There’s a new promotion at the Ambassador Hotel in the centre of Bangkok, where Juliana Rosa fought quite recently. Master Toddy arranged for me to fight on it and put me in touch with the promoter, an Australian chap named Dean. A week before the fight, I was informed that there would be a weigh-in, so I did a last-minute weight cut. The day before the weigh-in, I was in the gym, working out in my sweatsuit when Dowmai walked in. He’d previously trained me for a fight back in December, but had since left the gym and I hadn’t seen him in a few months. He’d come back to Bangkok for a few days and when I told him I’d be fighting, he got excited and promised to come. He offered to accompany me to the weigh-in, which was convenient since none of my trainers had even asked me about it and I had subsequently planned to just go by myself. I’d come to stop relying on them in that way.
When we got there at 10 am the next day, my opponent was nowhere to be seen. Dean told me that she’d come in at 7:00, three hours before the scheduled time, because she’d ‘starved herself’ and wanted to be able to eat. That meant that I wouldn’t be seeing her for the first time until just before the fight, which wasn’t out of the ordinary. On the way back, before Dowmai and I parted ways, he told me to go to the hotel ahead of time with Tu and that he would bring the trainers in his car and meet me there. That was the plan.
After spending the afternoon mostly napping and eating, Tu and I made our way to the venue, arriving at around 6:45. According to Dean, the first fight was to start at exactly 7:45, and I was the second. On the way to the toilet, I ran into my opponent, Somnara. Her trainer introduced me to her and said that she was ‘new’, having only had a few fights so far. It was clear that she was very young, a high school student, and I immediately began to feel uncomfortable. I’ve fought high school girls before, and some of them have kicked my ass since with ease after having years of experience, but I didn’t feel as though this was going to be one of those fights. This was obviously a mismatch. I probably should have ignored this because I’ve been on the wrong end of plenty of mismatches myself and I know that she needs to get experience somehow. Plus, no opponent should be underestimated, but I still didn’t feel good about fighting her.
Half an hour later, my trainers were still nowhere to be seen. I received a phone call from a friend who was in Dowmai’s car, notifying me that they were stuck in traffic. With that, we sprung into action to get things ready for them, and Tu started wrapping my hands. He’s a fighter, not a trainer, and while he knows how to wrap hands, he’s not used to doing it, so it took him a little while. Still, without him, there wouldn’t have been anyone to do it for me. I began to get very anxious, repeatedly looking up at the clock and then back down at my hands, and when they were done, it was 7:40.
I hurried off to the bathroom the get changed, and while I was in there, I met a woman named Dominique and told her about my dilemma. She offered for one of her friends, a foreign boxing trainer, to help corner me, and at this point, I was willing to take anyone. The first fight had already started, and Dean told me to chill, reassuring me that there was time. “The first bout is two boys at 48 kgs“, he said. “It’s very unlikely that there’ll be a knock out at that weight, so you have five rounds of time“. He went back out to see what was going on and reappeared a moment later. “Typical. first round knock out!” I was up already. Tu threw some oil on me and without a warm-up or stretching of any kind, I had to get my gloves on and hurry to the ring. On the way there, I was scrambling to recruit just about anyone to help. The boxing trainer, whose name I never caught, appeared and helped me with my gloves. He, like a few others had done earlier on, recognised Tu from Max Muay Thai and made polite conversation about it. At this point, I was extremely stressed out and couldn’t help being kind of a bitch. “We don’t have time for this shit“, I nervously joked. Not exactly a nice way to thank someone trying to help. A friend arrived and bumped into us just as we were walking out.
“Hey, I need your help in the corner”.
“What do you need me to do?”
“I don’t know. Just be there.”
There was no time to think. My trainers still weren’t there, and it had become clear that I was going to have to do this without them. As we emerged from the back room and made our way to the ring, I saw that my opponent was sat in her corner, looking as though she had been waiting for some time. We passed lots of different faces, some of which I knew and some of which I didn’t, none of which I wanted to see. I stepped up onto the ring and waited for Tu to lift the ropes up so I could slide under, but he wasn’t there. I turned around to find that he’d been stopped by some other person on the way who wanted to high five him and say hello, so I was just stood there, looking like a dick. I gestured to the bottom rope with my glove, but he was looking the other way, so I just shook my head and went under by myself.
So, how did the actual fight go? Lots of inexperienced fighters charge forward with punches, and Somnara did exactly that. For some reason, I didn’t block any of them, and let her back me up, taking shot after shot to the face. What the fuck?
