This fight was a pretty quick turn around from my 56th fight, which was on a Thursday and this fight was the following Monday; so, four days. I’d been scheduled to fight on Wednesday but the promoter moved it up, so I got a call from Den on Friday, right after my 56th fight, asking if I would be okay to fight Monday instead. “Sure,” I said, “no problem.”
With only four days between fights there isn’t a lot of time for training. When Den asked me about fighting on Monday he’d said, “it’s okay, it’s the same training,” meaning you fight with the training you had before the last fight. I think that’s a kind of interesting concept, that you are using “roll over” training in that you don’t lose anything after a fight that you would have to work to gain back through training – you’re already trained for the fight. It would be like your boss calling and asking you to pick up a shift for your coworker – you don’t say, “but I’m not ready for it,” you just go and do it because you know how to do your job.
So I did shadowboxing and conditioning on Friday afternoon, trained regularly on Saturday, had a half-day again on Sunday with just some ringwork with Kevin and some bagwork and then was ready to go on Monday. Amazingly, I’d gone into my 56th fight with bumps on my shins, then I went into this fight with those same bumps and some bruising on my knee as well, but none of that felt problematic. In fact, my shins had been bothering me and I wasn’t kicking on them all leading up to the fight and then once I decided that I was going to have sore shins for a fight I just stopped caring. The acceptance of it made all the difference.
I spell the name of this stadium in different ways. For a long time I did Loi Kroh, because that’s what maps say. But if you listen to Thais say the second word, it’s more like a very short “Goh” and if you see it spelled in Thai it complicates it further. It’s not “crow,” as the first spelling suggests, but it’s not really “core” either, which the alternate spelling implies.
We got there at about 9:00 PM and the fights didn’t start until a little after 10:00, so there was lots of time to sit and relax. The venue did start to fill up just before the fights started and I’d been watching a Thai girl get ready behind me, trying to assess whether she was my opponent or the other female fight of the night. She was for the other fight, but her teammate was my opponent, despite having different gym names listed on the card. (My name was spelled correctly in English for the first time ever in Thailand.) As I sat there I got a message on Facebook from a young Thai girl named Somo who friended me a while back and I’ve slowly discovered that she’s also a fighter. Her message said, “I can see you!” We had a few back and forth, I asked if she was fighting and she explained that she’s the little sister of one of the other female fighters of the night, so I asked her to come take a picture with me and about 15 minutes later she did. She came over with her coach and a photographer and they took a couple pictures. She was so tiny in person – photographs of her do not show it – and she very shyly said, “nice to meet you” in English when I shook her hand. Her English is amazingly good in writing – when I asked her about it she said she’s self-taught, just hearing and remembering – but she was too shy to speak much. Her sister fought brilliantly.
Somo, her coach, and me before the fights started
Our area of the venue is a bar that is now called “Playgirl”, although I can’t tell you what it was called before. It’s under new ownership for about 6-12 months and only in this last visit did I notice any changes, mostly in the form of silhouettes of women in sexy poses on the walls. The bar has a pool table and so the Thai boys and sometimes the trainers happily shoot pool until they have to wrap my hands, do the oil massage or tear themselves away to go corner for me. The pool table also serves as a medical table (because of the bright overhead lights) when fighters need stitches after a fight. I warm up right in this area, kind of having to dance around the pool sticks when the cue ball is on the far end of the table. There’s not a lot of space to throw kicks, so I kind of feint them and go for knees and punches more, marching back and forth over a distance of only two meters or so. The whole scene is so, utterly, Thailand.
Maybe 30 minutes before my fight I figured out who my opponent was. She’d been dressed quite nice and didn’t change out of her blouse until right before her oil massage, so it was uncertain whether she was a second for the girl who had already fought or a teammate ready to go into the ring. I admit with full recognition of my folly that I underestimated her for a number of reasons: 1) her teammate had been blown out of the water by Somo’s sister in their fight, despite being the bigger (although shorter) fighter and I guess I assumed the two women would fight similarly. That’s ridiculous – you can’t judge any of the Lanna fighters by the other Lanna fighters. And 2) she did not have an air of confidence about her person; she didn’t look like a fighter, or what a fighter looks like to me in my head.
These were both terrible assumptions and I got what I deserved for buying into them. The fight just before ours ended in a round 2 KO and we were rushed to ringside. I got in first as a very drunk Thai man danced around behind me with delight, either from having just won money on the fight before mine or because he was really excited to gamble now… or both. As I ducked under the ropes I saw Somo, her sister and her coach taking ringside seats to watch my fight. Somo’s sister and I were listed at the same weight, although neither of us is actually 112 lbs – both of us are smaller but I believe, even with her height, she’s smaller still than I am. It wasn’t until my opponent got into the ring that I noticed her size. She’d been sitting pretty much the whole time before the fight and I had not assessed her size – taller than I am by a few inches at least, and heavier by a good 7 kilos, or 15.5. lbs! At the time I didn’t think she was the biggest girl I’ve ever fought, but she is. And she was skilled too.
