I was booked to fight on a big show for the King’s Birthday at Sanam Luang this year. It was a big, all-female promotion that was heavily promoted and also televised, so I was excited to be a part of it. Unfortunately, my fight ended up falling through on the day and the whole situation was a bit of a mess. I’ll start from the beginning.
The Press Conference
On 10th November, all the fighters were required to attend a press conference and photo shoot at a hotel in Bangkok. Events like these always take up far more time than necessary, so I wasn’t looking forward to this part, but I was interested to find out more about the show. I expected one of my trainers to accompany me, since this was when matchmaking was being confirmed and some degree of negotiation had to take place, but when I came down to the gym that morning expecting someone to be waiting for me, they were all training. When I asked them what was going on, they asked if I remembered where I needed to go and just sent me on my way. That was the first of many disappointments. I spent the journey there feeling a little bitter at the fact that my gym didn’t appear to be looking after me, which has been a theme as of late. More about that another time.
Anyone who’s spent any time in Thailand will know that time is not seen as a valuable commodity here and that a lot of it is spent just waiting for things to happen. That morning was no different. I was told to arrive at 8:00, but got there around 30 minutes late, knowing that I could afford to. It was after 10:00 before anything actually happened. The only other people who were there when I arrived were other farang who had come from Sitsongpeenong gym, one of whom was Kate Allen, fighter and owner of 8 Limbs Academy in Philadelphia. We knew of each other through the online female Muay Thai community, but had never met, so this was a nice surprise. We hung out and chatted while we waited for everyone else to arrive. When the promoter originally asked me to fight on the show, he told me it would be at 51kgs. On this day, he approached me and asked ‘how much do you weigh today?‘ This was obviously irrelevant since I would be fighting at 51 on the day no matter what, so I knew he was getting at something. He pointed across the room to a Thai girl and said ‘you’ll fight her, but she is 55 right now and she can’t do 51’. She looked pretty tall and I wondered why he’d chosen her rather than a girl my own size. His idea of a compromise was to have me weigh in at 53kgs (which is what I weigh if I’m not training at all) and her at 52, and without anyone there with me, there wasn’t much I could do other than accept it and take that information back to my gym. This promoter has a particular smirk that he always gives me that seems to say that he knows he’s not being entirely fair with me, and it makes every interaction I have with him a little uncomfortable.
The rest of that morning involved changing into a uniform and standing in front of cameras while some important-looking guys in suits all made separate speeches about exactly the same thing, thanking sponsors and such. It was later aired on CH3 and photos were put on the covers of Muay Siam and Muay Dtu magazines. After that, they wanted us to put on make up and have some promo photos taken, but I darted out as soon as I could, along with the other farang. That was enough for me. The Sitsongpeenong guys actually gave me a ride home, which was very kind.
The Training Process
Training for this fight was a little different than usual. I began working with a relatively new trainer named Dowmai, who has known Master Toddy for many years but only been at the gym for a few months. His arrival injected something new into my training. He is very passionate and fills me with confidence that he really cares about my progress and wants me to improve and succeed. These are things that I haven’t been getting from my gym recently, so working with him has been very important. We also get along really well and it didn’t take us long to establish a good rapport. On the day of the press conference, he was in his hometown, so was unable to come with me. He had originally said that he’d be there for a week, but came back just two days later and told me that he wanted to go straight to work with me to get ready for this fight. That felt really good. He also sat down with me and watched videos of my opponent’s previous fights, put together a game plan and drilled it with me every day. I’d actually forgotten what that felt like, partly because you almost never know who you’ll be fighting over here until the actual day, but also because my other trainers just hadn’t taken the time or initiative to do that in such a long time. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Dowmai is an interesting character. He does what he pleases and floats around wherever he likes, coming and going from the gym of his own accord. He’s not a full-time trainer. He’s 55 years old and counts himself as retired, just teaching for pleasure. He’s not like the other trainers, who have to work with everyone at the gym. He’ll turn up to training late and if there’s someone he wants to teach, he’ll pick them out, do his thing and then saunter off happily while everyone else finishes the session. After watching my previous two fights, he took me on and committed himself to teaching me every day for this one. From the day he decided to do that, everything changed. He was there from start to finish every day, and when I arrived every morning, I was met with ‘get warmed up, I’ve got something to teach you‘. We went to work, and it felt great. As the fight drew closer, he started to talk about taking a vacation to his hometown as soon as it was over. This fight was a kind of ‘last hurrah’ before New Year for him, and he was obviously looking forward to it.
The Weigh In
There was a same-day weigh in for this fight, which required a very early start. Dowmai offered to go with me, and when I came down to the gym at 5:30 that morning, I expected to have to wait for him. However, he was already there, ready to go. He’d shown himself to be someone who I could really rely on and this day was no different. I took this photo just before I left for the weigh in, wearing a pair of bright blue leggings from Zalora Thailand that are usually just reserved for making sure I stand out in traffic while I’m running. I wanted to wear my lightest clothes possible, so threw a very thin training shirt on over this and headed out. I knew I was underweight, but didn’t want to take any chances.
