November 30, 2015 – Lopburi – full fight video above
The scale of this festival was outstanding. The lights could be seen from a good distance away and I was, in fact, engrossed in staring at them when what I thought was a cat dashed out in front of our car. It was far enough out that I wasn’t worried about hitting it, but I remarked at its bizarrely long tail. Then my eyes wandered over to the side of the road from which it had come and saw a whole swarm of them… they were not cats, they were monkeys (video update of them at article bottom). Monkeys! And they were everywhere, hundreds of them all hoarded around what looked like scraps of food piled up on the side of the road for them. They clamored over one another, hopping around and chasing one another into the street – total monkey business – which sent me into a whirl of shock and excitement. We drove by them fairly quickly, since we were, in fact, moving with traffic, but it felt like a long time of gawking at them but was probably only a moment. And then they were behind us. While the sheer number of them – and the way they owned the street – made it seem like they were everywhere, they were actually only in a small area right by famous Ayutthaya period ruins. Not a single one crossed the train tracks only 100 feet away from their corner.
We arrived somewhat close to the starting time of the fights (the quoted start time, which is never when they actually start) and had to drive quite far in order to find parking. The festival was nestled between a university and an army base of some kind, so there were soldiers all around and lots of blocked entrances before we finally found a way in. I had to keep asking everyone where the ring was and nobody seemed sure. We wandered for probably half an hour before a guy who was making announcements on a microphone (some kind of promo thing for a car) had me ask my question into the microphone and then told me the ring was “in the middle.” It was. Right smack in the middle of this huge fair. And of course it was nowhere near to starting yet.
A man met us right by the entrance and shook my and Kevin’s hands. I had been offered this fight the day before and we decided to just get the car early and have a fight on the way up to my fight in Chiang Mai a few days later. The fight was booked through a guy at Fairtex, who knows Pi Nu (my trainer), and I’d spoken with him on the phone back and forth the night before to arrange all this. I’d said I could go up at short notice but only on the condition that someone would corner for me. He had agreed to come meet me, so I thought this guy was him. I even said upon shaking his hand, “from Fairtex?” and he nodded his head in the affirmative. It was not the guy from Fairtex. He had, in fact, not come at all. I only found out later, while this guy was wrapping my hands and looking quite flustered at the process of it, that he was in fact the promoter. I was having my hands wrapped by the promoter of the show. And, as he told me his name, I realized he was also the gym owner and trainer of my opponent.
I’m fighting one of the topped ranked WPMF opponents, in her home territory, her coach is the promoter, and her teammate is handling my corner. And three days later I was due to fight one of the best fighters in the North, in Chiang Mai.
My Opponent’s Gym Was My Corner
I thought the experience of going to a fight without a corner and just picking one up there, was a bit of an adventure, as I’d done for my Loi Krathong fight five days prior. In this instance, my corner was a young woman from my opponent’s gym – like, her teammate who should have been working in her own corner otherwise. The promoter stood in her corner during the fight. So, I went without a trainer to a fight that was promoted by my opponent’s gym and then was cornered by her gym as well. Talk about hometown. I’m fighting one of the topped ranked WPMF opponents, in her home territory, her coach is the promoter, and her teammate is handling my corner. And three days later I was due to fight one of the best fighters in the North, in Chiang Mai.
We were scheduled to be in the middle of the card but got pushed to the final fight of the night, shortly before midnight. There were some small things that, had I not become so immune to the crazy of fighting here, might have thrown me. Instead I just took note. For example, I didn’t know the young woman helping with my oil massage was so closely tied to Muangsingjiew until I saw her leave my mat to go over and give her the prefight massage as well. That’s fine, but I took note because I have a swollen shin that she certainly noticed and might advise Muangsingjiew about. Further, I’d been seconds away from telling her that I need her to put Vaseline on my old cut between every round but had decided that could wait. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut, as that’s not a clue I want to carry over. If she notices on her own in the ring, fine… but no need to point out weaknesses. And they put my gloves on about 3 fights before we even went in. That’s could have just been the uncertainty of when we were fighting and wanting to get everything set up in time, since she was kind of helping both sides, but it’s also a very tiny strategy. Having gloves on for long periods of time makes your hands a bit tired and you can’t do anything else with your hands stuck in pillows. My opponent’s gloves only went on midway through the final fight before ours, so there wasn’t so much an uncertainty about our schedule, as her coach was the promoter.
In the ring it felt just a bit odd. I liked the young woman cornering for me. She was styled as a Tom and had a calm, cool energy. Her name was Hip. But because she was from the other gym and her teammate was literally in the corner across from me, she was in the awkward position of not really wanting to help me. Yes, put ice water on my legs and all that – that’s fine – but there were no words. It was totally silent between us between rounds because how do you advise someone you want to lose? I considered it for myself – I reckon I would help corner for a kid that was fighting one of the boys at my gym – and I’d do the same. I’m okay helping out but it would be quite limited. There were some gamblers in my corner, however, that upon realizing I speak Thai became my corner. They told me to punch her stomach, to yank down in the clinch more, etc. They were quite animated. And Kevin yelled at me, too. Usually I can only hear him between what my corner is saying, but because it was mostly dead quiet he got to talk to me more than usual.
Before going in the ring Kevin had told me not to drink the water offered in the corner. This is a common paranoia…
[NOTE and EDIT: In case someone takes this as an accusation that I was drugged in this fight, this is NOT an accustion at all. I make no such claim, and do not think that I was. I am only reporting my experience of caution and concern in an environment I had little control in. The concern over drugging is a very common one, being very careful with your water in all situations, in fact I’d call it a paranoia. This is only something that crossed our minds as something to be thoughtful about. Once that thought is in your head, you may experience many things. I added slight edits in the below to make sure this comes through.]
