November 16th, 2014 – Suksawat, Bangkok – full fight video above
This fight is dedicated to Beth Klenk, who donated to my GoFundMe campaign to get me to fights. She’s also the mother of one of my all-time favorite persons, Robyn, so she’s added a lot to my life. Thanks so much for your ongoing support, Beth!
We left Buriram, where I fought the night before, early in the morning and headed down to Bangkok. It’s about a 5 hour drive and it’s a pretty straight shot. Kevin did most of the driving (thank God) and we arrived at Master Toddy’s Gym in the early afternoon. Master Toddy is very kind and my friend Emma, who writes “Under the Ropes” had arranged a room for us to have a rest in for a couple hours before we had to head over to the early-evening fights in Bangkok. Another fighter from Toddy’s gym, a fellow American Tu, agreed to corner for me at the fights and we all left together with about an hour to get to the venue, which Google Maps said was about 25 minutes away.
We ended up needing that extra time. The promoter is this awesome and totally eccentric guy named Yo. I like him a lot. He speaks a little English, but understanding him in English is slightly more iffy than when I try to understand his Thai, so I nervously called him on the phone over and over again to get totally incoherent directions as we circled the neighborhood looking for the ring. He kept saying it was just a few streets down from where we were, but every time I turned down a residential street it was just a bunch of folks staring at me from their front doors. No ring. No fights.
Finally he actually stopped answering his phone, probably because the fights had started. I parked just inside the turnoff from the highway and waited for him to call back so maybe he could send someone to come get us. No answer; no call. I spotted a little gang of motorcycle taxi drivers in yellow vests, hanging out under an awning across the street. So I opened up the hand-drawn map that Yo had sent me on the phone (Thai maps are crazy to western sensibilities, but Thais look at you like you’re dumb when you don’t understand them) with the hopes that they’d be able to read it better. I didn’t even show them the map yet but had asked if they could help me locate the ring and all six of them, in unison, pointed back in the direction I’d just come from and said it was close and the Thai equivalent of, “it’s so obvious!” They were more excited about asking me about the fact that I was fighting than they were about clarifying the directions, but I finally figured out that Yo had been saying yip-song (22) not sip-song (12). When I got back to the same road we’d passed by already a bunch of times there was a big poster for the event (they must have just put it up… I’m not that blind) and we turned down the street to find a very hopping event going on. The ring was literally right in front of a huge condominium complex and the crowd spilled out onto the little street. To go from the pitch-black fields in the middle of nowhere to the bustling street of a Bangkok condo is incredible. Who has this life?
We set up our mat behind a corner away from the ring and I went to find Yo. There was already a female fight going on in the ring and they were blasting each other. I saw at least six female fights when I stopped by the table that issues gloves and asked the lady to see the program. There were 30 or so fights but the program was only hand-written, which usually means they make up the order as they go. I saw my opponent’s name and we were listed at 48 kg – I was “Sylvie America,” more or less. I did find Yo in the crowd and he welcomed me enthusiastically, told me to go have a rest and he’d call me on the phone when it was time for me to fight.
A couple hours in I was ready to fight and head back home. Because Yo is the promoter, it seemed like a reasonable option to ask that I fight sooner than later and have time to drive back to Pattaya. I had been “on the road” for a few days, and driving since early in the morning. I went to look for him, weaving through the crowd in my fight shorts and a big T-shirt to keep my Hulk-iness hidden. I stopped near the ring on the street side to watch a Brazilian vs. Thai female fight. They were upwards of 60 kg and the Thai fighter was brilliant at scoring straight knees in the clinch, but the Brazilian was going all-out with punches and low kicks from a distance. I stood there watching and these two young Thai girls, maybe 12 years old, came and stood a foot away from me and just stared at me, smiling like I was a Disney character or something. One of them made the universal hand signal for “fight” and then pointed at me. I nodded and then replied in Thai that I was fighting tonight but didn’t know when yet. She literally jumped up and down, then looked at her friend and exclaimed to her that I was speaking Thai. They then asked me a million questions about where I’m from, how old I am, where I train, who I’m fighting, etc. I asked if they were fighters and they nodded; they were 40 kg, but not fighting tonight. One of them asked me if I had a boyfriend and then her eyes darted behind me for a second. I turned my head and saw an adolescent guy behind me, who they must have been asking for, and pointed to my wedding band. That seemed like a good time to try again to find Yo.
