Whatever the reason these factors can make what was already a great fight, even greater, when you know the full story.
I was scheduled to fight on the Muay Thai Superfights event back in 2006; Sakmongkon vs. Peter Crooke being the main event. Discussions were taking place as to whether this fight should be a rematch with Andy Howson following my recent win against him at Master Sken’s show or whether to take on Belarusian opponent Demitri Varats.
The promoter was eager to secure a rematch with Andy as he felt this would be more financially beneficial and suggested I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for with Varats.
We had only fought a few months prior to this, and with so little time between the fights I was certain it would have been an almost identical match. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing I guess, as we always entertain the crowd. However at that time I felt there was nothing to be gained from a rematch.
I have fought Howson since, losing closely on points. There is a fourth fight being spoken about at the moment and I’ll guarantee that this will be the most exciting one of the series!
I expected Varats to be tall looking at his picture on the poster and I wasn’t wrong. He was very thin and gangly, standing just over 5’10 and weighing 55kg. I’m actually only just over 5’4, so there was a slight height advantage in favour of the Belarusian.
If you look at the picture, Varats is still standing on the floor. Just to give you an idea of the height difference.
I was second from last so had a little waiting around to do before I got into the ring. I had my own changing room, bulbs around the mirror like you see in the movies, a nice touch I thought.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened; it was a usual day in the changing room as my nerves went from one extreme to the other. Hands wrapped, massaged, warmed up only thing left now is to fight.
As we walked to the centre of the ring to hear the final instruction off the referee, Varats handed me a small Belarusian flag as a sign of respect. I thanked him and headed back over to my corner to have the Mongkon and flowers removed as I’ve done so many times before.
The fight started off very slow as usual testing each other out, then WHACK! Varats front kicked me to the face which with his height wasn’t difficult. It took me off both my feet as if Superman had just pushed me across the room. My eyes swelled up with water and I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t sure if my nose was broken, you can see me constant whipping my nose in the video.
The fight carried on, both exchanging attacks, no one really taking control. Round three, it was time to make my mark. I decided to go southpaw and wellie in a big left kick, big mistake. As I threw the kick, Varats replied at the same time with a spinning back fist, his elbow smacking me right in the kisser. That feeling of having no legs was back.
I hit the deck sprawled out like a starfish, many people had said that they didn’t think that I’d get back up. I did though, a little confused, the referee signalled for the fight to continue. Varats wasted no time, he pounced on me straight away. Trapped in the corner, I was hit with a barrage of punches, followed by jumping knees and font kicks to my face.
I survived his onslaught and got out of the corner, only to be caught by another shot that dazed me. The referee stepped in to give me another count, I felt it was uncalled for at the time. That was two eight counts in one round, I needed to turn this around.
I remember thinking “f**k this” and I went at Varats with some venomous punches.
From here on I switched off. I can only remember a couple things, and those don’t seem real, as if they were a dream. I remember being in the clinch with Varats; we both fell to the canvas, Varats falling on top of me. As we went down I purposely kneed him in throat/chin. You can see him holding his throat coughing if you watch the video when he stands up. Another memory is that we ended up on the ropes; Varats’s head was behind my elbow. So I pulled my arm forward so I could strike him to the back of the head. Other than that my next memory was in the changing room.
I had two paramedics in front of me, one shining a light into my eyes. My good friends Richard Hart, Jason Richards and Gavin Bradley either side of them with Steve standing behind. “What’s your name” the paramedic asked, “Damien”. “Where are you” “The Civic Hall”. “What’s the date?” I couldn’t answer I had no idea I actually laughed as I said, “I don’t know”.
I looked at Rich, “Was I knocked out?” “No mate, you went the distance” I remember sitting there puzzled. “Did I win?” was my next question. “No mate, you lost on points, but you fought wicked. You battered him the last few rounds. Doing jumping elbows, throwing him in the clinch, It was wicked” I tried so hard to remember but with little success.
Speaking to everyone trying to piece together my missing 20 minutes, I found out some good stuff. Apparently in the corner I was very unresponsive, I literally sat there, drank my water and did not say a word, which I find very eerie. At the final bell if you watch the video, I have no clue the fight is over, I look puzzled not knowing where to go, just wondering around. I asked Rich if he thought I’d won, he said no because of the two eight counts I’d taken “I took two eight counts?” Rich knew at this point that something wasn’t right.
I didn’t watch Crooke’s fight with Sakmongkon, I was too busy asking people what had happened. Varats’s trainer came over to me, “you are very good fighter.” I didn’t really respond, as I was so confused, it is a really strange feeling, and I wasn’t in the mood to engage in any conversation.
I’m guessing I just kind of went into survival mode which is what everyone is programmed to do. The human body is an amazing machine; before that time in my life I had never experienced my body functioning so aggressively from pure adrenaline alone.
I know I lost, but on the scorecards two judges gave it to Varats by one point and the other judge a draw. It just shows how much of a comeback I made considering that third round would have been a 10/7 in favour of Varats. Not a bad result if you think the lights were on but nobody was home!