Before going in the ring Kevin had told me not to drink my water offered in the corner. This is a common paranoia, one I don’t usually share. Generally, the risk of something being put in my water on a fight like this is impossibly low: it was my bucket and both the ice and water had been purchased and put in the bucket by me and Kevin; and perhaps more importantly, there was no derm pan on this fight – with no direct money at stake from my side, the motive to drug a fighter for a win would be extremely minimal. But this was also a very unusual situation. I’d beaten Muangsingjiew in our last two fights and her gym had tried to get us to fight again on numerous occasions – Pi Nu later told me that they were dying to beat me. I’d always said “yes” to these matches and they’d always fallen through on her part for whatever reason, once with her not even showing up at the ring with me standing there. So, I know they really wanted to win, and they had the perfect fight to do it in; it was her home turf, her gym, her promotion, and literally her corner working in my corner – and she had put on a few kilos since our last fight. I guessing they also were likely wagering against the animated gamblers in the crowd who may have been getting longer odds. I think it would be petty to put anything in my water under these circumstances, but there’s never a “good reason” to mess with a fighter like that, and the truth is I haven’t a clue what was going on in terms of local politics. An entire side of the audience was betting on me.
I will say that just before walking to the corner, once I had the thought in my mind I noticed that Hip ran over to an older woman from her gym and put something in her pocket. I tried to see what it was but couldn’t discern it. If I were free from paranoia, I would have guessed they were cough drops. This was the weird part though: I decided to just not drink the water; I don’t care about losing a fight but whatever people put in there will cause you to be ill and who wants to be made sick, especially with another fight three days away? So between rounds I would take the water in my mouth and then just spit it out. What felt weird is that Hip seemed very bothered by my refusal to drink the water. She kept trying to get me to drink it and looking over at the other corner when I would spit it out – there are many explanations for this, to be sure, but it is part of my experience in the ring to note it. While I never felt weak, dizzy or drugged, between every single round I almost threw up as I returned to my corner. That can be explained by more mundane things, like maybe I didn’t eat enough that day (it was so late when we got in the ring, it had been probably 7 hours since I’d had any food), maybe I was dehydrated a bit, and I only felt it when we stopped between rounds not during the action… but it’s never happened to me before. I’ve felt this kind of nausea in training on rare occasions, and it’s always at the end of rounds like this was, but I definitely wasn’t exerting myself in this fight the way I always am on those occasions in training. It was weird. It didn’t effect the fight at all, other than the nausea being uncomfortable, but I felt sick for a long time after. It was at least noteworthy, as part of my experience. This was a fight wherein I was swimming upstream psychologically on several levels. Almost every single factor was in someway tilted against me. But that is also what made this fight exciting. Who gets to fight like this?
About the Fight
I wasted the first round of this fight kind of mirroring Muangsingjiew. She’s gotten much bigger since the last time we fought. Not in height, but she’s “filled out,” as they say. Kevin estimated she’s about 51 kg, which a guy talking to Hip while she put on my gloves seemed to be saying as well, before the fight. I should have been pressuring her right off the bat, since she’s more limited cardio, but I was determined to throw my hands and I got caught in this internal game of “picking the shots” instead of just letting the hands go. It’s not a huge deal but it wastes a whole round.
The fight went along, very close. I would land more knees, she turned me with size and put me down. Despite her efforts to slow the fight down, she was getting fatigued. The fight really came down to the 5th round. You could tell it was close because rather than retreating as she had done for most of the fight, she was standing her ground, and even coming forward a little. This change, when you fought a particular way for much of the fight, is significant. It tells the judges that you don’t not believe you are in the lead, especially on your own promotional card. How I handled the 5th round was precarious. Because of circumstances I did not believe I would get a decision, so I had to be careful of when or if I would take the lead. The first big moment of the 5th is when she throws me down. This is a huge point, she takes the lead. All she had to do is defend it. But she isn’t able to. I catch her kick, and put her down. She jumps up, the fight continues, and I knee her in the head, as the ref tries to break us up. It seems clear that he’s coming in to protect her, as this is a moment when I may even knock her out. It’s a big moment in Thai scoring as it’s the last big blow of the round.
What I should have done is back way off at that point, to just seize the fight, claiming that point. Looking back, this was my one chance to win. If I had danced about there, I may have had it. But I had decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to win a decision here, so instead I continued to chase her, to try to put a final nail in the scoring coffin. As it turns out, it was a big mistake, and a mistake I’ve made a few times. Once I began chasing her (and she backs up very smartly), the fight is over. I basically nullified whatever advantage I would have won in the corner. I’m telling the judges “I don’t have enough to win…I need more”. In those circumstances it is very hard to achieve another decisive blow or throw. After the fight the lights were turned off almost immediately, and the entire crowd was incredibly silent.
It is very unclear if I could have won it either way, but I did not take the proper path toward victory, I did not position myself well. In fact, in the video we see that the time keeper also was protecting my opponent, ending the round 30 seconds early, making sure that I did not have the chance to make an additional statement. Despite fighting over 120 times in Thailand, the 5th round, especially in situations like this, is an art I’m still learning. In the end, the victory or the loss didn’t matter. It was an incredible opportunity to fight against an opponent with so many disadvantages, and a real stylistic test in the final round. The fight emboldened me, and I won against a very respected fighter I’ve always wanted to fight, Nong Benz in Chiang Mai, 3 days later.
Full Fight Video with Audio Commentary
I’ve been adding audio commentary to my fights lately, in an effort to help people see and think along with me. Above is the full fight video (at top) and here below is my commentary version:
Post-Fight Video Update