August 21, 2015 – Savan Vegas Casino, Laos border – Round 1 above, Rounds 2 and 3 below
This was a 4-woman, 50 kg tournament. A fellow fighter, Juliana, had posted a call for 50 kg fighters to contact this promoter so they could fill the tournament and that’s not my weight – it’s actually more than 2 weight classes above my fight weight, as well as well above my actual, walking around weight – but I saw that Cherry was fighting. I’ve fought Cherry three times now and believe I unjustly lost the most recent time, so I really wanted to fight her again. On top of that, she hates fighting me – something I’ve heard a few times, including from Cherry’s own mother – and cried after our last fight because she was so exhausted. That’s okay, I cry after training sometimes because I’m that tired, but I definitely didn’t feel similarly after our last fight. I had more. But since she hates fighting me so much I reckon I kind of have to find roundabout ways to get in the ring with her again… like a 4-woman tournament in Laos.
The promoter said he’d seen me fight on TV, which I eventually deduced was my last fight against Muangsingjiew, and he was happy to add me. The four women became Cherry (Thai), Marcela Soto (Costa Rica), a Laos fighter whose name I never got and who seemed like a toss-in, and me (USA). A few days prior to the fight I went into Bangkok for a media event and was the only one of the four of us in attendance. That was annoying and I felt very out of place, but having my photos taken for the news and magazines and all that is part of this whole fighter experience and I’m glad I did it. I also discovered on the drive up to Bangkok that I had a very gross boil on my left forearm, which continued to plague me (those things hurt like a motherf***er) for the next week.
The drive out to Laos is a long one. I got Modt Ek to corner for me and he was super excited about the whole ordeal. We took a taxi into Bangkok, where we met everyone at 13 Coins Gym – which is a tiny and unassuming space attached to an enormous and Stanley Hotel-like restaurant/resort – and departed in an enormous party bus for the 12+ hour drive to Laos. This very loud and obnoxious “Thai Mama” type older lady shouted and rearranged everybody in the bus until we were all squished together, every seat occupied and all seated categorically with fighters in the far back and folks who seemed to be just getting a ride to the casino in the front. Not the most comfortable way to drive for hours and hours on end, but being squished together for long periods of time is a very Thai experience. And we stopped every 2 hours or so, so there was at least ample opportunity to stretch our legs.
We arrived at the border the following morning, spent forever getting this big group of us through the lines and finally arrived at the casino at about 11:00 AM. I was roomed with Juliana, which I was very happy about because the promoter had told me I would be with Modt Ek and I’d protested, saying I cannot stay in a room with a man. He listened and I really appreciated it, given that I saw Cherry’s posse, which is a full on entourage of about 12 people, were all stuck in a single room together. And it was nice to have Juliana’s company for all the downtime between arriving, weighing in and then fighting the next day.
Weigh in was silly. We’d brought the scale with us on the bus, apparently, and they just set the bar to 50 kg and had Marcela and Cherry step on (the Laos girl didn’t arrive until we were all already eating at the restaurant, so none of us saw her weigh in), then me. The needle didn’t move at all, because I’m nowhere near 50 kg, but they didn’t adjust it at all to see what I actually weighed, just kind of sniffed at the obviously-under result. We all knew I was undersized for the tournament, so it didn’t matter.
The rest of the time was eating at this buffet and hanging out in the room. Very much like Vegas if you don’t gamble. There’s no internet in the rooms, so you have to go to the casino for your phone to have a signal, but I’d bought a roaming package to be able to talk to Kevin and Juliana and I could both hotspot off of that. Which was great because we could just sit there in our adjacent beds and talk about all our different fight experiences, the ups and downs of being fighters with online presence, and maybe a bit about ghosts.
Fight day was pretty relaxed. We just woke up late and went to eat, then got dressed for all the pre-fight television nonsense in the ring. This was to broadcast on Channel 3 in Thailand and Loas Star in Laos. The main part of the show was all boxing and the 4-woman was kind of the end bit before the broadcasts cut off. They wanted us all wrapped and oiled and ready to go way before we would actually be going in the ring. The schedule was for me and Cherry to fight first, then Marcela and the Laos girl, and then the final of whomever won those first two fights. I was excited to be fighting Cherry straight off because it meant I got to fight her no matter what. I’d come here to fight her, so I was stoked.
Because it was a tournament the fights were very short. We only had 3 rounds at 2 minutes, which goes by incredibly fast. Right from the get-go I felt like I was fighting her much better than last time. I got her in the clinch straight away, but got a little stuck in my position and she basically Wall of China’d me and it got broken. But I checked a bunch of kicks, threw a caught kick in round 2 and landed a good counter kick off of it, then blocked her counter as well. That was my favorite exchange the whole time. Mostly it was her dancing backwards and me landing a few knees every time we clinched up. Honestly, I think I won both rounds 1 and 2, as well as half of round 3 but then there’s this exchange where I totally get the moment where I could then dance off the round but I don’t and she lands a well-placed knee that changes the dynamic. I think I lost the decision – with so many odds against me – right there.
She was bigger (she’s always bigger) and I fought better, but she was smarter and stole it. The promoter of this event had bought Cherry for his new gym in Lampang (where she’s from) just prior to this tournament, so the outcome was really important. I don’t think they robbed me or that I won and was cheated, but I do think that this weighed very heavily on how the thin line in a close fight would be skewed. It was a lot like the scale I weighed in on. The bar was set for Cherry and I had to shake the needle off of the pre-set course, and I just narrowly missed that. I fought really well though and I’m proud of myself, especially since I’d turned around from a really shitty performance just 9 days earlier. I felt great coming out of the ring and then started feeling bad a bit after that, realizing I’d let it slip away when I could have crushed it.
I went and showered, then came back down to watch the fights and help Juliana get ready. She didn’t have a corner, so Modt Ek wrapped her hands and I did her massage, then she got help from Marcela’s corner in her actual fight. I love this kind of teamwork, really. When I came back down I saw the final fight between Marcela and Cherry, which ended in a round 2 TKO from a cut to Marcela’s face. It didn’t need to be stopped for that cut, but it wasn’t an unfair call… just an early one, I guess. She also had an open cut on her forehead from a previous fight, so I’m sure the doctor weighed that as well. I was a bit bummed watching that fight because I knew I could have been there and I felt I could have beat either fighter – especially in a second fight of the night because I’m a marathoner, not a sprinter. But I had to get myself there and I didn’t, so that’s on me.
Afterward Cherry’s mom asked me if I hurt at all. I actually laughed at her and said, in Thai, that 3 rounds doesn’t hurt. She looked surprised, which leads me to believe that Cherry felt hurt and tired after our fight. I told Cherry’s mom what my weight is, which also made her look shocked, and that this fight was just “fun.” That’s when she told me that Cherry hates fighting me, which on the one hand made me proud but on the other hand made me feel disappointed in myself because I had more. I could have done more.