March 27, 2015 – Chanthaburi – full video, parts 1 and 2 above
The sky had turned a dark, gun-metal gray and the winds were visible as they gusted across the darkening road. We approached a yellow gate that arched over the highway, one of the thousands that bridge over roads in Thailand – always this royal yellow color, always with various portraits of His Majesty the King. That golden yellow against the stormy sky looked manic, cast the entire color scheme into a kind of ominous contrast. And then lightning struck across the entire vista, just BAM! in a maze that seemed to cover the whole span of my vision and left its imprint on my eyelids when I blinked; and it was gone.
The clouds sank down and it felt like it should have been much darker, but instead there was a lavender glow to everything. The stormy “dark, but not dark,” of rain. Enormous trucks pulled over to the sides of the road to batten down the canvasses covering whatever it was they were hauling. That gave it a feel like we were at sea a bit, watching the preparations for the storm as we hurled ourselves into it.
But it never rained too hard for very long. Maybe we got through it to the other side before it ever really got started. The highway gave way to a narrow, two-lane road that snaked through the mountains. We followed closely behind a truck that seemed to know the road, almost guiding us from our lane to the other in patches to avoid potholes and dips in the asphalt. The glass-door refrigerators in shops created an eery, alien glow through the condensation that turned the clear glass a frosty white. And then the shops disappeared all together and there was nothing but darkness and jungle on either side of the road. Where were we going?
And then, after nearly an hour on this mystery road, suddenly our electronic guide told us to turn off – and there was life again. Dogs in the street, lights coming through windows and kids standing in driveways. Up a small incline we spotted the green dragons that writhe all over Chinese temples and we knew we were there. To the side was an empty warehouse with its hanger doors open, the edge of a ring visible through one and the blaring drums and wind instruments of Muay Thai music. I guess this is it.
The guy who set up this fight for me is named Ruang. He meets us outside and tells us to move our car over to right next to the warehouse area. We’re reluctant because any time you park at a festival or fight you’re bound to get hemmed in, but he’s insistent. So we move and sure enough a hundred motorbikes ended up parking behind us. But I was the co-main event and then the main event (not sure why they changed it; there was a lot of money on the fight) so we couldn’t leave early anyway. We set up our mat and Ruang played “host” by getting me water and making sure I stayed relaxed. He even insisted I drink some Pepsi to give me energy. Not really my thing, but I sipped it to be polite. My opponent appeared and I had to stand next to her. She seemed around my size, in very baggy T-shirt and shorts, but Ruang kept telling her to stand up straight. She was trying to appear smaller. And she actually succeeded because she seemed much bigger once we were actually in the ring from how she seemed when we stood shoulder to shoulder. Heaver, but taller also.
It was a very long night. Most of the early fights were really little kids, then one female bout of girls listed at my weight but WAY bigger – probably actually 51-53 kg – and they made up for lack of experience or skill with tons of pushing and aggressive throwing. It was kind of amazing. I went in and out of the warehouse for my one million trips to the bathroom to pee before a fight and the guys working the front door always smiled nicely at me. I felt welcomed, for sure. A group of older men were sitting outside on a bamboo day-bed/table, drinking beer out of glasses. They all gawked at me as I walked to the bathrooms and then on my way back they shouted “you! You!” Which in Thai is more polite than it comes off in English. They had one guy who was the designated English speaker and he stuttered a few words out at me that took me a minute to understand. He was asking if I spoke English. So I just answered in Thai that I can speak Thai. They all made an “oooohhh!” sound in unison and then all started asking me questions at once. Was I fighting? What weight? Who is my opponent? Will I win? And finally how many fights I have. This last one I’ve learned I cannot really answer. If I say the actual number they laugh and think I’m joking. If I say “I don’t know” they think I’m crazy. Sometimes I pretend to not understand the question and have my care-takers answer for me, but generally I’ve just started to say “a lot.” I kind of like chatting with Thais at fights though. Only sometimes has it ever been uncomfortable and usually you know the person is trouble right off the bat: either drunk as all get out or someone trying to leech information for non-personal-gambling purposes. But that’s rare. These guys were kinda funny and they offered me a beer before my fight, which was both kind and ridiculous. I declined, obviously.
