August 8, 2014 – Pattaya Boxing World Stadium, Pattaya
This fight was scheduled for over a month after my last fight here in Pattaya, which is an incredibly long time for me. It felt like eons. Kru Nu had let me know a couple weeks in advance that I might be fighting Cherry from Sityodthong, but that he was demanding a weigh in from the promoter because she’s both very good and bigger than I am. Fine, no problem. He said just to clinch her, that she’d lost to Star Sor. Klinmee, who I’d fought in February and nearly beat, and that she’d lost to one of their female champions a few years ago. I find it so funny that my trainers at both Lanna and here at Petchrungruang use fights from years ago to gauge the abilities of a fighter at present.
My name on the announcement of the fight came out as “Wiggly” in the Thai phonetics. I thought that was pretty funny but by the time we got to the fight it was on the program as “Weekly,” which was kinda cool to me because that’s basically how I want to be fighting. It seemed an appropriate name. The weight was decided at 47 kg and we all met at the stadium to step on the scale at 7:30 AM. It was a fiasco, involving multiple scales and Cherry being 1.5 kg over to start, then barely making an effort to run it off and finally meeting the weight on a separate scale that was brought over from her own gym by her own trainer. I wrote about the whole thing in my post “The Shady Weigh-In,” you can read more about it here.
From my opponent’s attitude at weigh-in and her general bratty disposition, I decided that I really don’t like her. She rubbed me the wrong way to a strong degree. This is extremely rare for me – there have been only a few opponents that I did not care for, most often respecting, and even enjoying them for who they are and what they do. Our fight was pretty late in the show so I got to watch a lot of the fights leading up to ours before heading back to get my hands wrapped. There were a few folks from the Petchrungruang Gym, including Dougie (from Scotland) and his wife (from Isaan), who I like very much. It felt good to have them in the audience to support me. I also saw Star and her father up in the higher seats, maybe scoping out a rematch between either me or Cherry. Star has noticeably gained weight since I fought her. Kru Nu had brought a western guy from the gym to act as the second cornerman for me, which didn’t end up happening because Phetjee Jaa’s father and the guy I call “Grandpa” from O. Meekhun Gym showed up – probably to bet on my fight – and they ended up working my corner. In any reasonable world, that would be a wonderful thing, having two people I know already and trust and who train me in my corner while Kru Nu, who I also know and trust and trains me at the second gym, gave orders from through the ropes. That’s not how it ended up feeling though.
Kru Nu’s plan was for me to kind of bullshit through the first two rounds and then just move in for the clinch rounds 3-5. It’s a very “Thai style” approach to a fight. The first two rounds aren’t generally scored and are only referenced if rounds 3-5 don’t determine a clear winner. Round 4 is really the money round in most fights. But this kind of tactic doesn’t work great for me, for my particular style and abilities as a fighter. For whatever reason – well, to be honest, the particular reason is that I still seek to please and approval from my trainers; it’s a problem – I decided to go with Kru Nu’s plan even though I know in my mind and from my experience that this is a terrible plan for me. Waiting on the stage that connects to the ring via a long catwalk, I sat next to my opponent with our hands wrapped and capes provided by the stadium tied around our shoulders. She talked to her corner, to my corner, and her manner just drove me nuts. I really wanted to smash her. A photographer who haunts the stadium and tries to sell his services/pictures to western fighters who have one-time holiday fights came up and asked us for a picture together, the two opponents in a fight pose. We obliged and then he asked for one where we were in “face off” pose. I laughed and said, “no.” He was surprised, “there’s no way?” he asked and I just shook my head and sat down. My opponent didn’t speak any English, so she didn’t know what was going on and just stood there for a moment, then sat down also. The photographer moved on and it was time for us to go out. We each bowed to an enormous portrait of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand (this show was an early birthday celebration for the Queen’s Birthday on the 12th of August) and then we were led out on the catwalk by two young men who appeared to be in Thai Navy uniforms, carrying a Thai national flag and a Royal flag respectively.
