February 22, 2015 – Chacheroensao, Thailand – above is part 1 of the fight, below part 2
I’m sweating underneath our fleece-ish polyester Spiderman blanket. It’s draped over me from my shoulders and covering my body and most of the chair I’m sitting in. Over my head and face is a medical cloth – green – with a hole cut in the center of it to expose just the minimal area for the doctor hovering over me to stitch up my forehead. I’m completely covered except for this small area where the stitches are being done because the mosquitoes are eating me alive. I don’t care about the stitches – the adrenaline coming straight off the ring is enough to make the pain something that doesn’t bother me – but I can’t handle the mosquitoes.
This fight was a rematch with Gaewdaa Por. Muangpet, who I fought for my 80th fight, which was also my first fight upon moving to Pattaya. That first meeting in the ring with Gaewdaa was a challenge and although I’d won that first fight, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. She’s a comfortable, experienced and crafty fighter from a well-known and esteemed gym, and I had heard that they had been wanting a revenge rematch for a very long time. She would be ready.
I hadn’t had a fight with O. Meekhun in a while, which felt a bit odd. I do well with them in my corner and I’m always happy to be on the same show as Phetjee Jaa. Due to what can only be called craziness and having been left on the side of the road one time by O. Meekhun, thereby missing a scheduled fight, I can no longer trust to go with them to fights outside of Pattaya. So we had to drive out for this one, which was about an hour outside of Bangkok. Happily, the filmmaker Dean Taylor, who is filming me and Jee Jaa for his movie “The Scars We Choose,” which focuses on Brasilian figher Juliana Rosa, had made it to the venue first and could send us a dropped pin from his phone.
The venue was a temple, which is one of my favorite places to fight, categorically. It was a festival celebration for the temple. There were numerous “stations,” so to speak, of where people could go do their tam boon (making merit). One area was designed to look as though you were walking into the roots of an enormous tree. I didn’t go in there, but it was beautiful. My attention was completely captured by this huge Pra Rahu, who is the deity/demigod I have tattooed on my chest and I feel a strong correlation with. Pra Rahu is perceived as semi-demonic and he swallows the sun. Usually he is depicted mid-bite as he’s wrapping his mouth around a sphere, representing the sun, the moon, or the cosmos. At this temple the globe is missing, so his hands extend outward and claw toward each other, as if he’s holding the sun, and his mouth is open and empty. You actually go into his mouth to give offerings. Holy shit, so cool! I felt very fortified by the coincidence of this Pra Rahu here; and of course I made an offering before I went into the area with the ring.
Making an offering to Pra Rahu (inside his mouth!) before my fight.
The truck with the O. Meekhun kids arrived shortly after and we all went into the ring area together. It was quiet and felt to be hours before the event would start, even though it was only 45 minutes before the scheduled start time. Ahhhh, Thailand. The announcer was going over and over the fight list and I could hear Phetjee Jaa’s and my name being repeated. We were both fighting against the same gym, Por. Muangpet. The enclosed area for the ring was very small – they must not have been anticipating a huge crowd – Kevin said the ring looked small, it looked normal to me. The ground was completely knotted and uneven, as if in the rain the mud had been trampled by livestock and then dried up. There were piles of dirt kind of around the periphery and the ring, stage for the head-honchos, and some stadium seats had all been arranged in the smallest possible area of kind of flat ground. In front of the stage where the VIP men sit was a second stage with some trophies and two bicycles. I immediately fantasized that Jee Jaa would win a bicycle. She didn’t, unfortunately – all the prizes were given to friends of the gym that promoted the event. Sad face.
My fight was a good ways into the card, so there was a lot of time to just sit and wait, watching the other fights in the ring. The mosquitoes were horrid and impossible to avoid. Sangwean and Jee Jaa worked in tandem to wrap my hands. Sangwean does the tape and Jee Jaa wraps with the cloth, then more tape from Sangwean over the top. It’s a good system. I love when Jee Jaa helps like this; she smirked at Kevin when I told her, from under my shirt that was draped over my face as I lay on the mat for my massage, that I didn’t want my stomach oiled. I actually resist this out of self-consciouness, so maybe she’s on to me and that’s where the smirk comes from.
