May 5, 2014 – Thapae Stadium, Chiang Mai –
I had to wait for one stitch to come out of my head from my fight before this, so there were about two weeks between them. I showed up at the venue with no idea who I would be fighting and upon looking at the program I still didn’t recognize the name. I looked around at the other fighters and couldn’t see anyone who would be reasonable. I didn’t feel that it mattered. I was a bit nervous because it felt like a long stretch between my fights and my last fight was a loss, but I didn’t feel particularly nervous or excited about the identity of my opponent.
When Den arrived he looked at the name and told Kevin that I’d fought this woman before. When Kevin came and relayed that to me I realized she’s had numerous names over the four or five times we’ve fought, usually Nong Kwang or Kwangngern (the letter used for the “k” makes a “g” sound at the start of a syllable and a sharp “k” sound when placed at the end, which is why it’s written “Gwang” on the program for this fight). We’ve had a bit of a history, this fighter and I. Our first fight was on very short notice for both of us and she had the flu and I knocked her out; the second time was out in Phayao and she played some head games involving Den – she used to date Big, my favorite fighter at Lanna, so Den and she know each other well – and then threw an elbow in the first round that gave me a tiny cut and the woman who was working as the “ringside doctor” (who was not actually a doctor) called the fight and I lost due to stoppage; the third fight I knocked her out again. So, I wouldn’t call what we have “bad blood” by any means, but I did suspect that she’d try to cut me early and failing that I’d knock her out later.
She’d taken a small break from fighting between our last fight and now in order to have a baby, which is remarkable. She was actually in much better shape this time around than the last time I fought her, probably through getting back her fitness after giving birth. She told Den, however, that she’d been told she was fighting someone else and when she arrived at the venue and saw it was me she was not happy. “Why does it have to be Sylvie?” she’d asked. Maybe she wanted an easier fight, or at least one that was less likely hurt. I laughed because, while she’d certainly said whatever she said in Thai, the actual quote that Den gave me sounded like Indiana Jones’, “snakes… why did it have to be snakes?”
I was kind of sad about this fight in a small way because it would be my last with Den. He was leaving for Scotland the next morning for a 6 week, with potential to be 6 month, trip and I’m moving to Pattaya at the end of May, so our departures made it such that this was our last fight together. It’s bitter-sweet, for sure, but there’s far more meaning in all the fights we’ve had prior to this than there could ever be in any single event. Before going up to the ring Den was talking with a few Thai men and occasionally one or two of each of them would come over to me to ask me something; I think they were all deciding how much they were going to gamble. Despite their confidence in me and the actual subject at hand being gambling, I totally forgot to place a bet on myself, something I’d done in my last fight.
I noticed as we were getting our gloves taped on that Kwang has some sak yant (sacred tattoos) on her back, the spires just barely peeking out from the edges of her tank top. This fight would be my first with my new sangwan rahu on my chest. We were pitting magic against magic, fighter against fighter, intention against intention.
The first round was her performance of super-relaxed with a few sharp kicks thrown in, against my usual pacing around and firing hands. I only landed one good jab that snapped her head back, but my strikes felt fast and straight. She went for an elbow right away when she got me on the ropes, but it didn’t land – that time.
In round 2 I kicked more, but they were so slow that Kwang caught them easily. My hands landed though and my stance was nice and wide so I could move in and out readily. She did catch me with some elbows near the end of this round, one a really nice smash on my right cheekbone that swelled up immediately. I got a nasty black eye the day after this fight, not from getting hit in the eye but from the swelling in my cheek draining into my orbital area. Doesn’t hurt, but it looks intense.
Round 3 I tried to find range with my left hand extended out a little bit. It works wonders sometimes in training and then other times it’s a disaster. But trial and error has made the former more frequent and the latter less so. At about 1:30 I catch her kick and her gloves go down, which is a point, but I wish – oh, I wish – that I had a more ready response to kick out her legs or knee her or something. She lands a really great elbow right after. I finish the round with a strong jab, jab, cross that unfortunately goes off-camera but you can see the ropes trembling afterward from the bounce-off.
I actually didn’t realized I’d probably won round 3, so I came out for round 4 knowing that I had to get in and find the clinch. I’ve always beat Kwang in the clinch and I knew I was stronger there, but the range of the fight had been long for her and middle for me, then her winning the close fight with her elbows. So I decided to just walk in and she was tired enough at this point that I could do that. In my memory I did this right away, but in actuality I waited almost through the whole round before getting in. Ah, the selective memory of fights… I did land a nice body punch though. Once I did get in and felt how easily I could control in there I was able to string some strikes together that ended the fight. I got a good straight knee to which she actually responded a bit strangely; I thought maybe she’d lost her mouthpiece or something by how she looked to the referee but she wasn’t actually wearing a mouthpiece. I’d thrown a second knee after that first straight knee that almost (or maybe did connect but not super strong) hit her head and she freaked out – it put a panic in her that wasn’t there before. I threw her backwards off of a “wall of China” block, which is something Kaensak taught me, and I can attest to how tiring it is to pick yourself up off the canvas when you’re already fatigued. She was showing strength but didn’t have the energy to match what I had left, she just tried to cover and probably would have stabbed at me with explosive elbows out of the blocks if it had gone that way. I threw an elbow that I’ve been working on, kind of a stabbing right, but just hit her block. Doesn’t matter. It still sends a message. I don’t know that the last knee I threw that put her down actually put her down. I suspect she saw where all this was going and having been hurt by that first straight knee did not want another of those to be the fight ender, especially given her response to that first knee. I’m not saying she lay down, but her will to fight appeared to have been broken. That said, as much as we believe in video as the ultimate truth, video is a liar – things that look like they barely touched can hurt and strikes that look really dramatic can feel like little swats. So I don’t know. But I could feel in the fight that she was done.
Two stills from the fight – not to highlight the moves but just because they’re beautiful. The first is her elbowing me and the flash from the photographer behind us. The second is my throw in the 4th.
The Whole Fight
Complete Fight Record