The first round saw me finding my range while Tawatchai was doing all manner of crazy things to impress the crowd. He threw side kicks, superman punches and even a Jean Claude Van Damme style jumping spinning back kick! luckily they all missed. Then towards the end of the round we went back and fourth at each other in an attempt to stamp some authority.
Round two saw no feeling out process at all, both of us carried on similar to where the first ended with attacks going to and fro. We clinched for a few seconds, both landing with short elbows ad as we broke from the clinch I did my now trademark jumping down elbow which landed flush on Tawatchai’s head. Within seconds Tawatchai responded with his own jumping side elbow which narrowly missed.
Shortly after Tawatchai threw a powerful body kick which I caught and responded with my own, As though it was out of a Kung Fu movie Tawatchai ducked straight under my kick. I remember thinking you little f$%&er as I smiled at him in acknowledgement.
While I sat in the corner during the end of round two I glanced over at the commentators Vinny Shoreman and Richard Cadden. Both were gibbering away about the contest then looked over at me with their thumbs in the air to signal I was doing a good job.
Round three started at a slower pace than the first two with both of us taking it in turns trying to get the upper hand. As the round progressed my shots were starting to take some effect on Tawatchai and it looked as though he was starting to tire. However, the joys of being a pasty white person were starting to show. The left side of my body was starting to redden up from the slaps off Tawatchai’s kicks. They didn’t hurt but they were starting to show signs of visible effect.
Again I got the wink and the nod from the commenters as I was in the corner after round three.
Round Four started with us going kick for kick, then all of a sudden Tawatchai started pointing at my shorts. I was wondering what’s he on about then a right body kick came at me from out of nowhere! I thought, ‘you sneaky b@$&%*d!’
I raised my hands as I saw the blood trickle down his face, from then Tawatchai became more aggressive and came straight for me.
He was being reckless making it easy for me to land, I caught one of his kicks and booted him to the ground. I was constantly catching his kicks and firing back but this was not doing the look of my ribs any favours. They had gone from a red to a deep purple now.
The ref stopped the round to get the cut checked by the doctor, I didn’t think there was any need to as it was only a small cut but I wasn’t complaining as it just looked better for me.
Tawatchai looked a little deflated as we commenced with the fourth round, straight away I kicked him to the ground again.
In Muay Thai you are allowed to continue to attack as the opponent is falling so while Tawatchai was heading towards the canvas I fired another kick which just missed the top of his head.
Any opportunity I got to elbow that cut I took it in an attempt to open it more.
I could hear his corner shouting dteh kwar (right kick) I can only assume because of how red my ribs were. I pointed to my side and said it to him also “dteh kwar”.
At first he didn’t take the bait but when he did I caught the kick and made him pay by pushing him in to the ropes and answering with my own kick.
As round four ended Tawatchai turned to the crowd to show that the cut was not a problem while again I got the wink and the nod off the commentators.
Tawatchai took to fighting off the ropes in the fifth.
I threw one kick which he avoided and my leg went between the ropes, I heard Vinny say “Damien nearly kicked me around the chops” as he was commentating.
Again Tawatchai comes to life and we go kick for kick, he strikes my body but kept ducking under my body kicks when i fired back. I decided to change tactics, making him think I was going for his ribs but striking his legs instead, this way if he kept ducking he’d end up getting kicked in the face.
As the round goes on he tires again and I start pushing him around the ring, what ever he does I answer back and in my opinion with greater effect.
The final bell ends; This is where the controversy starts.
I was 100% that I had done enough to win. We stood in the centre of the ring when the MC came over to the referee, Shaun Boland to whisper the decision, I was shocked at what I heard! Tawatchai was awarded the win.
My entire body language changed, I really couldn’t believe that it happened again, only last month the same thing had happened in Hong Kong.
Shaun could see my annoyance and whispered I know, I know, don’t worry.
Tawatchai’s hand was raised and he celebrated as you would if you’d won a fight. I just wanted to get out of the ring. I headed to make my exit when Tawatchai came over to pay his respects.
He said “sorry” and I told him not to worry about it.
