September 29, 2015 – Thepprasit Stadium, Pattaya – full fight video above
This was the first time I fought for the Petchrungruang gym in a long-ass time. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for me to fight in Pattaya, so I got Pi Nu’s blessing to be booked through other means and he happily lets me go do what I want/need to do to fight more often. But fighting on the “home turf” is definitely a pressure situation, since I’m representing the gym in what is essentially our backyard. Added to this, Petchrungruang associates were co-promoters of this event, so this was doubly a “home game” for me.
I’d lost to Gaewdaa at the Queen’s Birthday in August, a very disappointing, low-energy performance from me but only a 3 round fight, so it felt like a fluke. This time it would be 5 rounds and I felt confident about that; I’d beat her twice before. “Chicken Man,” as he is called and who runs the chicken farm behind the gym, was the one in charge of matching the fights and he watches me train every day. One day, when I was throwing the boys around in clinch, he very excitedly asked me if I could fight 3 minute rounds. I was shocked; I didn’t know if women were allowed to fight 3 minutes but told him I’d love to. He immediately ran off to make a phone call.
Unfortunately, that part wasn’t agreed to by Gaewdaa’s camp and they may have even pulled the “women aren’t allowed to” card because when Chicken Man told me they’d be 2 minute rounds, he said something about how women aren’t permitted to do 3 minutes. I’m not sure if that’s a real, codified rule in a book somewhere. But I’ve never seen women fight 3 minutes in Thailand, except when the clock gets funky and then some rounds are 3 minutes. I’ve experienced that.
I felt an incredibly amount of pressure going into this fight. All of it was my own mental creation, but it was there nonetheless. I’d been sick for the last week of training and my energy during sessions had noticeably been affected. That’s no problem in the real world, you just train through it, but it affected my confidence. I’d weighed in at 46 kg that morning – a small cut for me but one that requires a few days of discomfort to get down to that number – and strangely didn’t ever figure out whether Gaewdaa weighed in or not. My guess is she didn’t – she never showed up at the scale in the morning. And that seems unfair, but when I stop to think about it, if Chicken Man was giving in to all the advantages being on Gaewdaa’s side of the table: the rounds, me having to weigh in and her not – then it’s a sign of his confidence in me, not a sign of him giving in to everything for the sake of unfairness. He had power in the situation and he was saying, “I’ll give you this advantage and I still think our girl will win.” That’s a wonderful vote of confidence; and I fucking wish I’d lived up to it.
We had a lot of fighters from the gym on this card, so my gym was in the corner all the time. As a result, nobody was around to help get me ready. So I grabbed Mod Ek, who corners for me sometimes when I travel to fights. We work well together and while I persuaded him to give a lot of attention to wrapping my right hand, because it’s still broken – it feels pretty good, actually, but it can re-break very easily – he did a very minimal wrap on the left hand, laughing and saying I’m just going to knee her anyway. I’ve heard this before. It’s not wrong.
The fight just before mine the announcer called out for the two sides (Gaewdaa’s gym and my gym) to come bring the side-bet money to the ring. “Small Man,” came over and asked me how I was feeling. He said something else in Thai, which I didn’t quite understand and it kind of came off like he was asking if I had the derm pan (side bet) money, which obviously I didn’t. It was 40,000 Baht ($1,135), which is kind of a “medium” sized side bet. Not huge, but significant. I only realized a few minutes later, right before getting my gloves on to go in the ring, that he was checking whether they should do the side bet – like, seeing if I was going to fight well. That didn’t fill me with confidence, even though it’s a totally normal thing in Thailand. I’ve been in this realm of Muay Thai for a while now, where real money is on the line and the stakes can be quite high. It’s very different from the stadium fighting of Chiang Mai and other tourist areas (including Pattaya) where you just fight for your ka dtua (the money you’re paid for the fight, regardless of outcome) and as a westerner it puts pressure on me that I’m not mentally chill about yet, despite all my fights. When I was fighting in Chiang Mai, sometimes Dang or Nook would indicate that they were putting money on me in a fight, which I’m sure wasn’t a great deal of money – in Nook’s case a few hundred baht, in Dang’s case maybe a thousand, pooled from the trainers, or a few thousand from the gym owner Pom. But I hated the pressure. I fucking hated it. I thought to myself: okay, you can bet on me, but don’t tell me. But now that side bets and gambling are such a present and integral part of my fights, and not just the realization that they’re so important to the Muay Thai of Thailand all over the country – like, a huge part of it – I can’t play the ignorance is bliss card. Little Thai kids fighting in the ring know when there’s money on it and they’re responsible for that. It’s part of fighting. It is, in fact, the why for many fights. I have to stop being such a delicate head-case about it. It would be like someone not wanting there to be a decision rendered in a real fight because the threat of losing is too much pressure. Grow up, man.
