full fight video Part 1 above, part 2 below:
May 1, 2015 – Kalare Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai
There’s a familiarity that never goes away for me when it comes to traveling routes. Even when every other memory starts to recede, I will remember the paths I used to run, the routes I took to school, the different avenues and turns to arrive at a destination that I frequented ages ago. It’s like that in Chiang Mai, navigating the roads from Lanna Muay Thai down to the Kalare Night Bazaar, where I’ve fought so many times. That familiarity lends itself to a comfort level that I have yet to attain since moving to Pattaya. I can fight anywhere and I’ve grown accustomed to the inherent chaos of any and every fight night – something will always go wrong. And I do really love driving around to different places in Thailand for fights, as way to travel and experience differences and similarities of place within the country. But the familiarity of the stadia in Chiang Mai will never be matched anywhere else. It’s like stepping foot back onto the playground at your elementary school – no matter how much has changed, it’s memory stays fixed with you. I’ve fought in Chiang Mai over 60 times.
So I felt very much at ease as we laid down the mat near the gates of the Kalare stadium and sat down. The task of choosing a spot to sit was given to me and I, out of some courtesy, moved us a few extra feet away from my opponent, Cherry Gor. Twin Gym, who had arrived before us but only entered the stadium at the same time we did. She had a whole entourage around her, as is the Thai way, whereas I had my husband, two trainers from Lanna – one of whom was my main trainer, Den, when I was there – and Den’s two little nephews, whose jobs were unclear to me. I know them though. They’re cute.
The older of the two boys, Baht, is about 8 or 9. He’s got a cowlick in the front of his hairline on his forehead. He was petting Jai Dee, who restlessly rolled around on the mat, when he noticed the swirl of black and white hair on Jai Dee’s neck. Baht became excited, a look of surprise on his face as he pointed to the swirl, traced it with his fighter and then looked at me and pointed to his own cowlick. He pointed it out to my husband, then again to Den when he stood next to the mat for a moment. I’m not sure if he was so excited that the dog had a cowlick or that anyone at all had a cowlick. But he was really into it. It was sweet.
Cherry looked a bit bigger than I remembered her, but that could actually be the case without much surprise. She’s 18 or 19 years old, so maybe will grow a bit more even now. The program listed our fight at 53 kg, although I’d expected her to be around 52. It doesn’t matter, but the number made me laugh when I saw it.
We’d agreed on a derm pan, which is a side bet. Each side puts up money, like an ante, and the winner takes all. I’ve written about the growing importance of the side bet for me in my 80% fight post. When arranging the fight through text messages with Den, he’d said that both Cherry and Thanonchanok (who I was meant to fight on the following Monday) wanted 10,000 Baht on the side bet to fight, they wouldn’t fight me for less. That’s steep for me, but pretty much the lowest number I’ve ever seen on a program for a side bet. Even though I’m pretty adverse to betting as a person – I don’t enjoy it – I’ve started asking for side bets as a way to get the top opponents I want and the fights I want out of those opponents, but I still don’t know fully how they work and prior to this I offered 5,000, so the winner takes 10,000. In this fight, winner takes all (20,000).
I kept asking Den about the derm pan. On much larger sums you have to put a deposit in. For example, if it’s a 100,000 Baht bet then you may have to put 10,000 down or something like this as a “guarantee.” But we never bet that high and it seems like the money gets handed over to an official only moments before the fight starts. So I’m asking Den about whether the bet is on, where we give the money, etc. and he’s just telling me to chill out. Finally, Cherry’s mom comes over. She looks just like Cherry, but smaller. She’s asking Den about the money and I’ve literally just handed him the money, so he starts joking with her. She’s actually trying to raise the agreed upon sum to 15,000 at the last minute and Den is teasing her, saying he forgot about the derm pan and only brought 800 Baht. It’s a funny joke, but Cherry’s mom is freaking out, saying that they only brought this whole entourage all the way from Lampang because of the bet. He finally gives in and tells her the 10,000 is on, but not 15,000 because we don’t have it, which is true. This is a big chunk of money for us, and I’m taking on this bet under adverse conditions (no weigh-in, at least a 4 kg/9 lb disadvantage, on her home turf) because I just want to fight the best. This one way to make it happen.
I felt pretty good going into this fight. I’d fought Cherry twice before, once to a win and once to a loss. She’s a great fighter and one of the top girls up north – probably the top at her weight, a few classes above mine – she’s the 2nd ranked WPMF challenger at both 108 lbs and 112 lbs in the world. She recently wins tournaments by taking out her opponents with a KO in early rounds. She can win a whole 4-woman tournament in 2 rounds, total. So, you know, keep my hands up, but I don’t fight the way women fight so I know that Cherry’s got a different obstacle with me than she does when she’s cleaning up her opposition in general. I know I can take a hit, so I wasn’t too worried about that, but I did have a mystery pain for the past few days in my abdomen. In fact it almost knocked me out with pain in my first 24 hours after arriving in Chiang Mai – I slept 18 hours straight almost as soon as we pulled up to the hotel – I even thought I might not be able to fight which is pretty extreme for me. I’d figured it was an ovarian cyst, something I’d experienced in college, which is incredibly painful. I felt much better on this day but the pain was still present enough that if I took a knee or punch to the midsection it would be really difficult to know how well I’d be able to recover from it. I made a mental effort not to dwell on it.
