April 17, 2014 – Loi Khro Stadium, Chiang Mai – 5 x 2.5 minute rounds
Just after my last fight Den let me know that Nong Ploy wanted a rematch with me and asked if I could fight on the 17th. That would give me exactly one week. Seemed reasonable. Although I did have to laugh. I highly doubted that she personally wanted a rematch with me, since fighters don’t tend to have much say in who they fight and our first two fights together were neither the kind of fight that would warrant a revenge rematch, nor close enough that she’d want to prove herself in some way. Maybe her trainer was pissed/embarrassed she’d lost to a falang and wanted redemption or something, but it’s highly likely that neither Nong Ploy nor her camp asked for the rematch and the promoter wanted it for ticket sales and gambling appeal. I don’t know, I’m only sharing my conjecture.
As it happened the trainers at Lanna decided to take Songkran off this year. It’s the “Thai New Year”, even though the calendar changes on January 1st, and it takes place on April 13-16th every year. It’s actually a really beautiful holiday that involves honoring one’s elders and purifying through the gentle pouring of water over statues of Buddha and the hands of elders. The more public display of celebration is a country-wide water fight that spills over onto days prior to and after the official holiday (like how kids will light fire-crackers the moment they have them before the actual 4th of July and you’ll still hear them for days after). And there’s no “opting out” of the celebrations. If you’re out of your apartment, you will get soaked by somebody. I took part in the water games my first year here and it was fun – for a few hours on one day – but the incessant and ongoing nature of it isn’t something I enjoy. Since I’ve trained through Songkran every year (we arrived in April, so this is my third Songkran but my second year in Thailand) and when I go out for my run in the afternoon (thankfully the morning run is too early for the kids to be out) I get hit by hoses, buckets of water and Super Soakers periodically throughout the route. Running while soaking wet and with sloshy shoes really isn’t as romantic as it sounds.
All that is to say, however, that for three days of training I didn’t have my regular trainers. Thankfully, but also somewhat sadly for Nook, because Nook lives at the gym and doesn’t have kids or family he worked through the holiday. A few times the gym was really busy and poor Nook was the only one there to hold pads for probably 8-10 us – that’s 40-50 rounds! But he’s wonderful to work with and I haven’t had padwork with him in forever. Usually Nook takes beginners or the really big guys; beginners because he’s a really good instructor and is slower than the younger trainers and the big guys because Nook is a bigger guy himself and can handle the power and wear those guys down. He’s 56 years old and could probably still win against most of the guys who get a little cheeky with him in padwork. With me he just doesn’t want to let me have it easy, so he tries to trick me and pull shots away after calling from them – it’s a big game. As long as I don’t try to be too fast, he’s game to play off of what I give to him even if it’s not what he’s calling for (because what he’s calling for is usually a trick). It was a lot of fun to train with him. Since I’ve been focusing on my jab and cross combo he was pretty much unable to pull his pad far enough back to not get clipped with my long right cross, even when he was really leaning back into the ropes. That wasn’t the case 6 months ago. And once he called time on a round early after I fed him a few knees straight into his bellypad. Nook is no powder puff, so I was actually shocked that he was affected through his thick bellypad… pleased, but also shocked.
The Surprise Cage
I experimented again with running before this fight. It puts me in a good head space and keeps my energy up, which is needed because fight nights are really late and days off are really long. I felt good after the run and when we arrived at the venue, as we were driving along the alley just outside in order to park the bike, I saw the top of a cage where the empty space above the ring should be. “I think the cage is still up,” I told Kevin. He uttered a few expletives and said something that sounded like I could demand they take it down, which made me laugh, but as we actually entered the venue and saw that indeed the cage was up it became less funny. There was no way this thing was coming down tonight.
There had been an MMA event the night before and I guess they simply didn’t take the cage off the ring. It’s ridiculous because the cage has to sit on top of the ring, so it cuts off the corners in order to be an enclosed area and the actual space is so tiny inside the cage. When I asked Den about it and he kind of shrugged (what could we do?) I balked and said, “why don’t I just fight on this table?” and knocked my knuckles against the bar table where he was sitting. I put my stuff down and double checked my opponent’s name on the program – it was in fact listed as Nong Ploy – then went to the restroom to change out of my shirt, sweaty from running. When I came out Den asked me, “do you want to fight or no?” He had his cell phone in his hand, like he could call the promoter and say we’re walking out. I asked if Nong Ploy was here, Den said “yes, already.” I told him I would fight, no problem, but that I don’t ever want to fight in a cage again. That next time the promoter can just not book me. It’s not his “fault,” but I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed by the unpleasant surprises that have become the norm with this promoter – my opponents just keep getting bigger, to the point where it’s ridiculous (16 kilos bigger than I am, really?!) and it shows that he just doesn’t care. I’d like that to stop and perhaps the only way to make that happen is to walk away from a fight, because that hits his pocket and his event. His uncaring attitude is not personal toward me, it’s business.
