December 3, 2015 – Chiang Mai Stadium “Roadhouse” – full fight video above
I’m standing outside the “Roadhouse,” as Kevin and I call it, sending messages on LINE to my cornerman (Daeng) that I’ve already arrived. Start time was listed at 7:30 PM, so he’d said to meet him at 7:00 because they never start on time. I was scheduled as the second or third fight, so the time to get in and prepare could be tight. But as we sat on the stoop of the Fourier to the stadium, listening to the recorded Muay Thai music on a loop, it was clear that start time was nowhere near imminent. We were on “Thai time.”
Even once Daeng arrived and we went inside, there was a long-ass wait before any ticketed customers came in to occupy the stands. As the clock inched toward 8:20 PM, I wondered whether my opponent had even arrived yet. While we were sitting in the designated “red corner” area of the venue, we watched these two young Thai women in very short, black jean shorts and white tops learning how to hold the ring cards. This older man who runs the stadium, always with a walkie-talkie in one hand, showed one how to descend the stairs and stop on the first plateau, show the round number to the right side, then the left, then center and continue down the stairs; walk the short catwalk to the ring and show the card again at the ropes. But they don’t ever enter the ring. He instructed this first girl a few more times and then she taught the second girl. Kevin and I laughed a little because it was entertaining, but I did actually feel for them. If you aren’t familiar with a setting and your job is super simple, the chances of messing it up are actually kind of high. I’d be nervous, too.
Somewhere around 8:30 a group of customers came in and took up a few rows in the stands, but it was a very slow night to be sure. On the program I was listed as the second fight, but one of the stadium organizers came over to let Daeng know that I was, in fact, the first fight. So after all that waiting suddenly there was a time pressure to get my hands wrapped and my body oiled. This is a very Thai fight experience. Everything is extremely slow as if nothing is going to happen, and then suddenly you are rushing around. As Daeng finished up the tape on my wraps the organizer, who clearly has known him for years, kept teasing him by telling him to hurry and then poking him in the chest or grabbing his nipple through his shirt. These men are in their 40’s and still play like teenagers. I was laughing pretty hard. The other boys in the dressing room were already wrapped and ready to go, having just done a quick job on their own handwraps without any tape at all. This is pretty normal. I’ve done it myself. So they all just gawked at me while I got oiled and then warmed up for half a second before running to get my gloves taped on.
As I sat on the side of the catwalk in a plastic chair, the stadium robe creating a little heat pocket in which I was enclosed, the guy who had trained the ring card girls came over and in broken English told me, “Si-vee-uh, same same before,” and pointed at the catwalk. I thought he meant that I had to enter the ring the same as the last time I fought, which meant going up into the balcony seats and descending down the stairs and the catwalk the same way the ring girls did. But it made no sense. I was the first fight, my opponent was just on the other side of the catwalk in her own robe and plastic chair, and sitting here like this would mean going up the stairs and then straight back down them. I decided to ignore this instruction and just walk up the stairs to the catwalk and then into the ring when my name was called. Good thing, too. Turns out what he meant was “fight the same way as last time.” I’d won by KO the time before, my first in this stadium.
Nong Benz as a fighter is a tall glass of water. She’s very narrow – her torso – and long-limbed, and she uses her range really well. I can’t say that I’ve so much as wanted to fight her, mostly because I’ve been online friends with her sister and it feels weird to be competitive against someone’s family and not have some tension there, but she’s someone I should fight in terms of facing the top Thais around my weight, and this was exciting. She had been praised for her technique for some time. We’ve fought many of the same opponents and Nong Benz happens to be the number one contender behind the current title holder at 105 lbs in the north, Faa Chiang Rai. If I want to fight Faa (again, I beat her a few years ago the last time we fought), which I do, I’d have to beat Nong Benz. I can’t actually fight for the Northern Title because I’m not Thai, but I don’t care about the belt or the title itself. I just want to fight the best in competitive fights and this fight was just such an occasion, with a desired opportunity to fight the Northern champ as a possible outcome as well. So that’s win/win.
The Full Fight Video With My Audio Commentary
I’ve been adding audio commentary to my fight videos lately, so the straight copy is above, and below is the same footage with my thoughts on it as well. You can find all the fights I’ve added commentary here.
I had a bit of a slow start in this fight. I think I was taken aback by how much power she has in her kicks and punches, which because of her height I initially tried to stay away from instead of collapsing the space (which is the only real answer). But I figured it out and got progressively better in each round. Once I got ahold of her she had some good moments with a long clinch (but no power in her knees; not like her kicks) and then I started hopping and turning and that was all I needed to tire her out. Her facial expression when I started draining her with knees let me know that I was taking her confidence. The guy in her corner is someone I know – only professionally – in that he’s a big presence and name in female Muay Thai up in the North. His name is Dualek, which means “small body,” and he’s seen me fight dozens of times. He gave me a big smile and shook my hand after the fight, so no hard feelings on either side. The guy who had told me to fight the same as last time (which I pretty much did) was very happy with me after the fight, which is a good thing because it means they’re interested in having me back on their cards. It’s very expensive to come up to Chiang Mai, we almost always are out a couple of hundred dollars, but there is a real flowering of female fighting up here, and if I want to keep frequently fighting the best fighters around my weight, I need to be a part of it. Showing myself well in this new stadium is a big deal, as they don’t know me yet. I spend the extra money to fight here because I’m basically auditioning as a fighter for them. As I was returning my gloves to the table one of the promoters came up and asked in a rushed manner, “can you fight Faa Chiang Rai?” I really want that fight, so I emphatically answered ao, “want!” or “I’ll take it!” and a group of the men there cheered. So, that’s a lesson in how sometimes you’re not only fighting the fight you’re currently in, but you’re also fighting for the next fight. And by “sometimes,” I mean usually. No pressure, haha.