After having 4 fights in one month, I was really eager to take a break and remember what it was like to relax without the pressure of constant training, dieting and fighting. With the Songkran (Thai New Year) festival coming up, this seemed like the perfect time to do so. However, my trainer, Ajarn Saming, asked me to fight over Songkran weekend in his hometown in Buriram, a province in the North-East of Thailand. I really didn’t want to fight, but I knew that the idea of taking me to fight in his hometown for Songkran meant a lot to him, so I told him that I’d train as hard as I could and see how I felt closer to the time. This was three weeks before the fight. During that time, I could barely kick as my shins needed a lot of time to heal, so I mainly trained in boxing and clinching. It wasn’t until about three days before the fight that I could start kicking again, and I must have over-done it because I managed to injure my calf and inner thigh, making it a little difficult to walk, let alone train, for a day or so. It got to a couple of days before the fight and I really didn’t feel physically ready, but I hated the idea of letting him down. When the time came, my leg seemed better, so without any lasting injuries I didn’t feel like I had any reason to pull out of the fight (plus, I’d left it a bit late by that point!). So, I didn’t.
We drove for approximately 6 hours to get to Buriram, arriving at around 4am. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the promoter, who sized us up and chatted to us briefly before showing us to our rooms in his countryside house. Being the only girl, I was given my own room, with a mat on the floor, a blanket and a fan. At that time of morning, I could have slept anywhere, so it didn’t bother me at all. The boys, however, didn’t feel quite the same. There were 6 of us in total, and this left the other 4 to share one room with a mat on the floor big enough for two people at best. We weren’t entirely comfortable, but were nonetheless grateful for inviting us into their homes and giving us a place to stay.
The next morning, we woke up and were fed some lovely Isaan food before heading out to promote the show, ‘play water’ and celebrate Songkran festival. this involved hopping onto the back of a truck, which had big posters of us to promote the show, and spent the whole day driving around the countryside having water fights. This was very far from how I usually spend the day before a fight, and it didn’t seem like being out in the heat and getting sunburnt was a good idea, but we all enjoyed it. After that, we were put in a hotel for the night, and told we’d be picked up the next morning to go to the fights.
The fights were taking place at an all-day Songkran festival event, which meant we’d be fighting in the midday heat. This didn’t seem ideal, but we just had to deal with it. I met my opponent, Mangpor Suksanongchai, and it seemed to be a fair match-up. There was no weigh-in, as there is no such thing at these kinds of events. Instead I was called over to stand next to her, where we were looked up and down for a couple of seconds before we were deemed OK to fight. She looked my size, and they said she’d only had 2 fights before. Of course, that was most likely to be untrue, so I assumed she’d had at least 10. Either way, it didn’t bother me. After that, I returned to a corner in the shade, where we all sat on mats waiting (or napping) until it was time to fight.
It was quite clear from the reactions of the people around us that they’d had little to no interaction with foreigners before. It was almost like we were celebrities. A couple of people approached me to say that they would bet on me, and if I won the fight, they would give me half of their winnings. One lady even came to me with a flower, and took me to a nearby shrine to make an offering and pray for good luck.
I felt totally relaxed and un-fazed about the fight throughout the day. When I got in the ring, I felt the same. For the first two rounds, things were going fine, we both kept a relaxed pace and I felt that this was definitely an even match, and one that I could win without too much trouble. Ajarn Saming removed my mouth guard after the first round, presumably because he knew that my stamina wouldn’t be on form. However, that was not my main concern, It only took one kick for me to realise that my shins were nowhere near healed, and kicks were therefore pretty much a no-go. This made me a lot more reserved that I normally would have been. In the fourth and fifth rounds I felt that I fought well and there were some good exchanges, but knew I hadn’t done enough to win. The Thai girl won by decision. I didn’t mind, as I knew I hadn’t gone into this fight at 100% and wasn’t able to fight as best I could. That was the problem. This girl didn’t present any real challenge to me, but she beat me because I didn’t put my heart into it.
Looking back, I’m a little disappointed in my nonchalant attitude. I haven’t come to Thailand just to fight for the sake of it; I’ve come to challenge myself, to see how fair I can push myself. If I start to tell myself that it’s OK to lose like that, I will have gone against the underlying reason for which I’m here.
This fight made me take a good look at why I’m doing this. For the last few months, my focus had been solely on getting as many fights in as possible to rack up my experience. However, now I realise that this isn’t the point. I’d had so many fights in that time that I hadn’t been able to perform at my best. After each fight, I’d only taken day or two off and then just crammed in the training until the next one, without any time to rest up or heal properly. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to go through that gruelling period of hard training leading up to a fight, leaving myself physically and mentally exhausted but totally ready to fight. This is what I needed to get back into. Up until those last three fights, I came out of each one feeling that I had improved, regardless of the result. With this fight, I felt the opposite.
A friend once told me ‘don’t fight just to fight, fight because you want to be the best’, and he was totally right. If I can’t give my best efforts and be proud of myself, then there is no point in fighting at all. For the previous couple of fights I hadn’t felt ready or willing to go in, but had done so just to please other people. In turn, I hadn’t been able to fight at my best, and wasn’t happy with the outcome. Now, I’ve learned that there’s no point in doing that. No matter how much you don’t want to let other people down, you have to put yourself first when you are the one who is going into the ring. I may not have learned much in the way of fighting, but I am happy to have taken that lesson from this experience.
I’d originally planned to spend this Songkran festival with friends, as my 6-day work week coupled with my training schedule meant that I never had time to see them, and hadn’t visited them in months. However, I took the fight instead. In hindsight, my time would have been better spent relaxing with them, but I just couldn’t turn down an opportunity to fight, whether or not it was the best thing for me to do. Sadly, those friends ended up leaving Thailand and moving to another country before I got a chance to see them again, which made me feel even worse. I’d always put training and fighting before anything else, and this made me realise that it was better to try and find a balance, so that I could get the best of both worlds. Although training and fighting is my main focus right now, I sometimes need to take time to enjoy other things in life. In turn, I’ll then be able to get more out of it.
– Unfortunately, I ended up not getting paid for this fight, as the promoter ended up being less than trustworthy. This is an entirely separate saga. You can read the story of what exactly happened in the following post: Being Conned by a Slippery Promoter.
I didn’t get any photos of the fight itself, but I did include a picture of my rather fetching Songkran shirt, just for good measure.