November 2, 2015 – Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium – full fight video above
I can’t say that the bulk of the experiences fighting at this new stadium was positive – there was a lot of negative shit going on – but the overall experience was pretty great. First and foremost, I had the “A Team” with me in the corner with Dr. Nook, Tor and Neung; nothing is ever bad with Nook.
Coming back to Chiang Mai is always a head trip. It’s shocking how many people up here recognize me – both Thai and westerners – and I sometimes don’t know who all of them are. For example, at 7 AM I showed up at the stadium for a weigh in I’d been advised of only two days before and while I’ waiting nearly an hour for pretty much anyone official to show up, the morning sun heating up the dusty parking lot, a few Thais milling around, this young guy appears after about 45 minutes and looks at me, says my name, and then kind of hangs out for a while. I thought he was from my opponents gym. I even asked him if she was coming and he said she was, then maybe 15 minutes later said she wasn’t coming and we departed. Lame that I had to weigh in and my opponent’s gym just simply decided not to come, but I didn’t actually have to cut weight to come in half a kilo under the number I was given (48 kg), so not a huge deal. But my opponent simply not coming is shitty. Is that a flex of power? A blow off? Our weight on the poster was listed at 50, which is well above what I was asked to weigh in at and what I actually weigh, so who demanded the weigh in? Was it her gym and then they don’t come? Whatever. This guy I thought was a representative from her gym turned out to be from my gym, a newer guy at Lanna and I simply didn’t know him. He must have come to check up on me, but he didn’t have any actual power to make my opponent appear or anything like that. The weigh in was incredibly disorganized, and about an hour late – but hey, this is Thailand.
Talk Got Me Down
Anyway, that night there were a bunch of Thai men outside the stadium where we were waiting for the rest of my corner to show up. At this new stadium – we call it the Roadhouse – you get 4 total free entries, and everyone gets a badge. So lots of people are outside trying to position themselves to get in. We waited a long time for Tor and Neung, and we ended up just going in without them. Old, drunk gamblers were out there, they were all kind of hovering around me and one in particular was casting out these very-Thai, insulting comments about my scars and how I’m old – socially I’m very “old” in Thai standards for a female fighter, maybe how a 50 year old woman looks in the west. That part was super shitty because it just so happens that this fight was one day – mere hours – before my 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday Sylvie. Not my favorite thing and making me feel pretty badly, actually. It comes with becoming much more comfortable with conversational Thai. I’d love to say I’m the kind of person who can laugh it off or get the “I’ll show you,” attitude of proving people wrong… but I’m not really motivated by that kind of thing. However, maybe wanting to be a person who doesn’t care at least presents in me a value of not caring and so I did make a concerted effort to not totally withdraw into a mire of self-pity as preparation for this fight. Fuck that. Thais, despite the reputation of being from the Land of Smiles, can be very personal and cutting in their public statements. In Thai they say things in a joking, but slight derogatory way. Calling someone “fat” for instance, or making a remark about their appearance, is very common.
I will say that it affected me in a strong way. While I was sitting in some plastic chairs in VIP seating outside the dressing room with the fights going on (only two fighters and their teams were allowed in there at once – it’s a small room – so everyone cycles in as the fights continue), I actually thought to myself, “is this it? Am I too old and slowing down; do I really want to fight?” Those are very dark thoughts, especially right as I’ve refined my goal to aim at 200 fights in Thailand. Birthdays can bring them on. Jerks can bring them on. Doubt is normal and I think listening to other people is normal, too. We want to be liked, we take cues from others about how we’re perceived and then internalize that to some degree. But why would I listen to people whose opinions I don’t actually give any value to? And furthermore, fuck you Guy! The thought of not fighting anymore breaks my heart and some drunken piece of crap having a laugh about my unusual-ness is not my damn problem. So, I got out of that headspace enough to focus on my fight, but I definitely still had this “I hate this place” feeling about my experience outside. Nook and Tor, however, are gems. They just get you ready and you go.
