October 20, 2015 – Thepprasit Stadium, Pattaya – full fight video above
This was more or less a face-saving fight opportunity. I’d looked poorly against Gaewdaa the month before and, while I fought hard and pretty well, I lost a fight where there were barely any actual points scored. I lost because I looked bad. So Pi Nu got me on another card at the same stadium in a quick way, which was really good. Rungnapa is from the same gym as Gaewdaa but they’re very different fighters.
So, yeah, I felt a little pressure to make sure I did much better in this fight than I had in the one previous. But I felt good. When I got up to shadowbox I felt loose and fast, my strikes felt like they were solid and the men from my gym gathered around in a small circle to watch me – basically assessing how much money they would be putting on this fight. A few nodded approvingly. The only obstacle was that I had a cut on my forehead from my fight up in Chiang Mai exactly 2 weeks previous. The stitches were out but I’d gotten a slight infection in the meanwhile and the spot was sore, the skin was fragile and red, and there was some swelling – I was on antibotics. It was noticeable. A kid from my gym looked at the fresh scar with worry and pointed it out to his dad. I just smiled and said it was no problem. Either it opens or it doesn’t; nothing you can do.
You can read about Stitch Care in Thailand here.
It did open, right in the last 30 seconds of the final round. It was very swollen at that point and I had a mouse on my head – I’m not sure what that was from, maybe a strike got through – but when it actually opened it was from me using my head in the clinch. I pressed my head against Rungnapa’s head and as I moved it must have just torn the skin open. The look of shock on her face (and everyone else, really) was priceless. “How the hell did that happen?” seemed to be the thought that everyone had, since there clearly was no elbow thrown. It was just the old cut reopening and that sucks that it was at the very last minute… I almost made it without a cut in this fight. But ultimately, because of the infection, I think this was better. It allowed the doctor to clean it out and put new stitches in. Unfortunately, because of all the swelling, those stitches later proved worthless, but I still think it was a good thing.
From the get-go I was told by people who had seen my opponent fight before that she’s strong and good in the clinch. That’s not strictly true. She’s good at knees, for sure, but she doesn’t do much in the clinch. These can be different things, especially among female Thai fighters. Her real strength is these really long, straight knees from a distance. They’re beautiful and she landed a few on me before I figured out what to do, which as basically stepping off and hooking or punching. Those knees are something I’d love to steal from her though – they’re just so nice.
When we clinched up I remembered to bounce/hop and that both stymied her and tired her out. So I got a pretty good lead in the fourth round. My corner was really excited between the fourth and fifth rounds, telling me I’d won. But I was asking them if I should dern (“walk”) or not, which is basically asking whether I should go forward or dance away to just keep the lead. They kind of didn’t answer me, so I had no definitive plan of whether to chase after this girl and finish out as the aggressor (this is something that my style often has to do – you just go from bell to bell) or whether I could somehow look bad and desperate if I was still the forward-moving fighter when I already had a big lead. What ended up being my answer was looking across the ring at Rungnapa and seeing that her corner was telling her to go hard. If they’re telling her to dern, I thought, then that means she has to chase in order to possibly win.
That told me what I needed to know and when the bell rang I danced backwards, allowing her to chase, and then just teeped her off. The first one was okay, but when I teeped her again her face fell. She looked exhausted and her body language told me she knew she’d lost. At one point, I teeped her and she spat her mouthpiece out. Done deal. She landed a few strikes on me which is why I clinched up with her at the end, which is what opened my cut, but if I’d been more adroit at this backwards game I could have stayed completely away from her the whole round. I don’t think I’ve ever danced a whole round off before. But it felt good.
Afterward her trainer looked very pissed off and somber. I don’t know if there was money on the fight or not. But before leaving I went to wai to him and say “thank you,” being polite and all that. He lit up when I came over and asked if I would rematch Rungnapa on the King’s Birthday in Bangkok. I said I’d talk to my trainer, but clearly the rematch was already on his mind. It ended up being sooner than that; I’m fighting her again about 19 days after this fight. I love this aspect of fighting in Thailand, this instant request for a rematch. Gamblers love it too.