When I climbed the stairs to the ring one of the newer guys at O. Meekhun, a cool guy named Ek who is a great clinch partner for me because we’re roughly the same size, pushed the top ropes down for me. This might have been his first time cornering for a woman, so I just shook my head and pointed to the bottom rope so he could lift it. I really hate being the one to self-enforce this rule; but I also just want to get in and fight.
I haven’t watched this fight yet but I remember going into it knowing it wasn’t going to be easy. The first time we fought was difficult and even with my improved clinch she’s a crafty fighter. This time around was certainly better for me; more decisive. I remember her doing this thing with her front hand and stepping off to my left in order to kick. But she did it kind of hesitantly – like, she’s trained it but wasn’t confident in it this time. It’s one of the few times in fights that I’ve noted what my opponent is doing with the clear thought, “that’s not working.” Usually I’m telling myself this about something that I’m doing. My corner was screaming like crazy for me to just knee and knee forever. She was blocking across my hips or thighs and I wasn’t turning her or kneeing over, which was pretty much the focus every time I went to the corner between rounds. It wasn’t until the 4th or 5th that I finally did it.
I could feel her getting more desperate in the later rounds and so I knew to keep pushing and climbing myself as well. Somewhere in the last round I went to grab her knee and she had an elbow loaded up and slammed it into my face before we clinched up. I felt the impact and I thought, “hmmm, that could have cut,” but then I felt the hot liquid on my forehead and knew for sure. I was a little worried they’d stop the fight, even this late, because I was winning and it was really her only chance – there was money on this fight, so you never know. So I smiled and looked energetic, rearing to go. The ref didn’t even have the doctor look at it, which was great; it wasn’t bleeding into my eyes at all.
When the bell sounded I knew I’d won. That was a relief. I could see the top of Pra Rahu’s head over the fence outside the ring area and I felt awesome. As I crawled out of the ring the announcer came up to me and asked me how I felt. I had to take my mouthpiece out to answer him and while he was waiting he asked me a second question about how old I am. In Thailand it’s a bizarre sight to see a woman in her 30s, let alone covered in blood (and smiling). I answered in Thai and worried that I’d spit blood on him if he stood too close. He was amazed when I answered in Thai and made a joke to the audience into the microphone, something like, “wait, is she falang or not?” Then he asked me if I like Muay Thai and I told him how much I love it. First time talking in Thai into a microphone, for sure. Then I was led over to a chair near the neon light beams that act as lighting for all festivals and the doctor prepared his tools for the stitches. I sat quietly, smiling and happy. A few people gathered around to watch and one man noted how awful all the mosquitoes were and sent one of the little boys to get me a cover. Nice guy. My face got covered for the actual stitches and I could just barely hear familiar voices around me. Kevin said some little girl was asking him questions in Thai and he kept saying to me, “Sylvie, what’s she saying? Sylvie, answer her.” But I didn’t hear her little voice at all and when I asked her afterwards she just shyly shook her head no.
After, I was sitting under the blanket and still had my face free, Mawin (Phetjee Jaa’s older brother and a clinch partner for me) strolled up and put his palms against his lower back as he likes to stand. He asked how many stitches and the doctor said 7. He smiled, the fresh scar under his left eye crinkling a little as he did so – he just got 5 stitches about 3 weeks ago. He asked if I’d had a shot and when I said no his eyes got wide and his mouth fell open. I had a similar expression in response to his expression because I’ve never gotten any anesthetic… I was surprised he ever had. I don’t need it though; this doctor worked really fast and the adrenaline straight out of the ring is good enough pain killer for about 10 minutes.
With my head all stitched up I checked on Jee Jaa, who had yet to go into the ring. She wanted to know how many stitches and gave me a huge smile when I told her. The first time I met her a little over a year ago I had 28 stitches in my face. I’m not sure if she thinks it’s funny or she kind of thinks it’s cool. I don’t believe she’s ever been cut. She had a while before going into the ring so we ventured out so I could change my clothes and I gave another offering to Rahu on the way back in. I loved having that opportunity, both before and after the fight, being able to see him from the ring. It felt very lucky.