Cherry has over 100 fights already and is called the “Muay Thai Prodigy” by Yokkao in Italy. She began at 5 years old and so now has about 11 years of Muay Thai experience behind her. She’s a brat, but she’s no slouch. When we did our Ram Muay she was wearing a title belt, which I didn’t realize at the time meant that we were fighting for it. I thought it was just something you do to show, “hey look, I’m a champion.” Sangwan and Grandpa had a different plan for my fight, wanting me to go hard and clinch from the get-go, which I absolutely should have done. But because I was trying to please Kru Nu and “behave” in respect to his plan I totally backed up and bungled the first two rounds. Sangwan and Grandpa yelled at me in the corner, gesturing furiously for me to clinch and knee, knee, knee. In round 3 I finally started moving forward but Cherry is very experienced and skilled – even though I’m a million times stronger than she is she was very good at tying me up in the clinch because I kept reaching my arm around the outside of her and getting stuck, rather than working my arms inside and destroying her, as I was meant to do. Much to everyone in my corner’s horror and astonishment, I lost every round in the clinch with barely any points being scored at all.
Between rounds 4 and 5 Kevin yelled to me, “if you don’t knock her out you will lose!” and I didn’t see or hear it but a gambler in my corner told him to calm down, that the difference in the score was “little bit.” That’s because almost nothing in the whole fight was scoring, for either of us, but Cherry was getting the one or two versus my zero. In the fifth round I floored it going forward but still clinched like an ass and Cherry just moved backwards to protect her lead. I looked desperate – because I was. That fifth round made it a blowout. After the bell I walked to my corner and got ready to exit the ring, it was so obvious I’d lost, but Grandpa told me to stand in the corner and wait. So I watched as Cherry’s hand was raised, her neck was decorated by the yellow garlands, and the belt that I didn’t know we were fighting for was re-affixed to her waist. While I was standing in the corner, watching this all happen, Kru Nu climbed the ladder to the ropes of the ring and looked at me while he said, with a somewhat perplexed but sincere tone, khun chok mai dee (“you fight bad”). I felt like such shit. I exited the ring and walked all the way back through the stadium to the dressing rooms upstairs so fast that it took another few minutes for my corner to catch up with me and take off my gloves. I admit now – and I think I new it then already – that my attitude and response to the whole ordeal was total and utter crap. Now I was the brat.
It was a very difficult loss for me. Kevin and I talked to Kru Nu about how I can’t take two rounds off against Thai girls who have years of experience and tons of skill on me. I simply don’t win those fights. Kru Nu understood. His reasoning is that the first two rounds don’t count, so why risk being hurt or getting tired? Thing is, we explained, I don’t get tired. I need those rounds to drag my opponents into the deep by the scoring rounds. If I’d started hard, Cherry would have been done by round 3. She’s very experienced and skilled but she isn’t what you’d call a hard worker. The disappointment by my corner, which consisted of two gyms, was really hard for me to deal with. But looking at it now, liberated from feeling sorry for myself right after the embarrassment and disappointment of the loss, I can see how everything that went wrong for me in this fight was a mental issue. I was emotionally invested in my opponent because I disliked her attitude and so I was focused on the wrong things going in to the fight. I thought too much about the outcome of the fight rather than what I needed to do in it, I worried about the approval of my trainers, about who was in the audience (Star), about sticking to a game plan that makes no sense for me and was designed by a trainer who doesn’t know me yet – he’s only seen me fight twice before – and I didn’t believe in my own strengths so I got stuck in my weaknesses. Oh man; it was rough. Looking at it now it reads like a manual on how not to mentally prepare for or go into or come out of a fight. That makes it, actually, an incredibly important lesson and one which, I do believe, prepared me to win my next fight.
I had another fight in four days, a huge deal of a fight against a world champion at the Royal Fields in Bangkok, on the Queen’s Cup – basically the biggest day for female Muay Thai out of the year. In fact, one of the hidden agendas for my fight with Cherry was “Just don’t get cut!” – it was the one thing that would jeopardize the chance of a lifetime to fight on the Queen’s Birthday in a few days, something several people worked to help arrange – in the very least I accomplished that. After this loss and this experience though, my confidence was in the dumpster for this next fight. I couldn’t even do much training in between to try to correct the things I’d done technically wrong. Kevin, while we were fighting about my shit attitude and feeling sorry for myself, asked me if I wanted to cancel the Queen’s Cup fight. Of course I did, but of course I wouldn’t… ever. If there’s only one remedy for the worst feelings about the last time you were in the ring, it’s to get the hell up and get back in the ring. I knew that without enough time for physical training (luckily I had zero injuries from the Cherry fight), the most important thing I had to focus on was my mentality. And I got straight to work on it, seeking out an MP3 from a sport psychologist and listening to the multi-chapter, 7 hour recording over the next few days and implementing as much of it as I could, at every moment that I could. Even though I only got maybe two sessions of training in between these fights, in the three days between I was training my mind at every moment.