February 21, 2016 – Pakthongchai, Khorat (10,000 Baht Side Bet) – video above
This fight was the inspiration of my Romance of Being A Wandering Fighter post
I’m sitting on the mats behind some really tall bleachers, my hands wrapped already and I’m trying to decide if I have enough time to make the long walk over to the bathrooms again before my fight. There’s always plenty of time at fights until there suddenly isn’t and then it’s all rush, rush, rush. I’m debating in my mind when the promoter appears at the end of the bleachers and, with his palm facing down, curls his fingers toward himself to beckon me over. It’s the opposite of how you wave people over in the west, with the palm up… but here that’s only used for animals and you can really insult people by accident. So I hop up and scoot around the kid who is lying on the mat next to ours, pausing for a moment to get my sandals on my feet to walk the 5 or so meters over to the promoter. He puts his hand on my shoulder and brings me over to another man, who he simply points to and doesn’t say anything. I recognize him, but can’t place from where. I suspect he’s the promoter and gym owner of the big military Sunararee Stadium one town over, where I’ve fought a few times with some success. He’s very nice to me, asks me who I’m fighting and how I feel. I say I’m great, tell him the opponent’s name and then kind of off-handedly mention I haven’t seen her yet. Then I excuse myself and go back to my mat. Five minutes later he shows up with this young woman who has her hands wrapped. She must be my opponent. I know the drill and immediately stand up so we can be sized up together, shoulder to shoulder. She slouches a bit to seem small – this is a common Thai hustle – but she’s still taller than I am by a couple inches. I tell them no problem and this guy I don’t know looks at us for a long time – I think he’s her coach. Then she smiles and walks the length of the bleachers to disappear into the lighted area of the outdoor enclosure. On the way back from the bathroom this group of drunk men who made sounds of shock when I passed by them before reiterate their “ooooh’s” and “aaaaaah’s” as I walk back again. One of them is standing slightly outside their group and as I approach he leaps into the arms of the guy nearest to him, feigning rescue from some kind of hulking monster. I smile and tell him he’s not my size, which makes them all laugh – probably that I speak Thai at all and not what I said – but my actual internal response is more along the lines of “fuck you, guy.” I kind of hate that reaction, even if it’s playful. So I come back to the mat feeling a little annoyed and wanting to be invisible, but the promoter is already standing there waiting for me, talking with this older guy who will be my corner that night. I don’t know him, I came without a corner, but he’s very nice. They tell me that my opponent won’t fight without a 5,000 Baht side bet from my side, which means a 10,000 Baht pot where the winner takes all. I’m confident enough to bet 5,000 Baht that I’d beat anyone they put in front of me, but because I came without a corner and am basically a rogue fighter, I can’t put up that kind of money where an unfair referee or judges could just take it. I uncomfortably translate this to Kevin, who says we don’t even have 5,000 Baht ($141 USD) on us. The promoter laughs and clarifies that he’ll put the money up, he’s just telling me because he’s going to need me to fight hard – no bullshit half-ass fighting. “Oh!” I say, yeah no problem. When we go over to put our gloves on, I see my opponent in her fight clothes and she looks much bigger than she did in her track shorts and baggy shirt. But she doesn’t look strong up top, even though she has really strong looking legs. So I know I can control her in the clinch. Then they put these gloves on me that I swear can’t be more than 6 oz, and could possibly be 4 oz. That’s okay, and maybe even good for clinching, but I was pretty amazed by how tiny they looked and felt.
The Full Fight Video with Audio Commentary
Post-Fight Video Update
Driving Out Back Home From the Fight
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