[update 5/31/2014: Yokkao put up the fight! much appreciated – above]
February 19, 2014 – Pattaya Boxing World Stadium – Yokkao 7
The space to get ready at Pattaya Boxing World is smaller than what I’m accustomed to in Chiang Mai stadia, but mostly because it’s indoors and therefore the space feels more limited, whereas in Chiang Mai everything is basically an open even though the actual space available for each camp’s warmup is probably smaller. I sat facing backwards on a chair with my wrists resting on the back of it while Kru Mutt did my handwraps. I love the way he wraps hands – methodical, practiced, and everything gets cinched together with three pieces of tape running between the fingers and knuckles to the back of the hand. It feels like you’re strapped in.
Yokkao provided gloves, anklets, T-shirts for the cornermen, and shorts. Unfortunately the gloves and shorts were taken back after the fights. When I first pulled my shorts out I thought they had my opponent’s name on them but when I carefully sounded out the Thai letters I realized they read “Lumpinee”; the consonants and final vowel over the “n” sound made it look, at a short glance, quite like “Lommanee.” So much so, actually, that one of the show coordinators came up and said he was sorry but that he’d have to get me to change shorts, saying he didn’t know why I had ended up in “Lommanee” shorts but maybe they’d switched our corners by accident on the card. I politely corrected him that I’d made the same mistake and that the shorts, in fact, read Lumpinee. He looked at them closely for a moment, then realized I was right and hurried off to one of another million things he needed to be doing. That was the general feel of backstage, just a very polite gloss over hectic rushing around.
The fight felt fast – and it was, pretty much. All Yokkao fights are only three rounds and each round, whether male or female bouts, is three minutes. That extra minute in each round from my normal time does not make its way into my conscious experience of the fight. It still just feels fast. My opponent is the WMF World Champion at 48 kg and we both weighed in below 48 – I at 47.2 and she at 47.8 kg. I was very surprised that she was under 48, mostly because she’s taller than I am and every inch equals more weight. I’ve been finishing my practices at about 46.5 kg, so I didn’t “cut weight” at all and just stepped on the scale “as is.” I suspect Lommanee “made weight” to some degree, although I have no idea how much. I’m used to fighting opponents bigger than I am and I would guess, from my experience, that by fight time she was at around 50 or 51 kg.
But it wasn’t weight issue at all, the greater obstacle was the angles of her height (for me) and she used her experience very well to time her elbows. There really weren’t a lot of exchanges in round 1, from either of us. The first elbow was her lead hand (left) popping over my guard, which was too low and too loose. I wasn’t even that close to her – obviously close enough, but it was an elbow that stood pretty much by itself. It cut me in the center of my forehead and, while the elbow strike didn’t register as much of an impact at all, I immediately felt the warmth of blood on my face and in my peripheral vision I could see dark red droplets like the start of rain on the canvas. Honestly, Lommanee looked more surprised than I was. Blood was dripping all over, I could see it on Lommanee’s arms from when we clinched, on my gloves, but it didn’t feel like anything. The ref paused the fight so I could go see the doctor and as he pressed gauze into the cut to get a good look I told him mai bpen rai (“no problem”) and smiled at him. The doctor looked at me, studying me, almost. I grinned through my mouthpiece, khor dtoh bpai ka (“I want to continue”) I said. He looked surprised, he looked at the ref, back at me and then nodded, signaling that we could get back to it.
The bell sounded and we returned to our corners. Kru Mutt jumped in the ring and smeared Vaseline into my cut to hold the blood back. He asked me two or three times if I wanted to keep going and I kept nodding emphatically, saying, “yes, yes.” He told me to kick low but other than that I don’t recall him really giving me instruction. The plan from the start was to punch her body and he told me before that she’s too tall so to just kick her legs. I knew if I had anywhere in the fight to take an advantage it was in the clinch, so my aim was to get in and start landing knees. When we got back to the fight I kicked a few times – they landed but they weren’t thrown with the kind of force that would make much of an impact. That’s my fault. We did start to clinch a bit and I did start landing knees. Somewhere in there I came in for a right-cross to her body and she used that opening to land another left elbow down on my hairline. It split open wide and fairly long. I felt the impact of that one and the blood from the new cut was running into my right eye. We kept fighting for a bit and I was wiping the blood from both cuts with my gloves, pretty much the way I wipe sweat off my nose during training. It kind of felt the same. When the ref paused the fight again to check out this new cut I tried to reason with the doctor again but because the blood was in my eye he called it. I was disappointed. Lommanee was very excited. The crowd was loud and buzzing.
