full fight video above
November 1, 2014 – Phutthaisong, Buriram Thailand
This fight was sponsonred by my Uncle Mike Palmer, who is my mom’s big brother. He donated through my GoFundMe campaign to raise money to be able to travel for fights and it felt absolutely amazing to have his support, especially since my parents were with me for this fight as well. Thanks Uncle Mike!
This was my fourth fight in Buriram with the Giatbundit Gym. Since the start of October I’ve been fighting a lot, about 6 fights per month for two months now. I kind of love it. Driving up to Buriram has become easier, in the way that anything becomes easier the more you do it – the drive doesn’t seem as long, we rely less on the GPS and more on knowing where we are, Jai Dee is better at riding in the car now and spends most of the time sleeping rather than quaking in a stress-filled terror… and of course always getting to know the lovely people of the Giatbundit Gym better. I really like Pi Dit, the owner, and his wife Mor Pung. And Pi Dam, who is Frances’ first and favorite trainer is really a gem to have in one’s corner. He’s just got the right energy that you feel like you can go in and do what you need to do without having to perform anything in particular. “Block, block; lock, lock,” seems to be his main advice to me, which is perfect.
This time we got to drive up with my parents. My dad is an avid driver, taking “Sunday drives” throughout the week in Colorado when he takes the dogs up into the mountains for adventures. The drive up to Buriram has consistently caused both Kevin and me to remark, “wow, Steve would love this,” so we were happy to show him and my mom the beautiful Isaan fields and the mountains that create the border between Isaan and more central Thailand. Driving up over the mountains my dad did say that it was the most beautiful thing he’d seen.
Normally we stay in Phutthaisong (small town) and drive out to fights in the greater areas of Buriram (big district) for the fights, but this event was actually in Phutthaisong, although we didn’t know where. On the evening of the fight we took a walk around this lake that’s behind the apartments where we stay. The sunset as we walked the 5 km around the lake was gorgeous and it was dark already by the time we were traversing the distance of the last stretch back to the apartments. We heard the signature Muay Thai music in the moon-lit dark and looked down a little slope to surprisingly see a ring, maybe 100 yards from where we stood. Nobody was there yet, but we could literally walk to the venue and hear it from our apartment. How cool is that?
The Event – Before the Fight
We ended up driving over to the venue at about 8:00 PM, after Pi Dit called Frances and said, “it’s time.” (More or less.) We drove on the main streets over to the ring and as we navigated the super narrow entranceway, with motorbikes parked on either side, we reckoned we might get boxed in to wherever we parked as more cars arrived. That meant we’d have to wait until the entire event was over before being able to leave, but we thought maybe we could leave out the back, using the lake path that we’d first seen the ring from as an escape. My dad was immediately antsy and didn’t want to wait at on the mat in the grass for the fights to start and for me, I think I was 14 fights in, which is a few hours. So we walked up to see if he could just walk home by the lake but there was a deep ditch, terribly muddy, making it impossible to reach the lake by foot or by car. The car was already boxed in and the electricity was out (so the event wasn’t started yet) so Kevin walked my dad back to the apartments and then came back himself.
It was a long night. Kevin, my mom and I laid out on my mat in a tight little row with Jai Dee digging himself a little den in the dirt to lie in. The mosquitoes were biting and you could see a million bugs of various flying variety buzzing around in the lights of the ring as the fighters danced beneath them. It was very Thailand. The fight card was out the window and the announcer just called out fights two or three at a time so the fighters knew to get ready. I think I fought before the 20th fight, but I”m not sure. Pi Dam just came up and motioned for me to wrap my hands, then had me lie back down, the would come to get me for my massage, etc.
I’d seen a girl earlier in the night who I was sure was my opponent. She had the air of a fighter and was carrying two pairs of shorts, one blue and one red. She was much bigger than I am, maybe 54-56 kg it seemed, but when I actually climbed into the ring it wasn’t her on the other side of it. Frances said the girl I fought was a last-minute replacement, so I don’t know if the original girl I saw had to leave (which would be very last-minute) or if there was another female fight on the card later on, or if she just came prepared in case she got called in… who knows. But the girl in the ring with me was pretty close to my size, maybe one or two kilos bigger because she was taller.
The ring was absolutely covered in mud with blood here and there. As I circled the ring in my Ram Muay the flying insects that swarmed around the very bright lights got stuck in the Vaseline and oil on my skin, trapping them like fly-paper against my limbs. Not my favorite, but what a memory!
As the fight started I was very aware of how slick the ring was. Even cutting off my opponent’s movements felt perilous and I was more worried about just keeping my footing than I was about the kicks she was launching at me. A few times I had her against the ropes and couldn’t even attack because I thought I’d fall on my ass.