When I was wrapped I had to get my gloves taped in this separate room with the stadium manager. He was babbling about how I would enter the ring and to put my mongkol on, but Neung kept telling him I have to put in on afterward because I’m a girl. This guy had no idea what Neung was talking about. Other women have fought at this stadium, but probably not many; he was not used to this alternate process of me having to go under the bottom rope. He kind of acquiesced to what Neung was saying because it became way more important for these various photographers to snap photos of me against this drab grey wall (which probably looked rad with my red gloves, actually) and all of them wanted pictures without the robe so you could see my tattoos but Neung was antsy to get the robe on me because I had to go upstairs to wait for my entrance. I missed it because I was upstairs, but Kevin tells me there was this full on battle between Nook and Tor for my mongkol and who was in charge of it, how the process would go down, etc. The age difference between the two is, like, 30+ years so it’s very funny to think of them arguing over anything at all because Nook’s age wins, hands down. But Kevin says that the mongkol went between them a few times, which I find immensely funny. It’s an important item and something the head of the camp handles when it’s time to put it on, but the kids are generally who cart it around.
But up in the balcony I was focused on clearing my mind of the negative thoughts I’d been having. I thought about Pi Nu and how he believes in me, even celebrates me, for my abnormalities. And I thought about what he tells me most often, which is not to rush/hurry, “mai reep.” So I pictured myself taking my time in the ring and not rushing, but also moving forward. Nook had stood in front of me while I was warming up and told me not to wait, to go forward and clinch and knee. So, not rushing but not hesitating. Like a shark. I’d be a shark in the ring.
The fight felt “in focus.” I felt calm and like I could think as things were going on. “Okay, she’s southpaw…”; “that teep sucks, let’s figure that out…”; “she will die in my clinch.” It was unstressful. After the first round I returned to my corner and Kevin yelled at me to hop in the clinch. I’d totally forgotten. He also said to get my knee up to stop her teeps; right. Yes. Tor told me to step to the side, which I started doing but totally missed the distance on all my strikes upon doing so. That’s okay – work on that part. But I teeped her back and that was good. I put her on the ground and that was awesome because I stood over her like a boss, even though it was only a split second before she got up again. And in this round I figured out that I could just stand right in her striking zone and block. This is something I do in padwork but have only purposefully done in fights these last two times. I’m not sure how it looks, but how it feels is incredible. It’s such a wonderful “fuck you,” to just stand in someone’s space and not jump out. The look of horror in these opponents’ faces when I take what they throw and don’t move is empowering. They’re not scared, but maybe utterly confused and unsure of what to do next. That makes me feel like a monster in the best way.
By the time I had caught her in a tight lock and was landing knees at will, I could feel in her body that she just wasn’t responding anymore. That’s how you know your knees are hurting someone – they can’t breathe and they get tired, so they just stop moving at all. That’s when I took the chance to go for straight knees and after two or three of these she dropped. I saw the ref waiving off the fight as a TKO as I headed to the neutral corner. Been a while since my last KO, so that felt good. Kevin said I looked like I got pissed off in this fight, which I can kind of see when she’s teeping up high in that third round. But really I think I was pissed to begin with by all those asshole guys out front before the fight. I guess it doesn’t matter what makes the Hulk angry.
No fight is easy. You never know what will happen when you step in the ring. But this was the first “easy” fight I’ve had in a very long time – in that I was incredibly relaxed, and the path to victory was clear. I had a very strong advantage in the clinch. I was originally supposed to face the 105 lb Norther champion, but instead my opponent came from the well-regarded Sitdobwad gym, which has one of the best female fighters of the North, Nong Benz. Before the fight a man came to tell me that he’s from Chiang Rai, and that he’d be watching my fight to see if I should face one of the top female fighters in the world, Faa Chiang Rai. I did not tell him that I had already beaten Faa Chiang Rai the last time we faced each other, and I did not see him after my win. I’d very much like to face Faa again. She is very, very skilled, and beat the then Japanese world champion Little Tiger, a year ago – though was robbed of the decision. In any case, the promoters of the brand new stadium in Chiang Mai have seen me fight, I hope to fight there again soon. You see from my post-fight update I was pretty cheered up by the win. In many ways this was a breakthrough fight for me. I had just broken a 4 fight losing streak, and we took the 10 hour drive to Chiang Mai and the travel cost, just to keep the fights coming. After this fight I really hung onto my relaxation, which seems to becoming much more a part of my fight experience. A big development.
This is an alternate, much clearer video of the fight shot from the corner by the stadium videographer.