Thai fights run and are judged as narratives. With only three rounds the narrative really was going to be determined by the 3rd round, who was finishing stronger. I figured she would take the first with technique, the 2nd I had thought could be a clinch battle and even, and in the 3rd I was going to have to press my cardio and strength advantage to end this fight on the upswing, with knees. That was how I had to win it unless I knee KO’d as I’m capable of doing. The blood from the elbows changed all that. They weren’t big blows, but they had big visual impact and they cut off any hope for a 3rd round showing. As much as westerners make of elbows, this is what they are. They are basically short cuts to victory. That’s why you guard against them.
Lommanee and I hugged in the middle of the ring and I went to greet and thank her corner. The doctor was helicoptering around me to keep this gauze on my head, applying pressure to the second cut. He put me in Lommanee’s corner and tried to hold the pressure on my head at the same time that he was indicating for me to get out of the ring. Because I have to go under the bottom rope there was no way to keep the gauze on my head and dip down to floor level, so the gauze dropped as I bent down and as my head lowered a big gush of blood splattered out onto the canvas. Lovely.
The crowd cheered me as I got to the floor and started walking toward the back of the stadium. Lots of claps and thumbs up from the spectators. There’s a young guy from WKO gym, who we call “Artest” because he looks like Metta World Peace, walking quickly behind me with a towel that he was trying to catch me with to start wiping off my arms and chest. The little kids from Petchrungruang gym who I clinch with appeared beside me once we reached the doctor’s little side room. Alex, maybe 11 years old and almost as tall as I am but made of matchsticks in how lanky he is right now, speaks a little English (he’s Italian) and asked me hesitantly if it hurt. I laughed and said, “no.” Jozef, who is 8 years old and Slovakian and almost always has a tough-guy expression, stared at me with his eyes wide and his mouth agape. Around his forehead and cheeks Jozef’s face looked stained pink – like someone had colored on him with marker and it hadn’t washed off entirely – so I squinted my eyes at him, gave him the “what’s up?” head nod and with him still staring at my bloodied cuts asked, in Thai: “Hey, what happened to your face?” He almost got the joke but mostly just shook his head and kept staring. You can see video of them looking on in the extended stitching video below.
Kru Mutt was emphatically telling me, “you win the fight here,” while pointing to his heart. It’s a high compliment. Apparently when my opponent had walked out Kru Mutt, who had never seen her prior to that moment, told Kevin, “she’s a giant!” and asked how much she weighed. I don’t know that I could have won that fight – a third round was needed to know how much what I was starting to get going in the clinch could have turned the tables – but I was definitely starting to affect her and given the visual disparity of the two of us in the ring I think that would have been quite exciting. I mean, blood is exciting also, but definitely more so when the fight is going. The doctor was ready for me and I hopped up on a very tall, padded table. He went to work cutting my hair off and cleaning the cuts before covering my face with a surgical cloth in order to start stitching the second, wider cut. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear and feel the children huddled around: Jozef, Alex and a couple little Thai kids that were already in the room when I got there. I don’t know who they were with but the little girl, maybe 9 years old, was way into the whole process. She was filming and taking pictures on a cell phone. Jozef and Alex seemed excited more than concerned – the seemed really impressed by the whole thing and again Alex asked if it hurt; this time he must have meant the stitches. I told him it doesn’t hurt right after the fight but that it hurts later. Being stitched straight after a fight is best because the adrenaline from the fight itself acts as anesthetic – the longer the stitches take, the more it begins to hurt and shock sets in. The doctor told me he was going to give me a lot of stitches because it’s on my face, as a cosmetic consideration. So all told I got 28 stitches on both cuts. Speaking mostly to the atmosphere of excitement and some concern, I said through the green surgical fabric mai bpen rai – chee-wit nakmuay – “No problem – the life/fate of a fighter.” (this is a cliche used to describe stitches for fighters). The doctor chuckled as he stitched and Kru Mutt began repeating chee-wit nakmuay until he was singing it, kind of calling it out into the room. It was funny and kind of sweet. But more than anything it was what brought everything down to a calm and quiet acceptance.
The Highlight Reel:
My Post Fight Update
What the cuts looked like
Getting my stitches
[Update – 3/31/2014: I just discovered that Lomanne, who I had not heard of before this fight, on the screen she is called Cherry Gor. Twin Gym in error. You can see her use the same wicked elbows in this fight from 2013 below]
Here is my post on the meme that grew out of this fight.
Complete Fight Record