There were about 20 fights on the card and I was moved to be second to last. (Usually in Thailand the main events are not at the very end as they are in the US, but this time it went that way.) So I waited forever. Eventually Ruang came over with two young women and told me they would do my massage. So I changed into my shorts and they rubbed oil on me in a reasonably good pre-fight massage but they were very nervous – almost more nervous than the boys can be. But the main thing that was bothering me was that in taking off my T-shirt and just wearing my fight top, my sak yant are all quite visible and my muscles are on display. Being stared at is one thing and generally it’s drunk men or small children who don’t look away when you catch their gaze – there were lots of kids just lined up staring at me, mouths open. But then there were also the people who were looking from afar and the men who would do laps around the ring to get a look, and then a second and third look, at me as they passed by. I hate it. I do not like being looked at and in the west there’s an assumption that tattoos are an invitation for inspection, like a signal of exhibitionism or something. That’s not true of a great number of persons who get tattoos. Further, being a fighter who has to crawl into a raised stage and perform for hundreds or thousands of people, you’d think there’d be a thrill of being the center of attention. Not so much. I can tune it out when I’m fighting because I’m fighting, but when I’m just out in the crowd and can see the people standing up on their chairs to stare at me from 100 feet away, I feel horrible. It really got to me in this space, which I think is indicative of where my mind already was rather than being some kind of excuse.
When I climbed into the ring the first thing I noticed was how slippery it all was. The canvas had all these decals on it (everything was Max Muay Thai, although this wasn’t a Max show; maybe a sponsor?) and those were covered in puddles. There was only a small patch of dry fabric at the center of the ring; everything else would make this fight like Disney on ice.
I wanted to keep a long guard in this fight, which was my focus prior to getting in there. I don’t think I kept thinking about that much longer than the initial few seconds of the fight, but unfortunately that kind of meant I had nothing to focus on at all. I needed to keep my front knee up to block and keep the teep from going nuts. I also should have punched more. My corner wanted me to clinch around the waist, which I thought was a bad idea without even trying it. Her clinch was good; she was strong and bigger than I am. So this was a hard fight.
Somewhere in the second round she landed an elbow to the side of my head. I felt it and wasn’t sure if it had cut or not, but when I saw blood on the canvas I knew. The ref must not have seen it for a while because it wasn’t until I got her down in the corner that he pulled us apart to look at it. I jumped a little and kept repeating mai bpen rai to let him know that I wanted to keep fighting and it wasn’t getting in my eyes or anything. Unfortunately, deciding to make a big scene about my cut right at that moment kind of erased the dominance I’d just managed to demonstrate. But I did land a few elbows on her against the ropes that she definitely didn’t like. None of them cut, unfortunately. But I’m proud of myself for throwing them. I get made fun of by Sangwean (Phetjee Jaa’s dad) all the time for not throwing elbows in fights, so it was a bit of “there, you see?!” that I managed to get a few going in this fight. Even though he wasn’t there, mind you.
Now every time I went to the corner the main issue was dealing with the cut, which was annoying to me. It feels fussy and quite frankly I don’t care for there to be so much attention paid, but I do understand that they have to keep the bleeding under control for the fight to keep going as usual. I got stronger in the 3rd and 4th rounds and she began to fade. When I locked her around the waist I had her – I fucking had her – and landed maybe a dozen knees with no response. You can’t see this so well in the video, unfortunately, because the ref is in the way. But when I would try to bring my hips back to land a straight knee – one that scores better and what she’d been throwing at me – she’d wriggle loose. With all the Vaseline on my head it was super slippery in the clinch and I couldn’t hold her up top and lock around the neck. Instead of thinking, “okay, go low,” as I should have, I just kept drooling on myself and trying to catch around the neck like an idiot. She faded hard in rounds 4 and 5. Kevin tells me I won both rounds, although I didn’t climb as much as I ought to have in round 5. I was stronger than she was, but had to be stronger than myself in the previous round. My arms were burned out and I was pretty tired. I don’t get tired in fights too often and maybe it was partly to do with having been on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, but mostly I think I just wasn’t relaxing enough in the fight. My own tension was what burned me out. And that’s probably where I lost this fight. Her points were more demonstrative even though mine were more plentiful. Once again I was “out performed” and only by a margin. At the final bell, even though I was perhaps the more dominant fighter, I didn’t act like it. Master K taught me forever ago that you put your arms up over your head like you won after every round. It’s so simple and yet, when you’re stressed and not believing in yourself, it’s hard to remember. My opponent remembered.
