September 16, 2013 – Thapae Boxing Stadium –
It’s been a few weeks since my last fight, which allowed for some of the changes in my training to really settle into a rhythm, but I’m also not a fan of having more than 14 days between fights. This was about 17 days, so not a huge span, but it felt long. We’re having some difficulties with promoters at our usual two stadiums, so this was the first time in about five years (according to Den) that a fighter from Lanna has fought at Thapae Stadium. I’m happy to reintroduce us.
I like Thapae as a space. It’s inside the moat of the Old City, which immediately distinguishes it from all the other stadia around town. You can still walk to all the others, it’s not a big difference, but inside and outside the moat feels very different when you live in Chiang Mai. Maybe like how actually inside or outside Manhattan feels. The stadium itself is down a little alley, which serves as motorbike parking for the Thapae Gate area. Once you’re inside the space opens up and is ringed with bars, the same as Loi Khor Stadium, but somehow more centralized with the very tall ring at the center of everything. What’s really cool is that in the back there is a warm-up area for the fighters (it has bags hanging – only two – and I believe is actually used as a training facility during the day) that feels nicely separate but still part of the event. There’s a small stage in the rear where a group of three or four men play the music for the fights live (which is just so damn cool) and a DJ who blasts the same terrible music for entrances as every other stadium. And on the far end in the back is a little corner where fights for the next month are written on a whiteboard and I reckon that’s where all the gambling is organized. It feels like a mini Lumphini, save for all the bars. The air is really hot and doesn’t move much, which I actually kind of liked.
live music at the Stadium was wonderful to fight to
The back warmup area is where all the fighters go to prepare. It’s similar at Kalare as there is only so much space where fighters can lay out their mats, but because this space is reserved for this purpose only it feels quite different. I happened to be set up right next to my opponent and her camp, although I didn’t know which one she was for a while. I did start to suspect after a very short period of deductive reasoning, but for a brief moment I thought I was fighting another girl who was maybe 20 feet away. She was, in fact, fighting a girl from the same camp as the girl I fought and was closer to my size than my actual opponent.
The girl who was from the same camp as my opponent, who warmed up right next to me, was awesome. I couldn’t stop watching her. She was very slim, dark tattoos on her right bicep, very short hair and dark skin with these huge eyes that flashed different emotions when she would march around with purpose or suddenly stop and smile. It’s like she had two faces. When we took this picture of her (below) she was waiting for the first fight to end and she was up next. She was looking very serious and when she saw the camera her face changed and she started to go for the gloves-up pose and this picture was snapped right before she accomplished it.
She lost her fight by a lot – it was pretty much a blow out – but she had good heart and fought the whole time. I kept thinking of Master K at my very first fight, which was a tournament in Virginia, and he would just look at me silently when you could see someone who had not done their roadwork. “If you don’t run,” he’d say, “you cannot fight Muay Thai.” This fight perfectly illustrated that. I saw this fighter in the restroom as she was getting herself cleaned up and I smiled big at her, gave her a thumbs-up and told her that she fought well, that her opponent was just much bigger. She gave me a huge smile and returned my thumbs-up.
My fight was scheduled to be last of the night. Den moaned about this as he was very tired and understandably so. He’d had his 3-year-old son stay over the night before because Monday was to be Den’s birthday. They’d gone out to Matt’s fight the night before, getting home at about 12:30 am and into bed at maybe 1:30, then his son had awakened at 4:30 am and wanted to watch cartoons, which Den permitted. I wouldn’t be fighting until maybe 11:30 pm and that meant another very late night for Den. I wanted to do well for him on his birthday and I reckon making the fight short was about as nice as I could make it.
When the second fight of the night began, the female fight between the girl that fascinated me and the girl I thought I was fighting, I went up to sit on some benches that lined the warm-up area to watch the fight. A young Thai guy who was an official of some kind came up and asked, “Sivia?” to which I nodded and then he tried to hand a slip of paper and a pen to little Neung. Neung pointed to me and said, “dai,” which basically means can and the guy looked shocked, shrugged and then handed me the paper and pen. I began filling it out, which shocked him again and he walked away. I was able to fill in my name, age, birthday, last three opponents, etc. but got lost on the part that required information on my gym, trainers, owner, etc. Den filled that part out for me and then teased me for spelling errors. I loved that he made fun of me for the errors, as he would make fun of Neung for spelling poorly, rather than just thinking it was good that I can read/write Thai.