In the break, I heard the commentator say “Somnara might have the opportunity to finish this in the next round“. “Fuck off“, I thought. I knew that I wasn’t going to let that happen, but it wasn’t comforting to know that that’s how it looked to those outside the ring. I was fighting really badly and was well aware of it. It was almost like being in one of my first fights again. Tu told me to move to the left and shoot the right hand, so I tried to keep that in mind. The next round was better. After a teep to the stomach, she was visibly hurt and crumpled a little bit, and shortly after that, I put her down for an 8 count with a cross. I might have looked terrible, but I wasn’t going to lose. Towards the end of the round, she came in for the clinch and I grabbed and moved behind her, taking her back. This was a three-round fight, so the next one was the last. I knew I’d already won, and since I was uncomfortable with the match in the first place, I certainly didn’t want to knock her out, so I slowed down and just tried to keep her out with jabs and teeps when she lunged in. It was sloppy, but it worked. When the bell rang, I walked back to my corner shaking my head as if to say “what the fuck was that?” When I was called back to the centre for the referee to raise my hand, I kept my head down as he walked me around the ring, not wanting to look up at anyone. Everything about the fight was embarrassing and I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Somehow I hadn’t been able to throw anything in that fight with any power at all. I was barely able to get my brain into gear. I’d been so stressed that in the first round, I could hardly function. Instead of fighting, I’d just let her come forward at me and tried to figure it out after she got there. As the fight went on, I gained some kind of composure and while it was still a bad performance, I decided while I was in there that on top of everything else that had gone wrong, I wasn’t going to lose the fight. I couldn’t control the absence of my trainers, or the unfortunate match up. The outcome of the fight was the only thing I could control, so I made the decision to do that.
It’s very rare that any of my friends are able to see me fight. By some unfortunate coincidence, this was the one that people were able to come to. Even a new coworker was there. I passed her on my way to the back room after the fight, and she gave me an awkward hello, both of us knowing what a shitshow she had just witnessed. She later told me that she was concerned about how young my opponent was. So was I. Before she left, we took this photo together.
Here I am after the fight with my lovely friends who came to watch (and Tu, who couldn’t just let us take a nice picture). My mind was going a million miles a minute with all the questions about what had just happened, but I took a moment to make sure we got picture together amidst the chaos.
At the end of it all, I felt an unpleasant mixture of embarrassment, disappointment and sadness. Where the fuck were my trainers? They still hadn’t turned up. I was grateful that I had friends around me and that Tu had been there to help, because without him, I have no idea what I would have done. Plus, of all the fights that my friends could have come to, this was the last one I would have chosen, but I was grateful that they were there. Still, the complete lack of support from my gym felt really horrible.
The guy who’d called earlier to say that he was stuck in traffic had jumped out of the car and onto a motorbike, managing to make it just before the second round started, which I really appreciated. I asked him if the other trainers had been in the car as planned, but to my amazement, he said that they weren’t. That lead to more questions because if they weren’t coming in the car, I wasn’t sure if they even coming at all. Did they miss my fight on purpose? The realisation that it was far more than just a time issue made it even worse. I joked to some of the people around me that when the trainers did arrive, we ought to tell them that I got knocked out in the first round just to make them feel bad. At that point, I’d still expected them to turn up, just late. In the end, they never did. I didn’t even get a call to explain why that was.
My opponent’s trainer seemed happy, and came over to ask for a photo (below, he’s on the right). He said he wanted us to arrange a rematch and made sure the promoter knew it. He was actually a really nice guy. Somnara had taken me by surprise and given me a run for my money in the first round, which I respected her for, but I didn’t want to fight her again. Without trainers, the prospect of any future fights wasn’t something I was ready to think about.
When I got home, I cried. The next day, I cried a bit more. My trainers had completely let me down. On top of that, I hadn’t even fought a fight that I could be proud of. I’d fought someone much younger and less experienced and I done a terrible job anyway. I had a bruised-up face and a black eye to remind me of that. I didn’t feel that there was any point in having fights like that.
I later heard from a third party that there had been a miscommunication at my gym and that while Dowmai was driving, the other trainers had been waiting at the gym for me, expecting me to leave with them. I was also told that they “didn’t know where the fight was”. I don’t care about the technicalities of whose fault it was or how it happened. All that matters to me is that they weren’t doing their jobs. I haven’t been back into the gym since and as of right now, can’t see myself going back at all. I don’t really want to face any of them and can’t imagine myself training with them again. I can’t train with people who I can’t trust, and although I don’t like to admit it, my poor performance in this fight wasn’t only because of the stress. It also had a lot to do with the sub-par training I’ve been getting recently. So, right now, I’m thinking about other options. As unfortunate as this whole experience was, I think it will bring about some good changes. Watch this space!
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A memory of this fight came up yesterday, so I decided to revisit the video and put it up. My fight videos never went up online before for various reasons. In fact, I could barely stand to watch them. But if there was one that I was going to share, it would NEVER have been this one. I had a lot of negative and complicated feelings around this fight, and it signified the end of an era in my Muay Thai life. It was the trigger that convinced me to leave the gym I’d been living at for over 4 years and find somewhere new. None of my trainers turned up to corner me, leaving me scrambling to get strangers to help me as I walked towards the ring. They’d also matched me up with a much younger and less experienced opponent. This happens, and I’d been that opponent myself a few times, but it made me feel as though my gym didn’t believe in me. On top of all that, I put on what I thought was a horrible performance. I won, and then went home and cried. Looking back, I realise that I was really hard on myself. I found the whole experience incredibly embarrassing, stressful and disappointing and took all of it really badly. Now, that seems really dramatic, but fighting was often very emotional for me. I no longer feel that way about any of it. Now, I'm grateful that it happened. Fighting is full of amazing and bizarre and sometimes shitty experiences and this was just a part of it all. So, here’s some video of my fight against Somnara Rongrien Samkhok, at the Ambassador Hotel in 2016. (Sorry for the terrible quality!)