In round 1 I started out cutting off the ring and coming forward pretty well. I really just wanted to concentrate on keeping close, which was a little tricky because of the slick ring. But, you know, there are two of us in there and she seemed far less encumbered by the slippery canvas, so maybe it’s my flat-footedness, which I really need to work on more anyway. I was able to catch her left kick with my left arm and pull it across my own body, then launch a right cross that landed, as well as the follow-up left hook. Kaensak taught me how to catch kicks like that a long time ago and I never quite got it down to automatic, but then all of a sudden, three years later, it’s coming out without me thinking about it. It’s crazy how that works. Lovely, but crazy.
I landed a left kick to her belly right as she got backed into the corner and her hands dropped to her body in response. She was good at the right kick to right cross that girls in Chiang Mai love to do, and her teep to jab was nice too. Maybe those kinds of combinations are the ticket for fighting on a slip-and-slide, but she didn’t seem to be prepared to deal with me continuing forward when her back actually hit the ropes. She backed up with skill, keeping a good striking distance for her slightly-taller build, but once she hit the ropes I think she’s more used to opponents who stop and strike from there. I kept closing in and she isn’t as skilled in clinch as I am. She did teep me away with her back on the ropes a couple times, which I was frustrated by for a moment because of the huge head-space that the slick canvas was occupying in my mind. I was able to just perry the next one and come in though, I didn’t get “caught on the fence” as I sometimes do. I attribute that change mostly to a mental development, not a physical solution.
You can hear Pi Dam yelling “Lock! Lock, lock!” which was his main advice in my last fight with him, too. He definitely appreciates the advantages I have in the clinch nowadays. I was happy to be landing some short combinations, which is very new for me and has come out of training without being something I’m “working on” particularly. I think it’s from being more relaxed and free in my fights, less concerned about trying to do the combinations. I can’t say how many times Den yelled at me from the corner to do “more than one” of anything I was throwing. But now it’s coming, and that’s awesome. It feels good.
My fight was so late in the night that all the vendors were out of ice, so Sham and Pi Dam are just dumping lukewarm water on my legs. It’s the energy in the corner that makes a cornerman though, not so much the ice water and all that. I like Sham’s energy in the corner because it’s very steady. “You’ve already got her tired, eh?” kind of thing. Just quiet, almost like he’s talking to himself but encouraging. Pi Dam is more a ball of wild energy, like he’s ready to jump into the fight himself at any moment, but really simple – he doesn’t say anything at all if he doesn’t think you need direction, then he’ll just give simple directives if he wants you to do something in particular. He tunnel-visions your objective so you don’t have to. It’s pretty cool.
She came out strong in round 2 with her double-one-sided attacks, but my left hook was working for me almost every time I threw it. I was landing knees in her body and draining her. I got one in on her head which freaked her out and when I knocked her into her corner we both slipped a bit – for her it allowed me to land a flurry of punches that connected to her head and for me I kept slipping forward after she’d collapsed in the corner and I looked almost as though I was going to knee her when she was down. I had to catch myself against the ropes.
She definitely wasn’t knocked out but more decided to stay down. Our fight was only scheduled to be three rounds, which I’m discovering is a common occurrence in Buriram if there isn’t a big side-bet on the fight. I had heard the announcer say it was a 3 round fight as we climbed into the ring. Pi Dam had yelled “five!” but there was no changing it at that point. But that definitely motivated me to go hard from bell one and with this match up I don’t think there was much my opponent could have done to turn the tables on how the fight was going at that point. I’m grateful to her for giving me a fight and maybe I’ll face whoever she was replacing that night at some point in the future. I didn’t have her name when we left the venue so I was lucky to be able to get it from Frances after a few days (she was able to ask my opponent’s trainer for her name).
When I went up to Pi Dit after the fight to give him money from my purse as thanks for getting me the fight and to pay my corner, he smiled at me and asked if I could fight on the 4th and the 9th. Unfortunately I couldn’t do either. I already had to be back in Pattaya on the 5th for a fight and my parents’ visit didn’t allow for us to come back up to Buriram. Under other circumstances I would love to be able to agree to all those fights as they appear (and most often I am able to say “yes” to them) but this time around it didn’t work out. I’ll be back up in Buriram on the 15th though, so I’ll be very happy to see everyone then. I never know what to expect from my opponents, the venues, or the exacerbation of “Thai time” that is “Isaan time” up there – stay on your toes at all times, but it’s a lot of fun.
Post Fight Update
Complete Fight Record
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