Thapae Stadium, Chiang Mai – April 21, 2014
This was my first fight back at Thapae Stadium in many months. I’d asked Den for a fight here and it took a while to actually get one booked, although not really because of any difficulty in scheduling a fight for me, just the promoter at Loi Khro being who Den generally works with and that promoter continually wanting me for his shows.
It felt really nice to be at Thapae. It’s a cool venue and I like it. Where we set up in the back is a training area during the day, so there are bags hanging from the ceiling that get a kick or a punch from seconds and cornermen accompanying fighters; not ever really the fighters themselves. And there’s a kitchen right across from the warmup area, so the air that’s already hot and unmoving (there seems to be a total lack of fans) is periodically choked from the particularly nose-stinging smoke of burnt hot peppers in food.
The Thai boys have been noticeably absent from the gym since just before Songkran (the Thai New Year) and as a result they’re not working my corner. So for the past two fights Den and Daeng have been doing all the work, wrapping my hands, oil massage and working in the corner. It’s actually quite nice. It’s grunt work, of course, which is why the kids do it, but the practiced and calm manner in which the men go about it is certainly relaxing.
When we first got to the venue Daeng took me over to see the doctor. I actually sat down and had my blood pressure taken, which is the norm but lately I’ve just been saying “hello” to the doctor at the other stadium rather than going through the entire routine. He just writes a healthy fraction to indicate my blood pressure and that’s that. This doctor doesn’t know me, so we went through the process and I thanked him, and as I was walking away he asked Daeng with some skepticism in his voice, how much I weigh. I guess it was obvious to him that I don’t weigh what’s written on the paper, which was probably my opponent’s weight. I didn’t stay to hear what Daeng told him, but I also doubt Daeng has any idea at all what I weigh. My trainers don’t actually think about the fact that I’m smaller than nearly every opponent I fight.
I happened to be the 6th fight on the card, so there was a lot of time to just sit and relax. It was hard to see the fights as they were taking place in the ring because there’s a big stand upon which the live-band performs the Muay Thai fight music. That’s very cool – they can see the fighters and adjust their tempo according to the fight, or go faster in order to urge the fighters on, but it’s impossible to see around. The second fight of the night was a 126 lbs listing on the card between two Thai women. I recognized the blue corner’s name as someone I’ve recently fought twice and it wasn’t until I saw the two of them taking a photo together (the blue corner smiling at me in recognition) that I realized I’ve fought the red corner also. Both women looked big to me and I was somewhat amazed that I’ve not only fought, but also beaten, both of them with a 20+ lbs disadvantage.
As part of my campaign to fight in stadia that aren’t necessarily the political first choice for Den, we decided I’d try betting on myself when I fight at the stadia that I’ve asked for. So I placed a 1,000 Baht bet on myself; it’s a high bet – that’s a lot of money for me – and I’ve never bet on anything in my life (other than the actual phrase “wanna make a bet?” but after which money or childish goods have never actually changed hands), so this was a pretty big deal for me. I wanted to give money to my trainers if I won, as incentive and thanks and whatever else. There was a lot of discussion going on between Den and Daeng – and periodically anyone else who was interested in gambling for themselves – because my opponent just won a televised fight in her hometown in Isaan. I think everyone was trying to figure out the odds – I was definitely the underdog – and I’m not a bad bet as an underdog because I can sometimes beat opponents bigger than I am and, sometimes, opponents who are better than I am and bigger than I am. I have no idea if my trainers actually placed a bet on me or not.
This was a rematch against a young woman I fought back in December. I’d lost to her decisively by clinching too much against someone bigger and who was strong enough to both neutralize my clinch and to throw me. So I didn’t want to repeat that. In the first round I was trying to find my range with the jab. I stayed too far outside instead of really stepping in with it and got tagged with long lead-leg kicks. They’re flicky and I could easily just walk through them, but they were effective in keeping me back and in kicking range rather than me actually just coming through them. I did land a good right cross, but didn’t follow it.
In round 3 I got stuck on the porch and it was a fairly uneventful round. I landed a good jumping teep but, again, didn’t follow it and just stayed too far back the rest of the round. I woke up a bit more in the 4th round and landed a few good strikes with my hands, as well as swimming in better in the clinch. I was relying too much on my hands and should have been kicking more in the entire fight (and, honestly, I should just be kicking more in life, generally) in order to score. Lessons.
In this round we clashed heads at some point – just an accidental headbutt while we were both coming in – and my scalp split open in the middle of the top of my head. I didn’t feel it at all but Den and Daeng were fussing about it in the corner. I actually got kind a pissed off and told them I was fine – just one more round, leave it alone! – but when I stood up I looked down and saw that the water in the metal tray that goes under the stool was all rust-colored from blood. I didn’t realize I was bleeding, so at that point I realized why they were making a fuss about it at all, but still: one round, let’s just go and deal with it after.
Round 5 I decided to just go more and it was good. If I’d done that from the 3rd round (or even before) it would have been a different fight. It’s hard to remember these things in the ring, but it’s good to note it to try to have it for later on. About halfway through this round Nong Em waited for my knee in the clinch and turned me, which put me on the canvas. Game over. Very clever move.
I ended up getting one stitch in the top of my head to close my scalp. There’s a movie from the 80’s with Elizabeth Shoe called “Adventures in Babysitting,” where one of the teenagers who is too old for a babysitter but has a crush on the caretaker hired to monitor him and his sister somehow gets a pocket knife stabbed through his shoe and into his toe. They go to the hospital and he passes out from the trauma and all this, but when he wakes up the doctor is looking really bored and staring at his work on the kid’s foot, explaining he got “one stitch.” It’s this incredibly embarrassing moment, where all this big deal was made and he thought he was going to die and then he ended up with one stitch, which is just so emasculating because of how he acted. I didn’t act like it was a big deal, but I was still embarrassed to have to go see the doctor and have my hair snipped off with everyone huddling ’round so I could get one stitch. Just rub some dirt on it! But thank you, Doctor. I appreciate that my head has been closed back up, even though I’m being a total jerk about it now.