I didn’t find him, but Tu went out on his own mission and came back with Yo a few minutes later. He excitedly said to start wrapping my hands and wait to hear my name, but probably in 3-4 fights I’d be up. In Muay Thai world, assuming fights aren’t little kids who only fight 3 rounds or any KO’s, 3-4 fights is roughly an hour. No sooner had I wrapped my own hands than Yo appeared again and told me I was next. Holy smokes! We skipped the oil rub and Tu just put Vaseline on my face and to the ring we went. (Tu actually had just told me he doesn’t do the oil massage for himself anymore, which I thought was an interesting choice. Then, BAM, I get to try this out for myself by default, first time in Thailand.)
A few of the fights on this card had only been 3 rounds, so I asked Yo how many my fight was and he said it was 5. However, when we got into the ring I heard the announcer and he said I was English (it’s possible Yo thinks I’m English) and that the fight was 3 rounds. So when we touched gloves in the middle of the ring to hear the referee tell us to obey the rules, etc. I asked the ref, gee yok (“how many rounds?”), to which he answered it would be 3 rounds. Then my opponent told him that it should be 5 and the ref turned to the judges and used hand signals to confirm. When it was greed it should be 5 my opponent smiled at me and asked, in English, “OK?” How sweet; yes, 5 is actually much better for me but go ahead and think that you’ve got that advantage over me. She’s a sharp fighter, had a little weight on me. I’m sure she was feeling confident.
We went back to our corners and the bell brought us back in. Kru Nu had me working on closing distance with my front leg blocking and teeping, which I tried out in my fight the day before and had success with, but it was working really well in this fight. It also probably defined the fight all together because this opponent then assumed I was a distance fighter, teeping her off the bat and then – oh shit! – I’m a clincher. I felt pretty good with my distance, my teeps were landing and my punches and kicks were working well off of it. I could have cut off the ring better and Tu told me between rounds to do so, but mainly he wanted me to use the teep, then fake the teep and throw a right cross. I misunderstood him – he meant like a “Superman punch,” but I just stomped down on the front leg and landed a good cross out of that. But it was, as always, the clinch that really closed this fight out. This girl was really good at pulling her hips in and making it hard for me to knee, but things were coming together for me well and I was able to change sides and turn her better than I have in fights recently. In the third round the ref gave her a standing 8 count after a string of knees. I came out of the neutral corner strong – if you’ve been following me for a while you might know that I have heretofore really looked ridiculous when coming back in after my opponent gets a count; I do this ridiculous power-walking thing that looks really dumb, but this time I galloped forward in a manner that I stole from Phetjee Jaa – and landed more knees which caused the ref to stop the fight.
We were able to gather our stuff up and head out of there pretty quickly. I will say that it’s a huge benefit to have a promoter like Yo, who when you ask to fight earlier so that you can get back home he just goes and gets it done for you. It was a really good match, too. This opponent was a challenge and was skilled, allowing me to use the same things I’ve been working on under pressure. Kind of cementing it in, although certainly only still at the beginning of the process. I think it’s a big development in my fighting though. Makes me harder to deal with.
Post Fight Video Update
Complete Fight Record
Thank you to my wonderful supporters on GoFundMe:
Minu Oh, Lisa Hearting, Wing Wong, Thomas Palmer, Andy Evangeli, Nell Geiser, Dustin Grant, Robyn Klenk, Pixi Pickthall, Khanomtom Muay Thai Tampa Fl, Karen Rihanna Lim, Adrienn Neset, Michael Regala, Dana Hoey, Rachel Knox, Augie Matias Beth Klenk.
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