My opponent was wearing a pink and black striped polo shirt and when she changed into her shorts and fight top she looked even bigger. I generally fight women who are bigger than I am and that’s not really a problem, but she just looked even bigger than usual. I felt nervous because of the new stadium, because of fighting someone new (the whole team was from Prae (แพร่), which is a small village outside of Chiang Mai where my boxing trainer Neung hails from), and generally feeling like I’d trained a lot of things that I wanted to bring into the ring with me. Nerves are good, so long as they don’t take over – I fight the best when I’m a little nervous; feeds the adrenaline or something.
When we stood face to face in the ring our size difference was truly evident. I thought this was kind of funny because I could feel the crowd, which didn’t know me because I’ve never fought at this stadium before, was murmuring as they figured out who to bet on.
The crowd seemed to really love my Ram Muay. Normally I can hear the MC commenting on how unusual it is, but this time I could just feel the crowd paying close attention to it. It helped that my opponent didn’t perform one at all, which meant I was the sole focus throughout.
When we first started I knew I wanted to move in and land my hands. I’ve been working on stepping forward on my punches, driving through with body weight instead of just snapping with arm strength. I also have been working blocks with Daeng’s drills, so I knew I could block like a hairpin trigger, but for whatever reason (maybe leaning forward too much instead of stepping forward on my punches) I wasn’t blocking. I took a bunch of right kicks to the hip and then started catching them. Clinching in the middle of the ring instead of the ropes is something Den wants me to do and is something Daeng and I worked on, as well as something I’ve been able to practice a little more because we have a new Thai teen at the camp who, though he’s bigger than I am, isn’t more skilled, so I can try a lot more with him than I can against the better boys.
Clinching in the middle of the ring was the ticket. I was able to overwhelm with angles and make it look like I was just crushing this girl, even though she’s physically bigger. She didn’t know how to handle my gloves on her face and I could bend her backwards or down pretty easily. When she did move for better angles I managed to land some elbows, one of which knocked her down for an 8 count after she collapsed from the unfortunate position of already having her back taken. I was so excited by that elbow that I couldn’t find the neutral corner when the ref told me to go. I haven’t seen the video yet, but I laugh at the memory of it. She got up from the 8 count, which surprised me a little bit, but I knew I wanted to go right back in and smother her. My own feeling was that I could have gone in harder, but Kevin says it looked like I charged right back in. From there I landed some knees and then she was done. I found the corner a little faster that time but it was already over before I’d turned around.
We’ve been using GIFs to isolate portions of the fight for my positive mental imagery training – I include them here to illustrate the things I’m working on.
In clinch training with Daeng he puts on a belly pad and wants me to just nail it with knees while he fights me up top in the clinch with swimming arms and angles. One thing he loves to do is put his back against the ropes (because my opponents do) and use his arms to punch me in the gut to represent knees while I try to knee him with my arms clamped around his neck. It’s exhausting. But what I learned was to go from side to side with my hips so he couldn’t tag me as hard with his punches. Turns out it works great in real fight context, too. She gets her head moving to different sides to escape, which is very clever and works well for her until I get my hands locked behind her, which is another thing I’ve been working on. (I do it great in practice and then just don’t in fights – I think that’s why I lost my last fight, actually.) That’s how I get her to the ground at the end of this clip – it’s all in the lock.
This is the elbow that leads to the 8 count, almost a KO. (Next time, Master K!) I actually don’t train elbows in context a great deal because it’s hard to do. I can feint them in padwork with Den (and I clipped his jaw with my left elbow a few days ago during clinch in padwork and he did not like it) but mostly it’s work with Kevin where I’m working on my figure-4 block and elbow out of it. They hit air in this drill 99% of the time but sometimes he’ll wear a headguard and I can throw them for real. That’s how I split his lip open the other day. But that’s where I think this elbow came from, is that guard practice. I throw the elbows after everything, so it’s an automatic movement in response to my arms being impacted – so coming over the top like this is the perfect real-life example. Her arms are pinned and I just collapse my right arm so the elbow comes forward. I hit her in the jaw and there’s a slight delay but she gets rocked. Taking her back is something I reckon comes from doing that 100 times to the new kid. Gotta do it as much as possible until he learns how to defend it.
My Reaction After the Fight
We’re trying a new thing where I shoot an “update” directly after the fight. It’s an experiment at the moment and it certainly helps that I won the fight, but I think it’s a cool idea because it’s so raw. I hope to be fighting this weekend, and I’m already booked to fight on the 28th: