December 1, 2014 – Thepprasit Stadium, Pattaya – full fight video above
This fight is a rematch against the “Iron Shark,” Chalaamlek, who I fought for a Loi Krathong Festival fight just under a month prior. Our first fight resulted in a draw, although my corner and a lot of the crowd was adamant I’d won. It didn’t matter, a rematch was scheduled for a few weeks later and ended up being pushed back just a week or so because a different promoter wanted it on his show. I’m not sure why; I’d assumed it was because it was a big gambling opportunity (Thais love rematches for this reason), but it didn’t seem like there was much of that going on when it actually came to the fight. Kru Nu of Petchrungruang had me and another fighter on the card but the opponent of this other fighter pulled out and that left only me. So, Kru Nu actually asked if my other gym could corner for me so he could stay home. He doesn’t really go out to fights unless there are a few fighters on the card or unless it’s a big thing at Lumpinee or Rajadamnern, and even then he tries to get out of it if he can.
I was happy enough to rematch Chalaamlek regardless of date, location, who was cornering for me, or whatever else. She’d done really well with the damn Wall of China in our first fight and had kicked me a lot, so I worked on coming forward with my front leg as a guard and ready to teep, plus how to score out of her using the Wall of China in clinch. I’d had a few fights between our last and this rematch, so I’d had the opportunity to practice these things with other opponents. That’s part of the glory of fighting so often – real-time practice of new tricks or techniques.
Kevin, Jai Dee and I got to the venue at the time I’d agreed to meet Sangwean from O. Meekhun. He wasn’t there. The guys at the front door were very smiley and seemed to recognize me from previous fights there, which haven’t been very many, so that made me happy. My opponent was outside, sitting on a curb with her small entourage. We smiled at each other. When I looked at the program my name was “Jimmy” Petchrungruang. Awesome. The equipment manager came up to me straight away and asked me my name – he must have known it wasn’t right on the card. I asked for a pen and wrote my fight name Dahaknoi in Thai, but he obviously didn’t like that or didn’t believe me because later on he asked Filippo, who had shown up to corner for another Petchrungruang fighter (who was added to the card last-minute) what my name was and seemed more satisfied with Filippo’s answer of “Sylvie.” It’s hard to get a fight name going, apparently.
For the first hour I had no corner. I was scheduled as the second fight of the night and the equipment manager told me twice to get my hands wrapped. I just had to shrug and tell him I had no corner yet. By now I’m used to chaos surrounding fights so I was pretty calm about it, just strolling on outside the venue to call Tawan (Phetee Jaa’s mom) to ask if they were on their way because I was fighting soon. It was slightly awkward because as I was hearing Tawan assure me from the other end of the phone that they were on their way I ran into Filippo and the guys from PRR, who I didn’t know were coming at all but who apparently assumed they were also cornering for me. Filippo is very chill and when I said I had someone coming he just had this “sure, whatever you want,” attitude about it but then I had to balance having the equipment manager tell me to get my damn hands wrapped while simultaneously waiting for the corner I’d arranged to have come for me and the corner that was already there but who I’d asked not to help me. Oh, Thailand!
Finally Filippo just jumped in and wrapped my hands. He’d just started my first hand when Mawin, my clinching partner and Phetjee Jaa’s brother, strolled in all dressed up to be my corner. Sangwean followed shortly after and there was a little group hovering around me as my hands were being wrapped, kind of an acknowledgement that we all know each other and get along but also a tense competition of who was really “in charge” of operations. With my left hand (the second hand) halfway wrapped the Royal Anthem started and we all stood up, Sangwean holding my arm steady while Filippo continued to put tape on. Before he could finish the tape on the back of my hand, Sangwean whisked me away to another room to start my oil massage. He’d established himself as my corner by doing this but there was also a very real stress to the timing of all this. The first fight was just kids, so they only fought three rounds and my gloves were being tied on while they were announcing our fight. I kind of love this kind of time crunch for fights. Waiting around sucks.
I started out the first round trying to establish my range and this front-leg thing I’ve been working on. Chalaamlek is one of the few fighters I’ve faced who will stand in, which is so awesome. I train with the bag and my padholders to touch with my front arm but the women I fight never stay that close. So it feels super good to have the fight feel like what padwork can feel like, when the stuff you’re attempting to do actually works. I felt really good in this first round, kicking and moving forward in range. When I got back to the corner Kevin was all, “what the fuck are you doing?” He wanted me to clinch right away, which makes perfect sense when our last fight resulted in a draw. But I was happy with this round in the fight and I’m happy watching it now. There quite a few times that I was in range with my arm but then missed with my kick, meaning I have to come forward on the kick more; that’s the kind of thing you only know by practicing it in a fight. So I’m happy to have had this round go like this.
Round 2 she came out with some low kicks, which she’d done in our last fight, and when we clinched up she got the Wall of China in right away – I hesitated longer than I ought to and definitely more than I needed to, but I did get my leg back and over her to land a nice knee. She gets some kicks and when we clinch up she returns the few knees I throw, then tries the Wall again but I turned her on that one and I think that changed everything. Her kicks were still winning over mine but my hands were landing (those don’t score highly, so her kicks win there), but my knees were scoring much more directly and hurting her in this fight as oppose to the last one. I do need to get my damn back off the ropes though.
In Round 3 she was grabbing me lower and I was able to break that and work around it relatively well, but better would have been to lock my hands behind her neck. At about 09:50 you see me lock and her arms get stuck, suddenly it’s a dominant position and I’m scoring from it. Locking is the secret, it’s the damn “skeleton key” and I sometimes forget to do it. It’s not “nature” yet, as my trainers call it. It will become automatic – it’s growing more in that direction all the time – but seeing it not work because the lock is absent definitely helps to cement my dedication to it. Definitely checking more kicks this time around though. I kind of fall back off of the clinch at one point and she gets me in the corner with the barrage of punches. I totally shouldn’t get in that position and she did great to go after it, but her power and accuracy was such that I could wait it out a little and then explode out with an elbow… that didn’t land. But she’d either spent her energy stash in that barrage or the elbow freaked her – or both – because she was pretty well done after that. I also do better when I’m put under a lot of pressure, so being hit actually fortifies me, like a little emotional and physical surge. Hulk smash kind of thing.
Between rounds Sangwean is telling me to turn her (you can see my cornerman help out in a little shuffle demonstration with his shoulders) and, for the love of God, pull her head down for straight knees. Yeah… my knees weren’t so strong in that last round. Poor Sangwean, he gets so confused as to why my performance in fights doesn’t match what I do in training… yet. To start out Round 4 Chalaamlek tries to kick to score and then run to defend the point. It’s a good plan and it used to work against me much better than it does now! She was too tired for the clinch at this point though and I was able to score, lock up and land an elbow (that’s just a personal celebration for the fact of it there). She was fighting back hard though and I was just able to cover and block enough to get back into the clinch and land knees. Maybe it was her fatigue but I felt that my knees were connecting higher and higher on her, up into her chest near the end of the round.
In our last fight, which was a close fight for sure, I was able to put her on the ground in Round 5. That move and her decision to chase me afterward convinced my corner and the bulk of the crowd that I’d won that fight. That decision was a draw. In this fight, putting her on the ground again in Round 5 certainly solidified my lead. And I didn’t go backwards after that, which I had done in the last fight. She lands a nice body shot and I miss a big right hand near the end there. We were going to the finish on this one.
I went to get out of the ring and they told me to stay in, which has been happening a lot lately at my fights. Maybe it’s that it’s festival season for most of the occasions, but for this one I received a shiny cup as a prize. The Thai on the plate says something along the lines of “for outstanding female Muay Thai,” so it was definitely intended for our fight, as we were the only women on the program that night. I like these trophies; they remind me of the annual awards we’d get as little kids playing soccer. Usually everyone on the team would get a certificate with some kind of superlative – “best passing;” “best team spirit;” “most goals scored;” etc. – and then maybe one or two players would get these plastic, $5 trophies with a figure kicking a ball at the top. These trophies out here are pretty similar, although some can be quite large and elaborate, but their titles are more meaningful to me nowdays: “Most Exciting Fight,” “Beautiful Wai Kru,” and “Outstanding Female Muay Thai,” are all meaningful to me and those are the three I’ve received in the years I’ve been here. I’m pretty proud of them when I see them on my desk in the apartment.
After my fight we stayed to watch the other fellow from my gym fight and because the fight money is only handed out to fighters near the end, or sometimes after all the fights, on the card. I went over to the corner with the Petchrungruang gym and they used my Mongkol and ice bucket, but I wasn’t an active part of the corner, just support. I don’t know this guy who was fighting. I mean, I see him at training all the time but he and I never speak. He’s French and his Thai is very good. While his fight was going on a few older fellows (older than I am, not properly “old”) came over to offer me congratulations and snap some photos. They all appeared to be from the UK but long-timers in Pattaya. They were very nice and one handed me his business card, which was for a Go-Go Bar not too far from where I live, and invited me to come have a drink on the house any time. Smiling, I explained I don’t have much spare time and am not much of a drinker, but thanked him anyway and I did keep the card. He gave a very happy, “of course, of course, but if ever you do feel like it you are always welcome.” That was really quite nice.
I watched as some gamblers came up and yelled at this fellow from my gym, trying their best to get him to fight other than how he was going at the time. They were quite animated, so I reckon there was a reasonable sum riding on the fight. I offered my two cents to him, via my friend at the gym who I do know and talk to, but you can’t expect fighters to employ all of – or even any of – what you say from the corner. In a fight, under pressure, you do what you know and this guy knew some bad habits as well as some good moves. Unfortunately the fight was stopped when two elbows cut him open. I didn’t see it but offered some consolation as he was being stitched up that I’ve got 44 stitches in my head, so it’s no problem. The stitches in his chin made sense but then the doctor started stitching his shoulder/peck area. Apparently that was also a cut from an elbow, which I still can’t wrap my head around. I’ve never seen that before and don’t fully understand how it even works, but there it is. All we could do was pat him on the shoulder and let him hang his head and be disappointed a bit. He’d be okay and he’ll be better next time.
As we were waiting to get paid I sat with Sangwean and two men who I slowly came to understand were promoters. One of them was asking Sangwean about him cornering for me while my name on the card was Petchrungruang and I was clearly part of that gym. Sangwean explained how I train at both gyms and this promoter guy laughed before making a joke that Sangwean was the “little wife.” (Mia noi) This is a really funny joke, actually, but also quite cutting and it was clear that Sangwean’s laugh was more courtesy than entertainment. The “little wife” is the side piece or the concubine of the family; the first wife gets most of the authority, probably the priority in finances, etc. The “little wife” is kind of a “sloppy seconds” insult. What’s so funny about it is that Kru Nu at Petchrungruang and Sangwean at O. Meekhun do, to some degree, behave like the quintessential First and Little Wives – Kru Nu has more money and stability, more kids and objective success; Sangwean kind of scraps; Kru Nu can afford to be disinterested in me and choose to not get me fights, but totally strings me along when his interest comes back around and he wants me to fight; Sangwean nags at me and tries to get me to spend more time with that gym (he wants me to train mornings with him instead of at PRR and probably resents that I come to his gym late in the evening, after already training at PRR), like the husband coming “home” to the second wife and picking at his plate after already eating dinner with his first wife.
All that said, I don’t view O. Meekhun as the “little wife.” Petchrungruang is my primary gym in that I spend more hours training there but I value my relationship with Sangwean and my training with the kids – my hero Phetjee Jaa and her brother Mawin, as well as the other kids who cycle in and out of training with me there – at a level that is far too deep to be considered “secondary” in any way at all. I felt bad that Sangwean had to suffer this joke, even though it was funny. And it’s very Thai to turn everything – even scathing remarks – into a sexual joke or to tease someone about their social position. He can dish it – I get it from him all the time – so I reckon he can take it here and there.
Finally, Filippo and I walked over to the ticket office to get our fighter money. Filippo bent down and spoke through the little cutout in the glass, saying he needed money for two fighters and gave our names. They couldn’t find me on the card, even after I told them I was the second fight. They just kept moving their fingers (two persons) up and down the page in search of me. Then I remembered and called out, “Jimmy, it’s for Jimmy.” There was an “oh!” sound as they located my name on the card. Jimmy’s gotta get home.
Complete Fight Record
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