April 19, 2015 – Bang Saray Beach, near Pattaya – full video above
Sangkran Festival fight!
I’d been told by both Pi Nu at Petchrungruang and Sangwean at O. Meekhun that there were matchups all week at Bang Saray Beach during Sangkran. Basically, you show up in the morning and stand on a scale, then see if there’s anyone there your same size to fight. Sangkran is the Thai New Year (the actual date changes on Jan 1st with the rest of the world, but Songkran is a much bigger celebration; it’s on the lunar calendar) and the celebration lasts a few days, so this festival had fighters showing up for five days and filled the cards for every night.
Because I got cut in my last fight, I didn’t really have a chance to fight on this festival, which bummed me out. I went to match-up once, with my stitches still in, but the only other woman there is an Australian named Lucerne who trains at O. Meekhun, so no match. I was really happy to have the experience of going out with the gym as a team though. I never have done that with the Petchrungruang gym before and it felt nice. On the ride home from the venue Pi Nu’s 7-month-old son, Nadt, became obsessed with my elbow Sak Yant and kept touching it with his tiny fingers. We get along, that kid and I.
a vlog update from the matchups which produced no matchup
The last day of the festival was a Sunday and I had a rest day. At about 8:00 in the morning Sangwean called and woke me up, asking if I wanted to go out for a beach day with the gym. Awesome invite, but I really just wanted to stay home and sleep all day so I declined. I hate Songkran (the water fight part) and was looking forward to hiding away from the nonsense in my apartment – I’d even bought supplies in advance to be able to avoid going out at all. But two hours later Pi Nu called and asked if I could fight at the festival. Well, that I can do. He said to come to the gym and we’d head over to the venue in a couple hours.
Driving to the venue involved going through a lot of Sonkran nonsense. We were in the cab of the truck, so we managed to stay dry and just have water thrown on the car, but the kids in the back of the truck were getting soaked. Well, more soaked, because they’d been playing water all day. Alex was fighting, too, so we checked ourselves in at the ring and then went to lay down the mats. There weren’t many people there yet, but there was a guy in the ring on the microphone, basically a barker talking about the upcoming show, and when he saw me he started giving this whole long biography. Kinda cool in the “wow, people know me” way, but kinda horrifying in the “everyone is looking at me” way.
My opponent had apparently weighed in that morning and agreed to fight me sight unseen, which was interesting. Pi Nu had said there was a small side bet on the fight, 10,000 Baht, and her name on the fight board was “Bua Thong,” or Golden Lotus. Alex was fighting first so he got ready right away. I was the last fight on the card, so I just relaxed and watched his fight – he won by TKO in round 3, fairly easily as the other kid gassed. Not the best match up but not terrible. That’s the thing with match ups – you really don’t know much about who you’re fighting other than that you weigh the same and your bodies look similar when standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
As I was wrapping my hands a guy from my gym appeared and sat down next to me, asking if I was fighting Loma. I said, “no, her name is Bua Thong,” but admitted I hadn’t seen her anywhere. Alex piped in that he’d seen my opponent earlier, that she’s smaller than I am. Thing is, Alex is 13 and loves to say he knows things that he really doesn’t know and when this guy from my gym went to see who I was fighting, it turned out it was Loma and she is not smaller than I am. Sigh. They asked me if I was okay fighting her and I was, but there was a catch in my heart upon hearing that it was her because the last time we’d fought she basically humiliated me in the ring, simply by being so crazy experienced and good. She didn’t hurt me, she’s not that kind of fighter, but she wiped the floor with me. Because she’s probably the best fighter in Thailand at a weight class over mine, she would of course show up to a match up using a different name. I wondered though if Pi Nu had known it was her and just didn’t tell me. That’s not being tricky, there’s no reason I shouldn’t fight her, I just wondered. It shows you though, at a festival fight in Thailand you can fight anyone, including the best in the world.
I got a massage from these two young women, one who is the other female champion on the wall of champions at Petchrungruang and the other is her friend. They were pretty much there only for me, because the men taking care of me for this fight won’t massage me, so the one guy makes his daughter come along. The friend kept asking me over and over “can you fight Loma?” And I kept saying that of course I could.
I climbed into the ring under this black, gossamer canopy that cast shade over the stage. It was a beautiful day and you could smell the ocean when the breeze picked up. The crowd applauded at my Ram Muay and I could see the rows of gamblers placing their bets, but didn’t look enough to know for whom. In the first round I decided I’d punch more. In our last fight I could have done much better simply by boxing, as Loma doesn’t have a great guard and was disturbed by my punches our last fight and practically nothing else. I’d been thrown what felt like a million times in the last fight, so I was a bit wary to clinch, which is my strong point… but I can punch pretty well, too.
It worked. Rounds 1 and 2 I did great with just punching her. I even took her down in the clinch in round 2! Unfortunately, I started getting too focused on power punches instead of just throwing my hands and letting the strikes that didn’t land set up strikes that would land. As a result, I kind of stopped punching because I was mentally loading up for these big shots that I just didn’t get around to throwing. The fight slipped away to her favor as she tied up my clinch repeated with grabs and delays.
I got out of the ring really disappointed, but knowing I’d fought so much better this time than last time. She’s not impossible to beat, but I think it’ll take 4 fights to get a victory over her. So, two down, two to go.
Guys in the audience patted me on the back and told me it was a good fight. My corner was disappointed, but they knew it was an improvement and they were comforting as well. A guy who’d been drunkenly hounding me in the corner came up to me and awkwardly wouldn’t let go of my hand after shaking it, telling me he’d “always bet on me,” and then trying to get me to come train at his gym, for free, in this area of whatever town it was. I told him I was very happy at my gym.
I was still soaked from my fight, so I jumped in the bed of the truck for the ride home, with Kevin and Jai Dee and a bunch of the kids. As we pulled out, Loma and her girlfriend, super-star female fighter Chommanee passed us and the kids squirted them with water. It was cute. But the ride home wasn’t. Kevin and I were fighting about the fight and Alex, being the only kid in the back who speaks English, asked me how much money I’d bet on the fight. He only ever sees adults argue after fights because of lost money, so he probably assumed that was the problem. He was utterly confused when I said we didn’t gamble. The ride back from the beach is about 30 minutes, but Songkran is in full effect and the sides of the road are lined with people dancing and throwing water, so traffic was a crawl. It took us over an hour to get home and in that span we were continually doused with very cold water from other trucks, people on the side of the road, motorbike riders, etc. Jai Dee couldn’t handle it and became incredibly stressed, which made Kevin even more stressed than he already was – he really hates the water thing. And when you’re not playing along, it really is dreadful.
So, really awesome experience of taking an unexpected fight on a few hours’ notice; awesome experience of fighting on a Songkran festival when I thought I wouldn’t be able to because of my stitches; and actually really awesome that I can get called in to a matchup fight and it turns out to be against a top-rank fighter and world champion and do better this time around. It was just my attitude, and Kevin’s attitude, and the damn water fight that made it so rough. When I told Pi Nu the next morning (I went right back to training because I had a fight the next weekend) that I think if I fight Loma 4 times I will win, he smiled and put his hand on my shoulder. I think he was proud and he even repeated this to someone else about a week later, basically telling them that I will fight her again and win. It’s about believing that neither wins nor losses are permanent, really. And that’s not hard for me to believe.