Pre Fight Update
A Thai guy came up to me before the fight and asked if I was fighting. He acted like he knew me, which isn’t uncommon among gamblers but I didn’t recognize him, and when I showed him my name on the program he made a “tsk” sound and told me, in English, “Nong Ploy no fight, no train good; drink beer. First round, you no say anything. Second or third round she finish already. You KO.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by “you no say anything” in the first rounds. Does he mean don’t give away that I’m going to fight hard? Like, make it look even so that the odds go up? Among Thai gamblers everyone already knows how I fight, so he had no secret information. All I can guess is that he was planning on gambling against westerners in the audience and because I’m smaller and not-Thai he could drum up some bets on Nong Ploy because she’s more experienced, slightly bigger and Thai. (I would probably bet on the Thai.)
I was laughing with Kevin about storming out of the cage like Tom Hardy’s character in the movie “Warrior.” As it turned out though it was far more cumbersome to open and close the cage doors than it is in that movie. In fact, Nong Ploy’s corner didn’t quite have it down and when we clinched against the door in her “corner” we fell out of it (dumbest, ever) and it opened a couple times after that, with her trainer pushing the door closed while the referee tried to pull us as a single glob off of it.
As far as the fight itself, Nong Ploy is a good fighter and has been a challenge for me every time we’ve fought. The first time she bashed me pretty well in the first two rounds and then I managed to knock her out with a knee to the head in round 2. (30th fight – Nong Ploy “Chompu”) The next time we fought went the full five rounds and I was sure that I’d won, but it was through dominating in the clinch for sure. She’s got the outside game down pat. (60th fight – Nong Ploy) This time around it was clear that she was trying to end the fight early. She was going for a KO in round one and was making lots of noise with her full-power kicks (that right kick to my shoulder stings, but I had no fear of it getting my head – it was neither high enough nor was it hard for me to keep my block up). But she burned herself out and those kicks got less powerful and her punches are neither accurate nor strong.
Her teeps were giving me trouble though. My jab worked well in the first couple rounds and then I just forgot about it. Kevin and I had remembered that she does this right-kick-right-hand combo and practiced taking the kick with a firm block (like how I take it in this fight) and then firing a right cross that would surely knock her on her ass if I’d actually executed it. I just didn’t fire the punch… damnit. As the rounds went on I started just pushing her teep to the side and that was working really well. But the moment I grabbed her in our first clinch exchange I knew I had her. She just folded in my grip. Maybe because I’ve been fighting women so much bigger than I am I was surprised by how well I could move her – she just didn’t have as much weight to put on me or to use against me when I was using my strength. She was good at getting her leg wedged in as the “Wall of China” defense, which got the ref to break us, but it wasn’t looking good for her.
Between rounds we stepped out of the cage for the cornering. Daeng told me to block the kicks, Den told me to throw more combinations with my hands, a few gamblers told me to “quick! quick! knee and KO!” (they must have had money on the KO specifically) and in the last break before round 5 the guy who had talked to me before the fight said, “Sil-wee-uhh, you win one million percent!” (Those are good odds!) “Just don’t get elbow!” I could do that. She’d fired one elbow at me and it landed but with no power at all – she was too far away for it and it kind of died right on my face. I’d fired some back in the clinch but mine were worthless also.
I knew I’d won this fight and round five was just a maintenance round – just don’t get put to the floor or any really big points against me. But I was upset with myself for my performance. I think it was tricky because I did so well in my last fight, against a very different opponent with very different circumstances, that I kind of couldn’t live up to my own expectations for this fight. But what was upsetting was that I felt like I didn’t grow in the fight. I would have fought like this four months ago and while I don’t think I could fight Nong Ploy the way I fought my last fight, I know I could have fought better than I did. I was kind of getting stuck. That’s good in itself because it shows me that not every step along the way is forward – sometimes you go sideways and that’s still progress in a way. It just means I have to keep working on the things I’m working on and try harder in the next one. But isn’t that always the case?
Post Fight Update
The Whole Fight