I was also going into the fight with a recently-closed cut above my eyebrow. I’d received 3 stitches on maybe 2 inch cut from an accidental headbutt two fights ago. It had a little over a week to heal before I’d fought with it and I’d made it through two fights (both wins by KO) already without any incident, but the area was still swelling on a regular basis. It takes a long time for the scars from cuts to become strong after healing and there’s just no way I’m going to wait that long before fighting. This particular spot had given me a lot of trouble in training because I seemed to touch it all the time – my gloves touch it during padwork and bagwork; it gets nudged during sparring and I use my head in the clinch so it was getting pushed then as well. It’s a terrible spot, really. But, as much as I’ve dwelled on it in this paragraph, I tried to put it out of my mind for the fight as well. Abdomen pain, check. Yet healed cut, check. Fight on.
Round 1 started out pretty good. I felt a bit tight, like I was holding my breath or waiting for an opening instead of moving to create them. That’s okay, but I often get stuck in that position and stay at striking range for my bigger opponents. Cherry has beautiful technique and her teeps and kicks look real snappy and dramatic. She’s not super strong though; well, to me anyway. She does knock opponents out with her right cross, so that’s gotta have some power on it, but to me it doesn’t feel like I have to stay away from her kicks or teeps in order to not get hurt. More just that I need to move through them. She teeped a few times in that first round and I got through most, sweeping or just coming forward anyway. At the very end of the round I catch her teep and push her into the ropes, but when I followed she had her arms up and I pretty much walked into her elbow. It didn’t open me up (thank God), but I’ve been cut like this before so I made a note to keep my gloves in front of my face when following up on pushes or whatever.
My hopping in to close distance was working pretty well. Every single round starts out the same with me hopping in and her going straight back. At around 42 seconds of round 2 you can see us clash into the ropes near the camera. My head hit her chin and my old cut reopened. Cherry is totally stymied as to why I’m bleeding – not sure if she didn’t notice the cut-scar before or if she was just thinking, “I didn’t touch her, what the hell?” But the ref seemed to not care until later when he decided to break us then to have the doctor look at the cut. But the doctor took a look at me and I told him in three different ways that I wanted to keep fighting and that I could keep fighting, and he let me go. Good man. In fights like this, especially with money on the line, if you don’t demonstratively show you want to continue they can be ended by a doctor easily.
I was turning from punches a bit in this round which makes me furious when I’m watching it. I can feel it in the fight too but it doesn’t feel as dramatic as when I see it. I have a good guard so there’s really no reason to do it and it pisses me off that I still flinch like that. Just keep training it.
I think in rounds 1 and 2 Cherry came hard because she thought she could knock me out or intimidate me. In round 2, after we came back from having the doctor check my cut, she really came after me trying to open it up more or – I don’t know – scare me or something. But she actually burned herself out a little bit doing that. She was tired after two rounds. She started using the Wall of China more and more in the clinch, which unfortunately was working for her because I don’t have a clean answer to it yet (worked on this for a long time, but everything goes in circles, nothing is ever completely solved) and she’s bigger, so it looked very good for her even though it’s a lazy and an even at times desperate move. Add to this the ref was breaking us really fast, so I couldn’t work in the clinch as much as I am able to or needed to. This ref felt a bit shady. I only found out after the fight that he’s been a trainer at Cherry’s gym, which perhaps accounts for why he never once warned her for grabbing the ropes to balance herself and why he kept breaking the clinch so fast. This being said I definitely did need to work faster in the clinch and force the ref to keep the action going. That’s on me and something I’ve been working on for a while.
Round 4 went long, it’s timed at 3 minutes. It was my best round, for sure, and in Thai scoring a big 4th round is huge. I get frustrated when I watch her clinging to the ropes (a foul) and I’m holding her leg. If I’d pulled instead of pushed or stood there it would have been terrible for her. Sometimes in Muay Thai you have to act so that your opponent’s weakness is exposed. But I just didn’t even think of it. But that’s good to know because now I can train it more. And I was knocking her back with right hands into the ropes like a boss. And moving forward was much cleaner because she was just so tired; I could stand in and not lose ground going backward with little hops or whatever. I almost ended her in the corner at the 2:30 mark but didn’t hit the gas when I needed to. That’s a lesson I’ve repeatedly faced in fights when I go up against better and bigger girls (like Loma, Tanonchanok). Man, she is hanging on those ropes though. It’s a foul, the gamblers were calling it out – Den used to yell at me about that all the time, saying little points were being deducted by the judges.
