheduled for the night over the loud speakers. My name is announced and every single time he announces my opponent’s name it’s slightly cumbersome in his pronunciation. Like, maybe its written wrong or something. But I do recognize it as being close enough to the name of the opponent Japanese World Champion, Saya Ito, just fought in Bangkok to a draw. That’s good. I’m happy to be fighting her.
The guy taking tickets at the front gate (which is just a gap in the tarp that encloses the area with the ring to create a temporary stadium) recognizes me from other fights and asks me how I’m feeling. I feel good, I tell him. That’s true – I fought the night before and I’m still riding on the energy of coming off of fights, basically bumping back up off of the inevitable “come down” after fights. The guy at the front asks me if there’s a side-bet on my fight and then informs me that he’s going to put some money on me so I’d better fight hard. Alright then.
My corner for this fight was Small Man and Tong, both of whom I know from Petchrungruang – Tong is a clinch partner for me when he’s around (he’s not a regular fighter for the gym, but comes by for a few weeks at a time) and Small Man holds pads for a lot of the kids and has set up a few fights for me. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve had people I know well in my corner, which felt good. It’s kind of like hanging out and you get into this rhythm of preparation that requires very little communication. They just point to the mat when they want you to sit down for your handwraps or massage, then they just come up and smear Vaseline on your face while you’re doing something else. Very informal. I love it.
I was about halfway into the card, so there was a lot of time for gamblers to come over and stare at me, assessing whether or not they want to bet on me. One man came over and asked if I remembered him (I didn’t) and then added that he’s Gaewdaa’s father. I’ve fought Gaewdaa maybe 5 times and met this guy once before. I’d just fought against his daughter’s camp last night but I haven’t seen Gaewdaa fight in a while. I asked him why and he seemed to be totally unaware of that fact. He ended up coming up to me a few minutes later with a girl to measure against me, shoulder to shoulder. Not a good match, but the promoter came over to see this and I asked him where my opponent was, so I got to see her as a result and confirm that it was, indeed the woman Saya had just fought. She’s tall. But I also got really excited because there was a woman with her, from the same gym, who I’d seen at my fight the night before. She’d fought Fani Peloumpi in a very exciting fight – she’d been cut and she had a white bandage over her eye where the stitches where, which is how I initially recognized her. I was really impressed by her determination and heart in that fight, which is shared by Gaengaew as well. Those fighters are tough, man.
Full Fight Video With Audio Commentary
above, my fight with some commentary recorded over it – [updated, the wrong video was originally included, this is the correct video]
I didn’t really feel dinged up or anything from my fight the night before, which was nice, and I felt pretty focused. When we actually started fighting and she grabbed me in the clinch the first time I realized she was going to be hard to control. Not so much because of a slight weight difference, I suspect, but her height. Clinching with taller people changes all your angles and leverage. I clinch with taller partners at the gym all the time so I am familiar with those differences, but it doesn’t make it a whole lot easier. So I had to use a lot of my energy to lock her and try to score with straight knees and turns because she was definitely willing to clinch and could score in it as well.
My turning didn’t really come into play until the second round and she’s a very aggressive fighter, which I haven’t experienced from taller fighters very often. She hit me with a great knee that took the wind out of me in the 2nd or 3rd round and I had to hide not being able to breathe for a few seconds while still trying to engage with her. And she stayed aggressive all through the fight, which makes her a difficult opponent and you’d better have your cardio in order! I was only able to really wear her out over the duration of the entire fight and by the last rounds when I was locking her neck as hard and as mercilessly as I know how (mostly learned from the boys at the gym doing this to me) did I really start to feel her energy draining, and I could hear her frustration: she was making these little noises of pain and desperation as she was unable to move or escape from my locks. I also know that feeling from when my training partner Bank (Pi Nu’s son) gets his iron grip on my neck… it sucks.
In the 4th round, right at the end of it, she pushed me into the neutral corner and was really coming after me. I threw a long, right elbow that felt so awesome. Totally like the jointed, butterfly knife elbows that Master K and Yodkhunpon taught me. I just clipped her across the bridge of her nose and a moment later, when I was looking into her face to throw another elbow I saw that I’d sliced her. She had a cut right across the bridge of the nose, exactly where I’ve had a split when my nose was broken. I’ve never cut anyone with an elbow before. I was kind of in disbelief. She finished out with all her might and I had to really push myself as well, but I had the luxury of keeping a lead in the last round, which requires much less energy than trying to catch someone. When the fight was over and I went over to her corner I was asking her coach about the other fighter in her corner having fought the night before and the referee had to grab me out of this conversation to raise my hand as the victor. Kinda funny. I did go over to their mat after to thank them for the fight and talked to them both about their recent fights – the fighter from last night and Gaengaew’s fight against the World Champ Saya a few weeks ago.
When I went out of the venue to change in the restrooms the guy working the door said he’d won 500 Baht and shook my hand. Then a bunch of vendors and a group of “youths” loitering around on their motorbikes were all asking each other whether I’d won, which I understood and so answered all of them about the result of the fight. They clapped and gave me some thumbs up, which was very sweet. Kevin and I were the only non-Thais at the entire festival, that’s pretty usual, and we ended up having to wait for the end of the whole show to get paid (and Small Man had to wait for his money from the side bet), so we laid out on the mat and just watched some fights and relaxed. A few random folks came over to give me a handshake, which I think is just a fun thing for them to try out instead of a wai. My favorite thing from the whole night, though, was when Small Man was wrapping my hands (he insisted on doing this; I wrap my own hands all the time now and had started to do so and he was having none of that) and my name was being announced over the loud speakers, in Thai it’s Sin-WEE. Some gamblers were gathered around us, looking at me and deciding what they were going to do about betting, and Small Man looked up at me, smiled and in Thai said, “Sin-wee… the weapon of Petchrungruang (ahwut Petchrungruang).”