August 12, 2013 – Kalare Stadium, Chiang Mai
I told Den I wanted to fight on the Queen’s Birthday, which is a big holiday (including celebrations to the effect of Mother’s Day) and is pretty much the day for female Muay Thai in Thailand. Whatever the reasons, I wasn’t able to get a fight down in Bangkok, which had been my aim, but I was happy to be fighting on the Queen’s Birthday at all this year since I missed it last year due to poor timing of a broken nose.
Maybe a week before the fight I asked Den if he knew who I was fighting and he answered affirmatively, “Nong Ying.” I’d heard Den, Daeng and Nook talking in Thai prior to this and I’d picked out her name, as well as the arguments (by Nook and Daeng) against her as an option. I’ve fought her twice before, winning by KO both times, but she’s larger than I am and hits hard – as well as being a very skilled and experienced, good fighter – so I knew I had my work cut out for me if I was facing her again.
When I showed up for my oil massage the day of the fight Den let me know that my opponent had changed. The promoter wanted me to fight Nong Ying on the 23rd instead, so for Mother’s Day I’d be facing Yod Ying again, with whom I’d fought my two previous fights and have faced maybe 10 times now. I don’t mind rematches and fighting Yod Ying many times over this past year-and-a-half has been a boon for me in terms of forcing and producing growth. But it did mean changing in my mind many of the expectations I’d been visualizing for the fight against Nong Ying.
The venue was less abuzz than I might have hoped, given my own excitement for the Queen’s Birthday, but it did fill up as the opening bell drew near:
Instagram video: the atmosphere on the mat, waiting to go on
I’d done very well in my last fight against Yod Ying and tried to remember what had worked well for me. When you face someone repeatedly, however, they know you and you know them, so you’re going to get different approaches in each fight to “solve” whatever was working in the last fight.
Prior to the fight starting I’d gotten up from my oil massage to find Andy talking to Kevin just off the mat. I was excited to see him – it’s been a few months at least – and we chatted a bit. Den invited Andy to corner for me and it felt like getting the band back together, although I was also a bit nervous to have him ringside again since he hadn’t seen me fight in so long. I wanted to show progress, which in retrospect I should have just expected rather than made attempts toward. As Little Neung was having his hands wrapped by Big we could hear a commotion a few mats over as a fighter was having his hands unwrapped after a fight. It was my opponent’s corner – a teammate from her camp had just fought and lost – and her trainer was yelling at his fighters to “not be like Rungrawee!” (in Thai) Basically telling them that they’d better win. That’s some crap pressure to go into a fight with, but it’s not anything a fighter isn’t used to, I guess.
When we got into the ring I could hear the English-speaking voices in the crowd shouting out their favored fighters. One guy yelled, “go Thailand!” and a woman sitting in front of him asked, “which one is Thailand?” to which he responded, “red,” which was my corner. Funny. Then they chatted a little bit about how the other fighter looked a bit bigger, something I’ve never heard the crowd acknowledge when it’s the other way ’round and the Thai is facing a westerner who has a good 20-30 lbs on him.
The first round I felt very calm – exceptionally calm. I tried a few things out and it seemed like when the bell rang I was in good standing. Andy just nodded at me and asked me, “alright?” as Big dumped ice and water over my limbs. The second and third rounds caused my trainers to flurry in the corner between rounds, Den telling me to knee and elbow in the clinch, Daeng telling me to stop stepping backwards after a block and to kick back immediately and Andy telling me to try to lead with my right hand. Just prior to the fourth round Den looked at me and said almost pleadingly, “Sylvie, this is fourth round already; go in!”
I stayed very aware and calm the whole fight, something I did not feel in my last fight against Yod Ying, when I’d done very well. I was maybe too calm, but what was wonderful about it was how well I felt I could respond to my corner within the fight. Den started yelling “right kick, right hand!” and I immediately landed a low right kick and a right cross that knocked Yod Ying back. When he yelled for me to “cut off the ring” I was able to adjust immediately. It’s a small thing, but it leads to big things.
I knew I needed to win the 5th round if I was going to win this fight. We’ve been breaking down positives lately in my fights, Kevin putting together gifs around which mental images of my strengths can grow. The fifth round may have been decided by these two feint low-kick, right hands (new for me), and this little move in the clinch, which isn’t spectacular in any way but effectively keeps her from tying me up in the clinch, which she’s really good at . Just a few knees and the refusal to be controlled can make all the difference in a clinch tie up of a close late round. Clinch is about who controls the other person’s equilibrium, and knees to the body are highly scored.
In all my last bout against Yod Ying was a better performance of dominance on my part, but that’s the funny thing about progressing as a fighter: sometimes you move sideways.
The Whole Fight
The Ride Home
Neung fought a great fight and won by first round KO. Kevin caught this moment in the back of the truck as we were pulling out of the venue:
Instagram video: Neung holding the mongkol after victory, on the way home