Loi Khro Stadium – November 2, 2013
I had a bit more time between this fight and my slew of fights at the end of October, so even though it was only about 10 days it felt very long. At first I was to be fighting alone, which is the norm for me since I fight more often than any of the others at the gym, but a few days before the new Thai boy Not was added to the card and I was happy to have another teammate on the card with me.
There are some serious things going on with politics and public figures in Thailand, first with the death of the Grand Patriarch (the top Monk, somewhat similar politically to the Pope for Catholics), who was 100 years old and had held his position for a long time. The country is in mourning and it was considered to move a very large public holiday to accommodate paying his respects. The second is a very divisive Amnesty Bill that has demonstrators from both sides of party lines holding rallies in Bangkok. As a result of one or both of these major incidents, every single bar at Loi Khro Stadium (which is a ring at the center of a long loop of bars) was closed. No noise, no neon lights, no bawdiness or drinking or cocktail waitresses teetering on sky-high heels. It was bizarre. If felt like a ghost town and there was literally hear-a-pin-drop silence between rounds.
empty like a warehouse
Not’s Fight and His First Loss
Not’s fight was first of the night, so we got him ready and wrapped up as soon as possible and I got to go stand by the ring, which I sometimes don’t get to do because I’m warming up. Not is only 16 years old and has only two fights so far, one against Den’s brother-in-law and then one with the camp as one of our fighters after he’d transferred over from whatever gym he was at prior. Both fights ended in KO in the second round with Not as the winner, both by knee strikes. So he’s never had a full-length fight. This was painfully evident by round 3 of his fight, although when I talked to him afterwards he said it was round 4 that did him in. He made it through the whole fight and lost by decision, but because his opponent was short and muscled, in direct contrast to Not’s tall, lanky and rangy body, it looked as though he’d been beaten by a smaller fighter. It’s not a big deal, really. Big just shook his head and turned his back to the ring after the fight, muttering almost to himself with a shrug, “som noi, chok noi,” which is basically like saying train a little bit, fight only a little bit. This was in reference to Not’s training regimen, which is pretty relaxed. But the loss was a big deal to Not – he’s never lost before and he’s never gone to decision. His mother fawned over him as he collapsed onto the mat in the dark corner of the stadium, next to closed metal garage-door style gates and the stink of spilled beer. He had to unwrap his own hands. That’s how you know when you’re in the dog house. I had to do that once.
Not exhausted between rounds 4 and 5
The pace of the night was all strange because of the weird silence between rounds and between fights. One fight that was on the schedule disappeared entirely – one or both fighters just didn’t show up, I guess – and so not everyone was ready to go when their time came up. I noted this and pressed Big to wrap my hands and start getting ready even though I was the last fight on the card. Not gave me my oil massage and we chatted a bit about his fight and his experience of it. Then I stood and shadowboxed for about half a fight before it was time to go up.
I was fighting an opponent I fought about a year ago, up in Chiang Rai. I’d knocked her out in that fight after she had a very strong first round. She was a better fighter than I was at the time and I had felt that I got a little lucky when I dropped her to the mat with a knee to the head. Not a lucky shot – I earned that shot – but lucky in that I didn’t have to try to win a fight through all five rounds with her. But I expected her to remember that fight and I expected her to want to get me back in some way. As I was watching her stretch across the way, in another dark part of the venue, the promoter walked over to me and told me to fight “sabai, sabai,” as in just take it easy. Then he said her coach wanted no elbows because she had to fight again tomorrow. This was all in Thai – I could have pretended I didn’t understand, but I nodded and gave a few indications of understanding, then said back, in Thai, “that’s okay, I just fight like normal.” Even though I didn’t agree to fight with no elbows, because that happened once before in my fourth fight, for no reason at all, and I never forgot. In fact, it still bothers me today. But even though I didn’t agree to it I did feel a bit obligated to be “good” out of respect to the promoter, which is dumb because he was just repeating what her trainer had said and I don’t give a damn what her trainer says. I thought about going to tell Den but thought better of it. Better just fight, like I said I would. To make it clear I did not hold back, and as was plain from the get go neither did my opponent. The whole thing was a ruse. When in Thailand when or if you hear such things before fights ignore them. Fight your fight.
