Last night, I attended the Queen’s Cup at Sanam Luang, the most prestigious event for female Muay Thai in the world. This is an event that I wouldn’t want to miss in any case, but what made this year’s one so exciting is that Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu was due to fight Saya Ito.
This fight came about after Sylvie asked me if Master Toddy would be able to set her up with a fight in Bangkok for the Queen’s birthday. I’d already told him all about her, so when I passed on the request, he was happy to set something up. It came as a surprise when he later told me that she’d be fighting at the Queen’s Cup, but even more so when we found that Saya Ito was her opponent. Until this point, Sylvie had spent some time struggling to get fights at all and suddenly, she was not only fighting on the best possible show, but against a world champion who’s one of the very best in her weight class. It was all very exciting.
Sylvie and I had maintained and online friendship for quite some time and this match up allowed us to finally meet in person. Sylvie came to train with me at Master Toddy’s last week so that she could thank him for arranging the fight for her. It was wonderful to meet her and her husband, and also to link her up with Master Toddy.
On he day of the fight, Sylvie arrived in Bangkok for the weigh in at 7am with her husband, trainer and puppy in tow, after which they all came back to our gym to rest until it was time to head out. When that time came, a troop of supporters from the gym went out to support her.
The promoter had arranged for some seating to be reserved for us, which meant that we had to get there early. Unfortunately, that meant that we arrived at the same time as a hefty downpour of rain, which forced us to hide under a tent for an hour. This meant that we got there too late to claim our seats, defeating the point of arriving early in the first place. Still, it passed just in time for the fights, which was all we needed. There were two Muay Thai shows going on that evening, one of them being the OneSongchai event that Sylvie was fighting on, the other being an all-female show put on by the Muay Ying Association. We first spent some time at the second one, and although we did so by mistake, it seemed to be a good show. It was a more elaborate than your usual fight night in Thailand, with big screens, fancy walk-outs, smoke machines and strobe lights, unlike the OneSongchai show, which was business as usual. I actually prefer to have less of the fancy stuff, at least when I’m fighting. I’d much rather get in, fight and get out, but that might be because I don’t like to be seen or heard. To say that I’m no ‘showman’ would be a huge understatement.
While watching the Muay Ying show, I met up with Lindsey Newhall, a writer of the ‘An American in Thailand‘ column for Vice’s Fightland. It was great to talk to her, since I hadn’t seen her since my fight just before Christmas in Hua Hin. I was eager to make my way to the OneSongchai stage so as not to be late for Sylvie’s fight, so I hurried off after a couple of fights and agreed to meet her there later. Soon after we met Sylvie there, Juliana Rosa also turned up. I’ve followed Juliana since she fought on Max Muay Thai against Peach Purahong, who used to train with me at Master Toddy’s.
As Sylvie was only able to bring one trainer with her for the fight, she’d asked me to help her out in the corner. I was thrilled to do so. However, I wondered if having a woman in the corner would be a some kind of faux-pas, as it’s not something that I’ve seen in Thailand before, let alone on such a big show. I wanted to tread carefully, but I was very happy to help. Master Toddy seemed confident that it wouldn’t be a problem and Sylvie’s husband, Kevin said that they’d seen plenty of females cornering in Chiang Mai. Still, I decided to limit my presence to the outside of the ropes, just in case. I just didn’t feel comfortable crossing that line.
After being down on points in the first half of the fight, Sylvie completely turned it around and overpowered Ito with knees for the second, which won it for her. It was great to see her adjust and implement her game plan. She knew exactly what she needed to do, went out there and did it. Those killer knees that I spoke about after training with her were just as deadly as I thought!
It was really wonderful and inspirational to see Sylvie achieve this dream of hers, which I’m sure will stand as a milestone in her career. Those who’ve been following Sylvie have seen the huge amount of work that she’s put into her career so far and the obstacles she’s overcome along the way, and especially after her most recent ones – having trouble finding fights and having a difficult loss just a few days before this one. It was fantastic to see all of that pay off. She certainly deserves it. That alone made it a great night for me, but I think that there’s an important message behind this fight.
To me, Sylvie’s fight showed the true power of connecting with others on similar paths to yours. It was that which allowed the fight to take place. If Sylvie and I had never connected, we wouldn’t be telling this story, just as if we had never set up our respective blogs, we’d never have even known of each other. I fully intend for this connection to extend past this event and am sure that it will pave the way for more fights and training together in the future.
As it happened, this fight actually took place one year to the day that Under the Ropes was set up. I never could have predicted that it’s creation would have led us to this point. That’s the beauty of it. It’s an illustration of how putting yourself out there and making positive connections with others can lead to wonderful things. Under the Ropes only had a small hand in the whole story (Sylvie did all the work!), but just that connection between us sparked a whole chain of events. It was actually Sylvie’s blog that gave me the final push to create my own. I’m sure it’s been equally inspiring to many others. This is why I’m always so eager to meet other women in Muay Thai. It’s also why I would encourage others to blog their experiences. There are so few of us that even the quietest voice can hold so much meaning. I urge other female fighters to put theirs out there, you never know what might come of it.
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