I was bummed to lose. When we got back to the mat to take my gloves off the two young women who had cornered for me were very sweet, told me I’d fought great. A line of little boys made a semi-circle around me to stare, which wasn’t my favorite but I do recognize they probably haven’t seen a western female fighter with blood gushing out the side of her head too many times in their little lives. Ruang stepped in front of me and confronted the little rugrats with a joke, telling them that if they wanted to stare at the falang it would cost 20 Baht. A few of them followed me over to a table where I received my stitches, all gathering around and even crawling up onto the table to get different vantage points.
The guy who stitched me was super young and I reckon not an actual doctor. My cut was pretty long and from the number of stitches I’ve received in the past I figured it would be at a minimum 6 more. Kevin though 7 or 8. This dude gave me 3. Three stitches. When I told this number to Ruang he assumed I’d heard the guy wrong and went to ask. Yup, three. And they were the most painful stitches I’ve ever had to endure. They didn’t have a razor to cut away the hair right around the cut, so this assistant guy ran and got a box cutter. When I saw it in his hands I began giggling because it was so incredible. The Dougie Houser doctor initially said, “no,” (in English, meaning it was for me, not his assistant) about using the box cutter but I saw the assistant washing it with some saline from a bottle before Dougie Houser put the green fabric over my face and I couldn’t see anymore. He took forever to do the stitches, which I guess because there were only 3 meant that the first set of super painful sensations I experienced was probably him using that box cutter to cut my hair. I reckon he pulled up on the hairs and ran the blade along so as not to touch my skin with the box cutter. Super painful to pull on the hair around an open cut though. Then the stitches themselves felt amazingly deep. If tattoo artists can have a “soft touch,” so can doctors; and this guy didn’t have that. He was “ham fisted” in terms of stitching goes, but he did a good job. He closed me up good enough for it to heal, anyway.
The stitches were really painful all the way home to Pattaya, which was about 3.5 hours. We stopped by the hospital to have them look and see if they could add more stitches to the cut, but the doctor on duty was like a character out of a comedy, some loony tune working the graveyard shift (this was 4:00 AM) and he said I didn’t need more stitches. When they told me it would cost 10,000 Baht ($350) for a few more stitches I decided I didn’t need them either. So we came home and I didn’t sleep nearly at all. When I showed Pi Nu the stitches the next day, really just to make an appearance at the gym and let him know I was okay, he balked at the three stitches and said, “I could have done better!” I laughed. I thought so too, but hey, the wound was closed and it’s in my hairline so not a huge deal.
Unfortunately this meant I had to cancel two upcoming fights, which sucks. But some fights cost more than others; some open doors, some close them. I’m grateful for them all. This was a really good fight for me and Nong Rung was a really good opponent. For a long time I was beating fighters who were much better than I was, simply because I had a few advantages like being strong, good cardio, and never submitting. That can’t have felt good for those opponents to lose to me, knowing they were better. And so now I get to feel it too. I’m a better fighter than Nong Rung but in this fight, she fought better and her strength and size was enough to make this a hard fight for me. I’m not sure if she’ll want to fight me again – her coach literally carried her, slung in his arms like a dead person, down from the ring to show how exhausted she was – but I’ll go for a rematch if presented the opportunity. For sure.
Post Fight Video Update
For my husband’s perspective on these events you can read:
You can see video of and read about every one of my fights here: 100+ Fights
You can see my complete and detailed Record: Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu – Complete Record