October 8, 2016 – Buriram “Sylvie Lookboonmee” – full fight video above with audio commentary
I got cut from a headbutt in my fight the night before this one. The doctor refused to give me stitches because the cut was so small – and maybe he wasn’t fully equipped to do so – but it would have been maybe 1-2 stitches anyway. Since he refused to sew me up, we decided I could go ahead and fight the next night rather than cancelling, which stitches would definitely require.
Driving the next morning from Khorat to Buriram was the first time in a very, very long time that I have felt that I really didn’t want to fight. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I suspect it was a combination of the uncertainty of whether I could fight (we had yet to ask Loma’s dad, who was putting up the bet for my fight, whether or not he would accept me with the cut), coupled with the shame that is always an undercurrent of being cut and finally because, while I’d won a good fight the night before, I wasn’t very happy with my performance. So, mostly self-pity, which is no reason not to fight. I reasoned it’s just work, I’d fight anyway, but it was a surprise to feel the lack of desire.
Once we met with Lung Boonmee, Loma’s dad, I felt excited to fight again. We arrived at the gym and I called him on the phone to tell him we were waiting. He arrived 10 minutes later on his motorbike with a fighting chicken held under his shirt, almost like how pregnant women cradle their bellies but with blue chicken feet sticking out the bottom. He chatted to us as if the chicken weren’t there. I know this comes off as sounding very hill-billy, but it’s a cultural niche in Thailand that I really, really love. He looked at my cut and said, “no problem.” So we went to a place to rest and met back up at 7:00 PM.
We were in no rush to leave to the fights. Fight cards in Isaan can be very, very long (upward of 20 fights on a card) and Lookboonmee had a guy fighting on Max that night. So we all gathered around in the family room, Loma, Chommanee, Loma’s little sister Nong Champ, their mother and father all curled together on the bed; me and Kevin and a bunch of the boys sitting on the floor. Their fighter didn’t go on until the main event, so we watched about 2 hours of the show before heading out to our own fights. We drove down the signature, pitch-black roads of Buriram, open rice fields on either side and no streetlamps or stars, maybe 40 minutes before reaching the venue. We parked and went inside where the fights had already started, but it would be another 2-3 hours before we were up for our fights. Aaaah, this is Muay Thai.
They brought my opponent over to size us up. She was wearing this enormous, puffy down jacket that made her look tiny. She whimpered when she saw me and did her best to look scared, saying she didn’t know if she could fight me but that in her heart she wanted to fight. This was all a show, for gambling purposes. They agreed to the fight and the side bet, despite the whispers about me going around the stadium from those gamblers who had seen me fight the night before, and when we finally stepped in the ring together she was much bigger than her jacket had let on – taller and heavier than I am by a few kilos – and she had a neck tattoo. She was no shrinking violet. A few gamblers who had seen me in Khorat the night before were at this venue tonight (in another province, but not terribly far apart; gamblers get around) and so the whispers about my having fought last night and my cut started to float around. I’m sure my opponent’s team heard about it. A few people came up and inspected my forehead, looking for the cut but they couldn’t believe how hard it was to see. I bled a lot in the fight last night, so I think they were expecting some huge cut. When I explained I didn’t even get stitches they were astounded.
Loma and her father were my corner and they are a fantastic team. Loma stayed outside the ropes but put an ointment on her hands and had me breathe it in between rounds. It kind of wakes you up, keeps you alert, opens your lungs. Loma’s father, Khun Boonmee, is calm and cunning all the time. He said he just wanted me to get the fight past 2 rounds if I could, then knock her out. Much to my surprise, she was a slugger. She came at me with these wild, wide punches and she was so much bigger and absolutely bent on knocking me out. I liked her though. Woke me right up. I did my best to teep and move, then started locking her more and throwing knees. She landed a really nice left knee into the right side of my ribs and took the wind out of me, but didn’t notice and I was able to recover quickly. She threw bombs and I basically just tired her out with knees and an inescapable lock, maybe a couple good straight knees as I dragged her back. I was so focused on not getting caught by one of those lopeing punches, or getting my cut touched (it would bleed immediately), that I wasn’t as “free” as I’d hoped to be. But, opponents give you some opportunities and it’s up to you to make the rest of it.
After the fight my opponent gave me a really nice hug. I have to ask for her name – I didn’t get a program from the fight – but I saw her afterwards and we chatted for a moment. Loma’s dad asked if I was tired while he took off my gloves. I wasn’t and he knew I wasn’t. He’s an incredibly experienced Muay Thai man and I’m sure he was reading every tiny thing off of my face, body language and mannerisms every time I came to the corner during the fight. He smiled when I said I wasn’t tired and said, “do you want to fight tomorrow?” I would. He was joking, but when he took me over to the promoter/announcer to say “thank you” and goodnight the promoter asked if I would fight for him again. I told him that any time he had a program he wanted me on just contact Loma’s dad. That made him (Loma’s dad) smile really big. I really do want to fight up there with them again, it was an awesome experience all around. And who gets to have their nemesis corner for them? I do. It’s incredible.
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