Round 5 I needed to just go after her and kill her. I went after her but I ended up not really catching her, partly credited to her fatigued but still effective defense, and so I slipped backwards in effect. It sucks because she’s maybe the best fighter at this weight in the north and one of the best in Thailand and I was this close to beating her. Doi said if I wasn’t bleeding I would have won and Pi Nu watched the fight on the tablet afterwards and said I did win by Lumpinee rules (which disfavor fighters who are only retreating). I did feel for a moment at the end there that I’d done enough, but there was still part of me then – just as there is now – that knows I could have and should have crushed it in that last round to win. I fell short. So, while it does feel good to know that Cherry basically had to have extra advantages (via the referee on breaks and ropes grabs) to get that win, I do also recognize that I could have done much more; given that I was 100% the underdog in that fight I knew going in that I had to do more, especially with the derm pan. (Cherry’s mom trying to raise the side bet before the fight when they had their own guy in there reffing totally makes sense, retrospectively. With money on the line even the judges may have favored the fighter family that is part of the community. If I was going to win this fight I would have to do so decisively – when I placed that side bet I knew these were long odds – I just really wanted to fight her because she’s one of the best and how many chances do you get to fight fighters like Cherry.) Going from knowing I have to do more to actually doing more is the part I’m pushing for now. Whatever you have to change, you change it in practice first.
After the fight I went straight to the doctor to get more stitches put in the same cut. A nice Thai lady held a flashlight for the doctor and chatted with me while I got stitched up. She was having her first fight in another week and she was very nervous. Watching me getting my face put back together probably didn’t alleviate her fear, but I chatted with her (in Thai) about how it doesn’t hurt and I think that did actually assuage her fears a bit. Den came over and was laughing because 10 minutes after the fight, while I was being stitched, Cherry was sitting in a chair still trying to catch her breath. She was totally gassed. But, you know, she finished the fight so that’s admirable that she can push like that – collapse later. She and her mom came over to say “sorry” just as I was finishing up and I explained that I had the cut already. Cherry’s energy was weird, like she didn’t want to take credit for the cut because she knows she didn’t do it but she also knew she had to apologize because that’s what you do. I told them it’s no problem, we should do a rematch… neither of them looked excited by that idea.
A guy and his girlfriend from Oregon sat and chatted with an Irish guy from Lanna while I was finishing up the stitches and when I was done the guy had me sign a pair of handwraps for him. I think that’s my first “autograph” by request, which is pretty cool. I was bummed that the stitches meant I couldn’t fight on Monday against Tanonchanok who I also almost beat in this same ring not long before, but this was a good fight and a great experience for me. We decided to head back to Pattaya the next morning rather than taking some days to chill out and have a mini vacation in Chiang Mai. Mostly it was just too expensive to keep staying at a hotel and I’m not big on days off anyway. Unfortunately the doctor kind of did a weird job on the stitches – one stitch didn’t actually connect the two sides and another one came out by itself a couple days later. I have noticed that with my first big cut the doctor went all out and gave me way more stitches than is customary because he wanted me to heal “beautiful,” but now that doctors see the scars all over my forehead they kind of have gone to giving me the minimal stitches that dudes get. That’s interesting to me. There were only 4 stitches anyway so I just took them all out and used tape to keep the sides together. It’s been a slow heal on this cut and feels even more so because it’s opened twice, but I do believe it’s making me stronger.
I felt pretty positive after the fight, you can see my easy smile in my post fight video at bottom. Kevin and I have been trying something new where we can each only be positive for a couple hours after the fight, only saying good things, things that worked, etc., all the critique can come later when it’s time to get back to work. It’s been going pretty well. I felt organically good after this fight because I truly believed I’d fought well. But stitches are a little hard on my mentality because I feel hindered by them. So I came down a bit later and actually struggled a little with keeping a positive mentality, or at least enough positivity to be motivated and constructive. The mental side is something I’m always working on and need to work much harder than anything else. But I’ve got so many old habits that it requires vigilance with my thoughts that through fatigue or laziness or even just feeling sorry for myself, I lose a grip on it and I slide backwards. It’s a pain in the ass, really. But I’m getting better at it – some days 20 pullups are easy, some days you’re shaking after 5, but you know that the persistence is strengthening the muscle. Same thing with the brain.
And one thing I can know for sure is that Cherry and my fight was the best of the night. Every other fight was a mismatch that ended in KO within the first 3 rounds. Boring. But our fight was exciting, the gamblers were on their toes and shouting; and that makes me proud.
Post Fight Video Update
You can see video of all my fights here: 100+ Fights