My alarm went off with a loud ringing noise, I looked up to the Hello Kitty alarm clock, don’t ask why I had a Hello Kitty alarm clock, it was Thailand after all. It was 5.40am time to get ready and have my first training session of the day.
I hate the morning, probably as I’ve only really had the same job since I’ve left school which starts at 12pm. I headed to the bathroom in my Bangkok apartment; the air con had been on all night so there was a slight chill to the room. As soon as I opened the bathroom door Thailand’s heat wafted in to the icy cold apartment.
I sat on the edge of the toilet looking up at the shower, I had yet to have a hot shower, and all I had was what came with the apartment which meant no hot water. I dreaded a cold shower just as much as I hated Hello Kitty right now.
After showering, I grabbed my things and headed to the gym. My apartment was probably about 300 meters away from Lumpini Stadium; the gym I trained at at the time was Muay Thai Plaza 2004, which is roughly situated behind the stadium just after Suan Lum night Bizaar.
I arrived at the gym and headed with the rest of the lads to Lumpini Park to go running. Lumpini Park is like an oasis in Bangkok’s concrete jungle, full of lush green vegetation all surrounding a man made lake. There is a route you follow through out the park which adds up to 2.5km in distance; you were expected to do four laps of the park.
At 6.00am the park is packed full of people exercising. There are people running from all age groups, some doing aerobics, others doing Tai Chi and others just socialising. There was one guy who looked like he was over 100; he was there every morning with out fail, lapping a majority of people as he ran around the park.
After the run it was back to the gym for the morning training session. This consisted of shadow boxing, technical pad work followed by bag work and some light clinching.
Training completed it was time to head back to my apartment to relax till the afternoon. I grabbed a freshly made pineapple shake, off one of the street stalls and picked up my breakfast off another as I made my way back.
After lounging about it was time to head back to the gym for the afternoon session. The streets weren’t as quiet as they were in the morning. The traffic was hectic on Rama IV road, as was the pavement. I had to squeeze through many people standing in front of food stalls.
I got to the front of the gym; Choke who was one of the trainers who looked after me said “you fight tonight” “huh?” I responded “you fight tonight”. I was little taken back and wasn’t sure what was going on.
One of the owners of the gym Mr. Pong came over to say I had a fight that night. I knew Mr. Pong for some time prior to training at his gym. I do really like him and get on fine with him. Then Mr. Pong’s business partner turned up, Mr. Lek. Mr. Lek was kind of like the main guy, always in a suit and his English was very good.
“Go home and relax, we want you have all your power for later” I really wasn’t sure about this as I’d only ever fought in the UK at the time. I was used to having a little more notice than this for fights, like say six weeks notice. “Come back at 7pm” Mr Lek said with a huge smile as Thai’s do.
I went back to the gym at 7pm as requested, crapping myself as I knew nothing about what was happening. I didn’t know where it was, who it was against or anything. I got into the pickup truck and headed off to the venue, my mate Loz telling me not to worry.
Even now I have no idea where this place was, I was too busy with my nerves to take any notice as to where we were going. We took a turning off what looked like Sukhumvit road, down a smaller road, until coming to the venue.
A boxing ring stood outside with two buildings either side of it, a roof went from one building to the other covering the Ring. They looked like two bars but they had no customers or even staff for that matter. The only people that were there were the trainers from the gym, Mr. Lek, Nong Toom (Toom trained at the gym sometimes) and my opponent.
My pad man was waiting over the other side of the ring. His name was Wayhard he also padded Samkor and Pajonsuk who also trained at the gym at the time, I’ve got to say I got on really well with Wayhard he took me under his wing and really helped me a lot in the gym. He’s actually my favorite pad holder I’ve ever had in Thailand. Last time I saw him he told me he was now working at Petchyindee in Korat.
“Owen” he shouted and signaled for me to come over. For some reason he thought I looked like Michael Owen, I can’t see it myself but he insisted on calling me Owen, even said I should get the name on my shorts.
I sat down to have my hands wrapped; I was a little curious as to why no one was coming to watch and the fact that mine was the only fight happening.
My opponent Puja, (not to be confused with Puja Sor Suwanne) sat down practically next to me to have his hands wrapped. We both got on to the same bench, at the same time to get massaged. Wayhard must have used a whole bottle of Thai oil on me because I was on fire, almost to the point that it was unbearable.
I climbed into the ring first, followed by Puja. Wayhard asked me “you know wai kru?” I nodded and off I went. After we both finished, the referee called us to the centre of the ring, Choke was the referee.
The fight started, Puja booted me pretty hard, I remember thinking “You F**ker” and replied with some heavy punches followed by my own kick. The fight pretty much went like this for the early rounds.
Round four and I landed a body shot which crippled Puja sending him to the canvas rolling around holding his stomach. I stood in the neutral corner as Choke counted, then I noticed Mr Lek run over to the side of the ring where Puja Lay. He screamed and shouted violently at Puju signaling him to get up. Puja stood up slowly then looked at me very sternly. He came at me like a man possessed throwing kicks and knees.
Round five started and he came out hard but I quickly slowed him down again as I caught him to the body and was able to land what I wanted. The bell went and Puja didn’t look happy, I was awarded the win. Mr. Lek came over handing us both 1000 baht (about £20) we had to take it using our mouths, which I felt was a little degrading.
Straight away Mr. Lek said that we would fight again in a few weeks, but it would be televised live on UBC which is their version of cable. I thought “ok sounds good” but I wasn’t happy with this whole set up. I’d just had a private fight with no notice and it seemed like I was very much on my own.
Thinking about it since it was a great fight for the gamblers as it could be betted on throughout the five rounds. Puja had the potential to outscore me and I had the potential to knock him out.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. I first wanted to give you a nuetral view on a day to day training while in Thailand. Fighting in Thailand is often glorified in this country and is put on a pedastool for most enthusiastic fighters. Don’t get me wrong, the experience you will gain from fighting there is unquestionable. Some of my favorite experiences fighting have come from Thailand, but the idea of fighting over there often over shadows the great oppurtunities we have in the U.K.
Fighting at short notice, having no dressing room, being left in the dark, being messed about with money are just some of the situations I have found myself when fighting over there. This is great for building character and giving yourself a few stories to tell but remember to prepare yourself for situations you may not have had to deal with in the U.K.
I had a few issues about this whole set up but maybe that was just me not understanding how it worked in Thailand at the time. I’d been at K-star my whole fighting career and I was used to having a loving team around me which cared for my well being. They did not know me in the gym; all I was was another foreigner. I’m guessing they wanted to test my heart and see if I could fight and to know whether I could be bet on. It was solely business.
Up until this point I hadn’t realised how much pressure Steve and all good trainers take off their fighters. There was so much I had to deal with that I wasn’t used to and that added to the pressure of fighting. A fighter shouldn’t have to negotiate his own purse, travel expenses, last minute change of opponent etc. His mind should solely be on the fight at hand, but all this and more, for a short period was left in my hands. To be honest though I wouldn’t change it at all, it’s made me a stronger person.
I’m not saying Muay Thai Plaza is a bad gym, far from it; the training is superb along with the opportunities you will get there. You will also have the privilege of watching Saiyok train now which is awesome to see. I have been back to train and visit the lads in the gym on a few occasions.