The thing that pissed me off about this “no elbow” nonsense is that it’s just a head game. It’s why he came to me and not to Den. If he’d gone to Den (which I only realized after the fight because that’s when I told Den about this whole thing) the response from Den would have been, “sure, if Sylvie cannot elbow then your fighter cannot kick; no problem.” Because Den is awesome. But Den didn’t know until after and I continued thinking about it, getting angry and feeling strangely uncertain all the way up to the fight and then again afterward, even though I knew I shouldn’t consider it at all. As it turned out she came out plenty aggressive and threw the first elbow and I threw some back although neither of us connected. After the fight her trainer told Den that my opponent had just come from another stadium and had already fought, that my fight with her was the second of the night. Now, this happens – in fact, I had one fight where my opponent was brought in right after a fight at another stadium because the opponent they had lined up for me was 15 kg bigger than I am and they had, in fact, called me in last minute to replace someone else. It was a whole mix up. But this girl had not just come from another fight, rather the trainer was just giving all kinds of stories in order to manipulate me into fighting lightly (by saying she had a fight tomorrow) and that she’d just fought in order to explain away why she’d lost to me. What drives me nuts about this stuff is that it’s so petty. She may very well have had a fight the next night, but not fighting for real so that you can not fight the next day is ridiculous. Just don’t double-book, or if you must, don’t plan to be all fresh after a fight with me. And if you lose, suck it up. It’s because of what happened in this fight, not whatever you just did or will do. That said, I get it. Losing to a westerner probably hits the pride a little bit; if any of the Thai boys at my camp lost to a Falang I’d probably be pissed, calling out all kinds of reasons why it was unfair. But I’d do so knowing I was being an ass and I’d do so silently.
At any rate, the fight was frustrating for me for reasons other than all this drama. I haven’t fought a quick opponent in a while because the last 5 or so have been much bigger than I am and the bigger the fighter, the slower they like to fight. But Nong Ploy is skilled and aggressive. I didn’t notice it at the time because I don’t look at opponent’s faces, but Pook told me this woman was staring me down in the fight. Kevin thought she was cocky and wanted me to just go in and smash her to take her down a peg. I was just trying to do two things: 1) move forward and 2) low kick. I didn’t move forward as well as I would have liked, but in retrospect I did okay. I kept my “figure 4” block up after some early headkicks and managed to block with it as well as press her back, neither of which I’ve had so much success with before. And I did throw a few low kicks, but leaned back too far on them and hers was better. Well, hers was faster and more beautiful. I planned to jab and then just totally abandoned that plan after the first round, despite having good effect with it. Such is the fog of war, I guess.
Rounds 2 and 3 were definitely hers and I could feel from Den, my corner and Kevin’s energy behind the camera that my personal feeling that I was choking was probably not just in my head. Den told me to elbow and Neung told him (in Thai) that I wasn’t allowed. At this point Den hadn’t heard any of this nonsense yet so he looked confused for a second and then replied, in Thai, “of course she can elbow, it’s Muay Thai!” Best answer ever. So by round 4 I knew I just had to go for it. I’d wanted to try new things, I’d wanted to achieve strikes from the outside, which I did actually. I landed more kicks in this fight than in many, if any, others. But you take a few rounds to try things out, learn what does and doesn’t work yet on the outside and then you buckle down and do what you have to do to win the fight. So by round 4 I just went in and because I was actually moving forward now, she couldn’t kick as much. I dragged her into the murky depths with my knees and pressed her down, took her back and ultimately deflated her. She was exhausted and her face showed defeat when we were broken from the clinch, especially after I took her back. All she had to do in round 5 was run from me and she tried a little bit, but she was too tired. So I finished strong and knew for certain I’d won when the bell rang. That’s a good feeling.
my post-fight thoughts a few minutes after coming out of the ring.
I was disappointed in myself after the fight, which shows in my post-fight update, but then after a few days I had some distance and I feel better about it now. What I feel best about is knowing that the work I’m doing in training is going to change those things that made me feel so frustrated.
As a side note, this was the day before my birthday. I fought on my birthday last year, at the same stadium. This was my 60th fight, the year before was my 28th – that’s 33 fights in one year, which is pretty amazing. It didn’t feel overwhelming in the least and I did have some stretches of two or three weeks without a fight sometimes, so I think I can meet or exceed that this next year. For fun, here’s a link to my fight on my birthday last year, to see what a year has done.