August 30th, 2013 – Kalare Stadium, Chiang Mai –
There was a lot of back and forth regarding who I would be fighting on this night and it wound up being Sud Siam Sor Sumalee, who belongs to the same camp as Yod Ying, with whom I’ve had many fights. Sud Siam is a bit bigger, but they’re both southpaw and fight pretty similarly. Despite having seen Sud Siam (her name means “pinnacle of” of “best of” Siam) fight a couple times now, I’ve never fought her before and could only make a few assumptions based on the couple times I’ve seen her. She fights pretty similarly to Yod Ying, close enough that I probably could have just gone in there and mentally convinced myself I was fighting Yod Ying, but the fact of the matter is that she is not, in fact, Yod Ying so I didn’t know entirely what to expect. She’s also a couple kilos bigger than Yod Ying, who is a few kilos bigger than I am, so some of the things in the clinch that I’ve been able to work on Yod Ying didn’t seem to be working with Sud Siam, maybe due to size. That’s okay, I’ve got other things to do that will solve that, I just didn’t have the wherewithal to apply them in this fight.
This night felt a little strange as a whole. It was a small group gathered at the gym to head down to the fights, which has an effect on the energy to be sure. When I came to the gym earlier for my shadowboxing and oil massage Daeng had asked me how I feel, “how many percent?” which is his way of asking how sure I am that I’ll win a fight. He told me he was going to bet on me, so he wanted to gauge my confidence. What’s a little funny is that the day before, during my private boxing lesson with Neung, I’d actually felt really confident – composed, relaxed, good energy. But today I felt a bit sluggish, which isn’t really unusual for a day off. Normally I get the oil massage and start to feel much more “alive” in my body as I go. Sure enough I felt much better in my shadowboxing, but I wasn’t feeling as “I must crush you,” so to speak.
I have a hard time mentally dealing with my trainers betting on me. It happens all the time and it’s an integral part of being a fighter in Thailand but being aware of it is difficult for me. I feel a lot of pressure. My trainers don’t have money to throw around and gambling on me is partially a way to earn a little extra money but it’s also, if I lose, a way for them to lose a little money. There’s an investment in time and trust between me and my trainers and I’d like for them to be able to profit off of that without me being directly responsible for an income – gambling is a gamble, after all – but it’s just one more way in which a loss feels worse than a win.
When we got to the venue Kevin and I stood alone at an empty spot near the back of the lot for quite a while before little Neung caught up with the mat. In addition to the night feeling a little bit “dark” in energy, my own included, it also felt a bit distracted. That happens all the time, it wasn’t particular to this night out of all nights, but it was notable. The appropriate response from my end would be to acknowledge it and find a way to adjust my own energy and focus to counter it.
The fight card wasn’t printed yet and I saw one other female fighter across the way who I assumed would be my opponent. I recognized her as the woman my friend Robyn had fought, someone a good 10 kilos heavier than I am and a good fighter. I was surprised but accepted that I’d be fighting her and started thinking about what to do. She’s southpaw, I remembered, and incredibly game; she gets up. When I finally saw the card about 20 minutes later I discovered that there were two female bouts that night and I was not fighting Robyn’s opponent. The fact that I didn’t feel much different between the expectation and the realization of who I was actually fighting is less a warrior-like mentality of “anyone, anytime, anywhere,” and more of a lack of focus, I think. I don’t think I had my shit together.
A few fights in Pook, Paweena, and a few of their associates arrived at the venue (my female fan support club) and gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers. I was a little taken aback and actually responded with, “before the fight?” which is not only a jerky response (sorry, ladies!) but I think also indicated my state of mind, feeling a lack of confidence without being conscious of it. I don’t know where exactly that was coming from but I need to figure it out for future exercises in solving that issue.
Disclaimer: the announcer is absolutely horrible. I’ve only had him working a few of my fights but he is the worst.
I wanted to use low kicks right off the bat, mostly because I can land them pretty clean against southpaws and because I’ve had success in the past with using them early to change the patterns or slow down real “kicky” opponents. I was able to land a few in the first round but Sud Siam keeps a very wide distance at all times. She’s like Yod Ying in that she basically only has a left kick, but instead of a left kick, left cross combination she reverses that to left cross, left kick. I had a little success in the first round clinching in the middle of the ring (the ref broke the clinch pretty fast against the ropes), but for the most part I was just trying to cover distance and I ended up taking a lot of those kicks without delivering counters.
In the second round I successfully just walked forward to launch a left kick, which landed but I pulled the power for whatever reason. The low left to right cross worked. And in the clinch I wasn’t locking my hands or moving them inside for the T-Rex clinch. Both would have resulted in greater things, I think. But I did get my lean back going as a means of dodging kicks and a few times throughout the fight landed counter kicks off of that, which is something Den complained about from my last fight. So, small increase but big gains there. I also really like the block, right cross, left knee combination at about 1:40 in round 2. (Similar combo finish a little after the bell, too… oops.)
I aimed to get my right cross going in the third round, which I’ve had good success with in the past three fights, but I wasn’t committing to the forward step with my lead leg and that was thwarting the whole operation. That’s disappointing, but it’s also something I can train – so that’s good. At just before the 2:00 mark on round 3 I did a hopping right kick that Master K has always demanded and Den has recently told me to do. I’m very pleased to have done it in a fight because doing that stuff under pressure is the hard part and the whole point. It wasn’t hard enough, fast enough or far enough, but it’s a little bud and it will grow with some work.
lean back, fourth round
Between rounds 3 and 4 my corner told me that if I win round 4 I will win the fight “easy.” So I focused on doing everything I could for round 4, which I did indeed win. But then going into round 5 the “ease” with which the result of the whole fight was determined was far overestimated. I did actually feel that I’d done enough, but I’m not a judge. Kevin and Matt both said after the fight that my frustration was evident; I felt tired, which is highly unusual for me in a fight and I definitely could have pushed harder, but for whatever reason I was struggling and my “fault” was showing it. “Take the fight out of your face.”
block counter combo, fourth round
In all this wasn’t a “bad fight,” this was actually a really good fight. And I fought hard all the way through, certainly to the extent of my ability on this given night. I have other options in my arsenal that didn’t make it into the ring with me, but I need to go back and train them, strengthen them and come back more prepared. It was a close fight that could slip one way of the other and I didn’t tighten my grip when I could have. (I could feel her fading from some knees in the fourth round and didn’t floor it, something I’ve done and thought I learned from in previous fights, but it’s not a one-to-one problem to solution equation. Sometimes things take a while to sort out.)
When I was leaving the gate to go change my clothes an older Thai guy who is always at the fights asked me if I’d won. He had only seen the first few rounds of my fight. I told him that I’d lost and he gave me a very sincere “that’s alright” pat on the shoulder and told me that my opponent had been too big. I don’t think that’s true but maybe for this particular fight, on our first go-around, the advantages she had were better utilized by her than mine were by me, and that won’t be the case next time. I don’t believe in “too big” as a permanent fact but rather one in a line of problems I need to solve in order to secure the victory next time. There’s always next time.
The Whole Fight