We arrived at the hotel around half an hour early, and the only other people there were my last opponent, Brangthong PhetPairat, and her father. We had a pleasant chat for a while, which got us through the long wait it took for things to get going. We were told it would start at 7:00, but it didn’t happen until around 8:30. Typical. When I checked the scale, it had me at 52.3 kg with all my clothes on, after eating three full meals the previous day. There really was no need for me to worry about my weight at all, or to be fighting at 53. My opponent, Wondergirl Luk. Jaroonsak, was the very last person to turn up, long after everyone else had weighed in. She and her father both looked rather sheepish and when she was finally coaxed onto the scale, we realised why. She was 54.5 kg, a full 2.5 kg over what she was supposed to be. Before we could have any kind of interaction, she had put on a sauna suit and gone straight outside to run.
This was extremely annoying. She’d already been given an extra kilo after refusing to fight at the weight I wanted, and almost a month later, turned up way past that, clearly not having attempted to lose any weight at all in that time. Even with a sauna suit on, there was no way she could sweat off anywhere near enough to come down to the agreed weight. The promoter didn’t seem to think it was a problem. He said she could only be expected to lose a kilo, and when Dowmai asked for him to get me another opponent, he said that he didn’t have anyone. After all the work I’d put on, it seemed disrespectful. Dowmai was very upset about it, which was clear from the look on his face as we waited impatiently for Wondergirl to get back.
He turned to me and told me under his breath that he didn’t want me to fight. Neither my opponent not the promoter had done what they were supposed to do and it was clear that they weren’t prepared to give me a fair fight. After looking forward to this event so much and working so hard to get there, walking away wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I was prepared to do it if I had to. I’ve had lots of unfair match ups and have already had some less than positive experiences with this promoter, so it seemed like the time had finally come for me to put my foot down and say no to let him know that I wasn’t going to keep putting up with it. When you’re fighting on one of those events that you just turn up to and fight whoever’s there, which, in my experience, is what happens most of the time, you’re willing to make exceptions. However, on a promotion like this, where terms have been agreed in advance and there’s an official weigh in, it’s not acceptable. Dowmai turned to me again and asked why everyone else had a fair match up except me. ‘They take care everyone but not you‘. It was really a case of only taking care of the Thai fighters, which isn’t abnormal over here. I’m convinced that if it had been me who had turned up overweight, they would have demanded that I sweat it all off or give up some of my purse, but since it was my Thai opponent, I was expected to just accept it.
Wondergirl returned and Dowmai hopped up from his seat, marched her to the scale and called me over to look. 54.1 kgs. She hadn’t even dropped half of the 1 kg that the promoter suggested, and even that wasn’t enough in the first place. Her father, Jaroonsak, walked up to me and said ‘she got sick‘. He couldn’t look me in the eye, which is fairly normal since Thais are always very indirect in dealing with confrontation. When I didn’t respond, he continued ‘she got an injection yesterday’, pointing to her ass, ‘I can show you if you don’t believe me‘. I laughed at the absurdity of it. I didn’t want to see her ass, I didn’t need any proof, and it wasn’t a decent excuse for not making weight anyway. Besides, getting sick usually means you lose weight. Dowmai and I walked away to talk about what we were going to do, and Jaroonsak followed behind shortly after to ask me how much weight I would accept. I found it odd because she clearly had no intention of losing anymore as she had already taken her gear off, sat down and started drinking water. I simply told him to talk to my trainer instead of me. At that far off her fight weight, they would have known she wasn’t going to be able to make it a week ago, but instead of either dropping some weight or letting us know beforehand, they just turned up like that. In the end, we were so fed up that we just left and after calling Master Toddy, who was adamant that I shouldn’t fight (‘it’s about time you had it your way‘, he said), we called the promoter and told him that we wouldn’t do it. He offered a switch of opponents, saying I could fight Nong Eye Sor. Boonmeerith. That was a change of tune since he’d refused to do that when we’d asked him to earlier. It would obviously only be on his terms. The whole situation was a mess and we didn’t want to work with that particular promoter at all, so we left it. That entire morning had left a bad taste in my mouth.
This was a really difficult decision to make. I knew that I could have fought and beaten Wondergirl regardless of the size difference, but that wasn’t the point. It just felt as though we weren’t being taken care of at all. I had two choices; to take the fight but accept the unfair terms on which it was handed to me, or to stand up for myself but lose the opportunity to fight on a show that I had been really looking forward to. It seemed like a no-win situation. There’s every chance that the one I made won’t make any positive difference and that the promoter simply won’t call me again, but from my past experiences with him, that might not be such a great loss. Wondergirl did fight that night, although I don’t know who her opponent was. Her father called Dowmai several times afterwards to inform him that she had lost in the second round, ‘I told you she was sick!‘ Even if she was, that’s as irrelevant now as it was that morning.
Dowmai is heading back to his hometown in Buriram tomorrow and is planning to change gyms after New Year, which adds another sting, as I’d lost my last chance to fight with him as my trainer and cornerman before he goes. After all our time working together, it turned out very anti-climactic, but we are keeping in touch and he’s offered to help me get more fights in the future. I’m sure we’ll see each other again.