This fight was actually pretty uneventful. All of the rounds were shortened to about 1:30, except for the 3rd round which went a bit longer than the 2 minutes allotted for each round. This isn’t crazy unusual, but it affects the fight. I reckon the person timing the rounds lets them stretch or shortens them in order to shape the fight a bit – if there’s action you let it go for excitement or the chance for a big shift, if it’s a boring fight you can clip them short. This was a boring fight. But it worked against me to have shorter rounds.
Gaewdaa starts out teeping, which she’d had success with in our last fight, the 3-rounder. But she stops that nonsense when it stops working. I was having success with my left hook. She likes to cut an angle over to her right and throw a left kick, but I was catching her face with my hook and halting that whole process. I landed a few good punches in this fight, one or two that off-balanced her and knocked her backwards. But in the clinch, where I really would be scoring, she was neutralizing a lot with that damn Wall of China defense. It’s been my Cryptonite and I simply don’t drill it enough in practice to be able to respond quickly in fights. That’s my fault, 100%. In fact, since this fight I’ve really dedicated myself to it everyday, and I think I’ve worked the counter out. But it’s frustrating to watch this fight because she doesn’t do anything. She won on points, but it’s hard to actually pick out those points. Ultimately, she just looks better. When I talked to Pi Nu after this fight I was very embarrassed about it. He said not to be, that he knows that her style is easier and requires almost no energy and my style is harder because the burden is on me to catch her and show effectiveness. I see what he means, especially when I watch the fight and see where I throw some punches or a kick and then just stop where I am; if I’d just walked forward – not even doing anything but just eating that space – it would have looked different. I was out-acted, not outscored, which isn’t to say she didn’t win. She most definitely won this fight. It’s something I’ve needed to work on for more than a year already, but it’s hard to train because it’s so much a mindset. It’s a major dimension of Thai Muay Thai, and I’ve let several close fights slip away because of impression.
This was a hard loss for me. I watch the fight and try to see a point where I could have taken it, but there’s not much there to work with. It’s an overall aesthetic kind of change. But that’s important, too. It felt terrible to have such a stink-bomb fight; it’s not even the main point that I lost and thereby lost face and money for my gym, but more so that my fight was boring. I fought pretty well and I fought hard to the end, but ultimately put on a shitty show and that’s a bigger factor in whether or not I’ll be put on a card here again than if I win or lose. That’s the bigger embarrassment, really. I think Pi Nu saw that he’s been kind of shorting me in training by only giving me one training partner in clinch, who is smaller than I am. It’s great for this partner to be challenged against me all the time, not so great for me to not have the bigger boys to force my own growth. So Pi Nu asked his uncle to put me on another show, which is against Gaewdaa’s teammate, who I’ve never fought before. It’s a chance for redemption. But I had to redeem myself with heart, not with outcome, and that I did last night. But that post is to be written.
There are a lot of sentiments about loss, trying to turn a bad thing into a good thing, and most of them just sound trite: there are no losses, just lessons…etc. In a sense though, this loss has produced great change, my husband refers to it as “the loss that keeps on giving”. The echo of this fight is what produced my break with O. Meekhun Gym, where I’d quietly been suffering for months now, an atmosphere of great clinch work, but eroding support and negativity. This loss is what triggered Sangwean to publicly put me down to a promoter (despite that he did not seen the fight), and only when I finally left O. Meekhun did I fully realize how much it had dragged down my confidence over time. In fact my previous loss to Gaewdaa on the Queen’s Birthday was with O. Meekhun in my corner. That night they hardly acknowledged me at the event, and during the fight offered almost no support in my corner. This was a much needed break, and sometimes losses can just do that for you. Additionally, it has gotten me very serious about the Wall of China (basically a leg bar), which has long been one of the very few dependable holes in my stalking clinch game. I hated practicing against it, so I simply didn’t. Not everyone used it, or used it properly, so I could get away with it. Now I’ve identified the counters I want to do, they aren’t difficult, and I’ve been drilling them mentally and physically every day – a hidden weakness is turning into a strength. This loss, because I showed so much stagnancy, also began my inclusion of the “bounce” in order to bring both visual and technical energy to the fight – this is very important for a fighter like me (a smaller, stalking, clincher). The results have been nothing short of fantastic. I don’t know if I’ve improved so much, so fast, due to just one small technical change. It makes me very, very difficult to deal with in the clinch, something that was already my strength. So, my mind’s gotten right, my technique is rapidly improving, all from the little gift of a loss.