February 20, 2015 – Khon Kaen, Thailand (full fight video above)
I’d spent some time finagling with Yo, the man who booked me for the event, trying to change the fight from 3 rounds to 5 rounds.Â It was a no-go.Â So I tried to get the rounds to be 3 minutes each, which he said we could do. Despite his assurance that these would be 3 minute rounds, the tape shows that they were 2 minutes, not really to my advantage.Â It wasn’t until I was actually at the venue and looking at the printed program (in Thai) that I realized I was on the televised portion of the card.
Kevin and I watched a fight between two young Thai girls, maybe 13 years old, at the very start of the program and it was awesome.Â One of the best female fights I’ve seen.Â The more aggressive of the two fighters, in the blue corner, was throwing relentless strings of punches and knees – I figured for a stoppage by the ref at any moment because red really didn’t have an answer,Â but he let it go on to a decision – this blue corner was being coached from outside the ring by a tall, thin and muscular “Tom,” who I recognized to be Samson.Â Samson is a boxer (western boxing) who a million different men tried to get me to fight for a western boxing title on Christmas.Â She’s from the same gym as the opponent I would be facing today and when I looked at the program I saw about half the fighters were from that gym.Â I would find out later they were the sponsors for the event.
My opponent was tall.Â She was young, 16 years old, and had a really beautiful face.Â She smiled big at me when we were introduced a few hours before the fight.Â You have to watch out for those ones – the sweet ones are often nasty in the ring.Â This event was outdoors but in the parking lot of a huge “trading center,” that’s essentially a warehouse that acts as a mall.Â So we wandered around a bit and slept in the car until closer to the televised start-time.Â I would be the fourth fight on that part, so still a lot of time to prepare, but because it’s televised the time crunch is real and you have to be “on deck” pretty much the whole time.
As I was warming up, hands wrapped and oil massage by Yo – who was actually much better at both than he appeared to be the last time I watched him prepare another fighter; not sure what that’s about – a group of police officers became really interested in me.Â It started with one, who just asked me where I was from, but when I answered him in Thai the questions continued and turned into a conversation.Â He actually asked me if I’d ever fought in Chonburi, which is the province that Pattaya is in and incidentally I won a title belt there, in the Muang (capital) district.Â He called some of his friends over to hear what we were talking about and it was surprisingly nice to be chatting with them.Â He wanted to escort me over to the ring when it was time to head over, kind of doing his part to support me.
I asked Yo whether I as allowed to do the Ram Muay, a part that is sometimes rushed or omitted for televised events due to time.Â He scoffed and said, in Thai, “Of course, it’s Muay Thai.”Â I loved that.Â My opponent got into the ring wearing this totally bizarre skirt and vest over her fight ensemble.Â It was bright, hot pink and had tassels on it – I can’t comment on whether or not it had some kind of cultural or pop reference but it was definitely a thing.Â We’d been given shorts and a half-top to fight in, emblazoned with some company sponsors for the event.Â I was pretty uncomfortable fighting in a half-top.Â It’s really not my thing, but I guess you can kind of forget about it for the most part while the fight is actually in progress.
In a fight that’s only 3 rounds, you gotta get right to work.Â Unfortunately, my opponent was way more on top of this plan than I was.Â She used her length well and stayed away from me after throwing kicks.Â I started checking those, so only a few landed overall, but maybe due to her height I got in the habit of catching her right kick and then when I tried to sweep her off of that I would get stuck; she had good enough balance that she would just tie up the attempt.Â I was successful in punching off of the caught kicks, but unless you really rattle someone or knock them down off of the punch it’s not an equal response to the kick itself.Â I did get her down on the canvas a few times and ultimately I do believe I won the fight on points, but she definitely out-performed me in the “look how unaffected I am!” act.Â And that’s how she got the decision – she used her acting (Team America)! Nothing to joke about really, acting is a seriously important dimension of Muay Thai.
It was a big disappointment, not only because it was on TV and I thought I’d done enough, but because after the fact I could easily see that because it as on TV and was sponsored by her gym, I really hadn’t done enough.Â I’d gone into it knowing I’d probably need a KO to win – that I wasn’t going to get a decision – but I didn’t fight that way.Â And even if I do believe I was the victor on points, it wasn’t a big enough difference to make the decision unarguable.Â The whole “I would have won that fight in x scenario” is kinda lame because it wasn’t that scenario; it was this one, and I had prior awareness of it enough that I should have done more.Â So that’s on me.Â It also really sucked to lose a 3rd fight in a row.Â But that’s just going to suck regardless.
I was pretty bummed after the fight and didn’t love having to stand in the ring at the side while all the sponsors lined up and handed cardboard advertisements to my opponent, standing center for the cameras.Â When I got out of the ring, finally, a few men offered me a nice “good!” or thumbs up.Â I wasn’t feeling it, but I do appreciate the support.Â Right after I exited the ring my friend and fellow American Tu Warren got into the ring for his fight.Â He was also brought up to the fights by Yo, so I was by myself, getting chewed out by Kevin about the fight back at the preparation area.Â I missed Tu’s fight but got to see him raise his arms to the crowd and let their cheers wash over him after the decision was read.Â He’d actually lost on the cards but from that reaction it was pretty clear that he, and others, thought he’d won.Â His response was better than mine – I can learn from Tu’s confidence.
When Yo came back from the ring he knelt down in front of me and asked if I wanted to rematch this girl one month from now, in a different province, and in a 5 round fight.Â I agreed and he said he’d go ask the promoter.Â As much as I beat myself up over poor performances, or for not matching the showiness of my opponent when it’s obviously necessary, I am grateful for the lessons these disappointments provide – and definitely thankful that the rematch is almost always pretty immediate.Â And, as much as I can sit in the dirt over a loss, I’m lucky that I can get right back to the next fight and dust it off.
Post Fight Video
[will be added later]