May 1, 2013 – I waited for this fight the way a kid waits for Christmas. And it took forever because, unlike Christmas, it had a few false starts. The stadium where I normally fight is currently closed, so we’re working with promoters and a venue with whom we have less frequent interaction. Due to whatever complications the first scheduled fight was cancelled, the morning of the fight. So I went to training that afternoon. The fight was rescheduled for a week later and again it was cancelled, only this time only hours before I was supposed to leave for the fight. This is frustrating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it messes with my training schedule – stopping when I don’t need to is infuriating and not getting to fight just makes it worse.
So this one was scheduled for a Wednesday instead of a Saturday, which actually means we were working with a different promoter. Still, I didn’t have full faith that it would go off as planned and had already taken days off as per usual for scheduled fights (which didn’t happen), so I trained full and regular sessions up and through the night before my fight.
When “On Time” is a Bad Thing
We never leave on time from the camp. I mean, we leave “on time” in the Thai sense, but not in the sense of the numbers written on the board matching the time displayed on the clock. It’s only ever happened that we leave at the time written on the board twice, this being one.
When Kevin and I were within sight of the camp, at 8:24 for the 8:30 take-off, my vision was flooded by the headlights of Daeng’s truck pulling out of the driveway. How unusual, I thought to myself. We made it over to the truck and the back was already packed full of people from the gym. The cab was already full with Pom, Den’s two little nephews, one Belgian fellow and the driver. There were also about 6 persons still waiting to get into the truck. Den instructed Kevin and me to get in the passenger seat, so Kevin sat in the chair and I curled up on top of him, which was the closest I’ll ever get to contortionist tricks. Daeng saw this and pulled me out, pulled one of the little kids from the backseat of the cab and had me sit where he had been, then plopped the little gromit on my lap.
This little kid did not want to sit on me. He had his butt on my right thigh, kind of straddled but also holding up most of his weight on his own feet, clutching the headrest of Kevin’s seat in front of him. Daeng got in and we started moving, Pom ordering him to find better music on the radio. I tried to turn and see who was in the bed of the truck but the tinted glass and darkness of night made it near impossible to identify anybody. I listened to a few voices and knew who at least half the passengers were, but I didn’t see or hear the other fighter. It was to be his first fight and perhaps he was mum and in his own world of freaking out.
As we drove the little gromit on my lap got heavier and heavier as he stopped holding up his own weight. My leg started to fall asleep and the littler kid, who was squished between me and the Belgian, had fallen asleep for real and was allowing his tiny head to bop from my arm to the arm of the Belgian and back again.
At the Venue
When we got to Loi Khor we all piled out in a disorganized mob. I looked around and noted that the other fighter wasn’t there. I asked one of the passengers from the bed of the truck if Andy had been with them and she looked surprised and asked if he had not been up front with us. I tapped on the window of the truck and Daeng opened the door, impatient because he wanted to go park the truck, and I asked where Andy was. He made a sound and slapped his forehead in a manner that was so comical that Kevin and I considered he might be joking. So I called Den and he hung up on me after I asked where Andy was. Once inside I saw Den and he explained that Andy had, indeed, been left behind but that he would be coming down with Neung on the motorbike.
Remember how I said we’d only ever left on time once before? That other time was when I was fighting in Phayao, a 4 hour drive away from the camp, and the truck left without me. Now, the second time we left on time we forgot another fighter. It’s bad news, this punctuality.
I looked on the card and saw I was fight number 6, which meant I had a lot of time. I sat down and watched the shuffle of everybody from camp finding seats in the audience and ordering drinks from the bar (mostly bottles of Coke). The name of the girl I was to fight looked familiar, so we got on the tablet and looked at my fight record to see when I’d fought her before. It was six months ago, near (or on?) my birthday. As we watched the fight I noted she looked very familiar, like the girl I’d fought at Kalare and then immediately again at Phayao. Kevin said her face looked “too thin” but I was more convinced the more I watched her, by the way she moves and fights, that it was the same girl despite a different name.
Den sat down beside me and told me it was the same girl from Phayao. He told me to “just do everything” and then threw an elbow in the air. (The names are only slightly different – she’s not being deceitful – like how “William” might become “Little Will” or “Billy”.) I laughed and turned to Kevin, who had now both of the little nephews crawling over the right side of his body trying to look at the tablet. I wanted to throw five elbows in this fight and because this girl is the one who opened my scalp in Phayao with an elbow in the first round, leading to a stoppage by the ring doctor, I thought it was the perfect opponent to want to throw five elbows at.
The time to the fight went quickly as there were a number of knockouts in early rounds. I had my hands wrapped by Off and Little Neung and was up and shadowboxing by the time the “Blind Eyes Boxers” (men in blindfolds pretending to box) were on. I didn’t feel rushed. The timing felt perfect.
In the Ring
As we got to the base of the stairway leading up to the ring Den turned and put both hands on my shoulders. He looked at me without speaking for a moment and I noticed the two white garlands around his neck that he must have purchased from one of the kids who sells them around the stadium. Den is a conservative, religious and strongly superstitious man. He believes that he has bad luck and when he goes to fights or rides his motorcycle he wears a chain with a large amulet around his neck and a belt with five or six large amulets – like a horizontal shotgun shells – around his waist on a belt. Seeing these garlands around his neck for the first time, I knew he felt tonight was unlucky. I knew before he told me that they’d forgotten the Mongkol.
I knelt down and bowed my head at the bottom stair before Neung and Off jumped up and raised the bottom rope for me. I ducked under without touching my gloves to the canvas and bowed to the ref and judges, walked to my corner and smiled at my opponent across the ring. The ref looked at my gloves and didn’t seem at all bothered that they weren’t taped. No time for that, I guess.
As the music started and I began sealing the ring I felt my legs turn to jelly. I was bothered by not having the Monkol. I’ve also not felt anything personal toward my opponent in a long time and I felt very nervous in the pit of my stomach. As I knelt for the three bows to my corner, the Wai Kru, I spoke to myself about how there was nothing that could happen in this fight that I wasn’t prepared for, good or bad. All I had to think about was keeping my left hand up and wanting to throw those elbows.
The fight started and everything left me – no nerves, no jelly legs, no worries. I kept my left hand up and knew she would drop hers when she threw her wild overhand rights. I countered with my own right a few times when she did this, but ducked too far under and not to the side. No problem, I was covered. I took a few kicks to my left leg while not blocking properly but when I got my leg turned out I checked her kick high up on my shin, near my knee, and felt her leg bounce off of mine and knew it had hurt her. She stopped that kick. Between rounds my corner told me to stop ducking my head and to teep her, go for her middle where’s she’s soft. She started throwing elbows in the second and I wanted to throw mine – and I did, but not the kind I wanted – but it was the knee that finished it.
Never before have I thought to try things and then tried them as much or as often as I did in this fight. I threw more combinations and landed more than I have before, and I thought about those elbows even though I didn’t get in the right position to throw them. That’s a start! It’s a a good start and it means the elbows are coming. And when they do I will wonder how I’ve ever done without them.
The Whole Fight