Round 1 she grabbed me right away when we clinched up, getting the dominant position around my head and jerking me as she kneed. They weren’t great knees, but they probably looked really good and if I were less conditioned they might have felt more like great knees. She was so much taller that she was able to keep her head far above the action in the clinch, whereas I was tucking my head perhaps too low – the disparity wasn’t the best choice. Those elbows at about 1:10 of round one landed on my jaw, strongly enough to bruise my cheek but not enough to have any immediate effect. I was able to bend her backwards a bit against the ropes and land a few knees, but she definitely took the round.
Round 2 was messy and I felt overwhelmed. In the corner Den had warned me to use my left hand on the bicep or elbow of my opponent in order to block her from being able to elbow inside the clinch, but I wasn’t really able to execute that in the fight. The height of her head and my head in the clinch evened out a bit and I started getting a bit more control, allowing for more knees and therefore more scoring. At about 1:38 of this round I throw a jumping knee from a faked left. I worked this for 10 minutes with Taywin this week, just hitting the pads and messing about on the bag a bit, so I was pretty amazed that it appeared in the fight. What’s funny is that I was actually thinking of just a jumping right knee, without the left fake first, but that’s harder to do so my body just bypassed my brain and said, “nope, we’re doing this one.”
Round 3, just prior to the start of this round, when the ref wipes my gloves and face with the towel, he told me to knee. I don’t know if he was warning me, suggesting that he’d break the clinch faster if I’m not active, or if he was kind of advising me. After he’d wiped my face with the towel he patted my upper chest, right between my collarbones, in a kind of reassuring way – like he was letting me know he was protecting me as a the smaller fighter or something. It wasn’t clear, but it felt positive. I had a bit more success on the outside in this round, teeping when she punched once, teeping hard and knocking her back another time, and crashing in with a right cross into the corner. But generally the outside is not my game and I still needed to get in. I could feel her wearing down. At about 1:33 I got a downward elbow but it landed kind of on her neck; it’s a start but I’d like to have more deliberate strikes when I try stuff like that. It’s coming though.
Round 4 was “do or die” time for me. I knew that I had more gas than my opponent and that she was wearing down, but she could definitely eek out another two rounds if I let her breathe. I was gaining on her in a way, but I’d have to continue upward with momentum at that point to win this fight on points. It was a steep hill to attempt. I was cutting off the ring better to take her space and pressure her even if I wasn’t throwing anything – it’s a good way to get someone to hold their breath. At 1:25 you can see me doing double knees without bringing my leg down between. Den hates this because there’s not a lot of power in the knee whereas bringing it back down takes the same amount of time but delivers power. The thing is, I could feel both having an effect on her energy, just like pushing my knee into her belly when we’re knotted up makes it so she can’t take a breath. It’s not the best, but it was working. Maybe due to the increasing fatigue on her part, I was able to get her head down low enough for a knee to land and she went down immediately.
I won’t puff myself up and deny that I felt an enormous relief when she went down. It was absolutely a thank f*cking GOD! moment to have that fight end. Even afterwards I felt very emotional, far more so than I usually do. I was a little bit in a state of shock all the way home (you can see in the video how I walk past everyone and go straight back to the corner of the bar to film my post-fight update). I think it’s that I was overwhelmed by my disadvantages in that fight, even though I didn’t allow most of them to actually be disadvantages – I beat her in the clinch which was actually her greatest strength in that fight because of her size and technique. But the pressure was intense and I got in a survival mode that didn’t stop after the fight was over. It was intense.
I was able to shoot a short post-fight update, as has become the ritual now after fights to get the immediate aftermath. This is the back corner of the bar where we set ourselves up – I wanted a place with a bit of light and away from all the noise (which doesn’t really exist at Loi Khor).
After the update I was able to bring myself back out to the public area and have my wraps pulled off. I must have been feeling better because my victory smile was in full effect. You know you’ve made it when you have Superman on hand-wrap duty. (That’s Not, by the way, he’s a 16-year-old who just started training at the camp about 2 months ago and he’s having his first fight with us – second fight ever – this weekend, with me, at Loi Khor.)
The promoter had asked me before the fight if I would fight on Saturday. I told him to talk to Den and Den must have been up for it because he asked me on the drive home, totally giving me the option to say “no.” Usually I’m the one asking him to fight again right away and he gives me the “we’ll see” with a side-eye toward my shins or whatever else might be bruised, but he was open to the idea already and told me we could decide in a couple days. My right shin was sore as hell, up by the knee, from checking a few kicks, but other than that I had no injuries of which to speak.
The Whole Fight