“Do you want to fight in 20 days? It’s 5 rounds against a Thai who has had a bunch of fights. He’s about 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavier than you, but he hasn’t fought in a long time. Oh, except that fight he had a month or two ago. Also, we’re betting a good amount of money on you. No pressure.”
I had noticed that at the Muay Thai camp I’ve been attending, the fighters don’t really train much unless they have a fight coming up. After a fight, until there’s another one in sight, they just kind of run for a bit, do some skip knees, and then play soccer. It occurred to me that perhaps I’d get more focused and consistent attention from the trainers if I had a fight coming up. “Can you get me a fight?” I spoke these words at about 8am on a Saturday. Before noon, I got a facebook alert. 1 new message, sent from a construction of Thai characters I didn’t understand or recognize, but that were attached to a picture of my trainer. I plugged his message into google translate (no software really translates WELL). “I let you punch 27. You do it”
“Is it 5 rounds, or 3?”
“5 round professional boxing.”
I took this to mean I would be fighting on the 27th, but wasn’t sure whether “punch” and “boxing” together meant it would be a Western boxing style fight – just hands. Whatever it was, I was down. I got to training that night and was greeted by both my trainers. One speaks as much English as I do Thai (barely any) and the other has a pretty good working knowledge of it, because he was a trainer at a gym in Phuket. He was kind of the translator and my source of information. He said, “you know you already have program?”
“Yes, the 27th right?”
“Yes. How much you weigh?”
This is where they began to talk among themselves for a moment in Thai. The two trainers and one third guy, who’s a bit of a staple at the gym and helps train the smaller kids. I heard “bpaihtsip ____,” meaning eighty something.
“He about 80 kilos… okay?”
“Okay.” I just agreed. No turning back now.
I wanted a more complete picture. “Has he fought before?”
“Yes he fight he fight, but not long time. Now, he fat. You win.”
This “out of shape because he hasn’t been fighting” thing might have been of greater consolation had I not JUST witnessed my trainer P’Tom, who is out of shape because he hasn’t been fighting, knock out a very in-shape opponent the weekend before. When you’ve had as many fights as these guys have, you’re dangerous no matter what shape you’re in.
The smaller guy who trains the kids told me “I see you winning” and P’Ang (the English speaking trainer) informed me that guy would be betting on me. P’Tom (my other trainer) told me I would knock the guy out. Through a joint effort between the three of us, I figured out P’Tom was saying the guy doesn’t respond well to punches, and I’m a relatively good puncher. They asked if I wanted to bet on myself.
Up to this point, I have failed to mention that there were several other people at the camp. Most were faces I had never seen. I believe it was a mixture of promoters, oddsmakers, and avid bettors (betting on fights is HUGE here), but I don’t really know. The ring was cleared and I was made to hit pads while everyone watched. P’Ang held and, since I’d only jumped on the tire for a bit while chatting with them, started warming me up with some easy punches and elbows. One of the spectators grew impatient and wanted to see what really mattered to them. Angrily, he yelled. “KICK! KICK!” So P’Ang held for a kick. The onlookers emitted a chorus of “Oooohhhh” upon impact. I don’t believe they thought a farang (foreigner) could kick.
At 8am that morning, when I said I would fight, Jill (my girlfriend who lives in Thailand with me) was asked the same and gave an affirmative yet noncommittal response. When I finished hitting pads, they told me they had a fight for her as well.