Vinny Shoreman also came quickly over as did Daz Morris who both expressed how they thought I had won the fight. Vinny raised my hand and showed me to the crowd, it was a great gesture but I just wanted to get back to my changing room and be by myself.
I was actually thinking what is the point of fighting if you are constantly ripped off?
There seemed to be a bit of a commotion going on between the officials at ringside. I could only make out bits and bobs of what was going on as I was hearing everything through Chinese whispers.
There was a interval straight after my fight so all officials were in my changing room. It quickly became clear as to what had happened.
I’ll give you a very brief view what was going on in UK Muay Thai at the time.
There was a real big push to try and get Muay Thai under one banner which was the UKMF (United Kingdom Muay Thai Federation) which was affiliated with the WMC (World Muay Thai Council). As many of you are aware there are far too many organisations in Muay Thai/Kickboxing so trying to get one as the main body would only benefit the sport and improve the standard. For years people have been trying to get it as an Olympic sport, there have been many reasons as to why it was turned down and having so many governing bodies is one of them.
The Rumble at the Reebok was kind of like the first big show under the UKMF so it was imperative that it became a trend setter.
In UK Muay Thai we have what we called a senior judge (some organisations still use this while others don’t). The idea behind this was to make sure that the right decision was given when there was a lesser experienced judge on the panel. You would have a senior judge, an experienced judge and a third judge who may or may not be experienced scoring the fight. The senior judge and experienced judge are highly likely to award the correct decision meaning the rightful winner would prevail, whereas 2 inexperienced judges could get it wrong and outweigh the one experienced judge that got it right.
What happened in my case was that the lesser experienced judge and the experienced judge gave it my way but the senior judge gave it the other way. The senior judge felt that strongly that I didn’t win that he decided to over rule both of the other two and award Tawatchai the win. Because this was the flag ship event for the new and improved UKMF he felt that he was doing what was right by setting a standard.
A vast majority of the other officials at the event did not agree and thought I had won the bout, including Daz Morris and Dave Croft who were both in Tawatchai’s corner.
The senior judge was arguing his case as to why he felt I lost the bout but the heads of the UKMF were disagreeing and also saying you can’t overrule two other judges. The reason you have three judges is to make sure you have a winner and not constant draws or just one persons opinion.
Shaun Boland (the referee) and the rest of the high ranking officials of the UKMF had decided that the decision would be reversed.
Again this all boiled down to setting a trend and making sure that the correct procedures where being followed.
I was brought back in to ring with the MC explaining that there had been a miscalculation of the score cards and that I was the rightful winner.
Daz Morris was in the ring with me and he held my hand high as it should have been if I was awarded the win in the first place. The crowd went insane, people I didn’t even know were jumping up and down on their chairs cheering, but for me the moment was lost.
Now the senior judge was not the only person who thought i’d lost, there was fair few others in the UK Muay Thai community. People who said to my face that they thought i’d won were behind my back expressing how they thought i’d lost.
I’d even gotten in to a few online arguments with the senior judge and others on the decision, but they seemed to be missing my point.
My argument with the judge wasn’t about whether he thought I lost or not it was the fact that you can’t overrule two other judges. If in his opinion he thought I lost then that is fine with me but there is a reason you have three judges. If you’re not confident with the ability of the other officials then you should get ones that you are, it wasn’t like this was a novice fight. But alas the conversation was just going in circles with some people expressing how they thought i’d lost but not addressing what happened with the overruling. Imagine if that had of happened in Thailand? There would be riots going on with the gamblers.
For days after I was receiving messages on Facebook from well respected people in the Muay Thai community saying how they felt I’d won but I was also seeing things online from other respected people expressing how they thought Tawatchai had won.
For me I still feel as though I won the fight but I may be looking at it through biased eyes, I don’t know, but with all the online crap I was reading I didn’t feel like a winner. Some times the internet is a blessing and a curse at the same time.
A few days later I received a call off Daz Morris asking if I’d fight Tawatchai again because he was getting some flack about what had happened on his show and felt a rematch would just set the record straight.
A rematch was set a couple of months later and this time there was no argument in the decision.
At the end of the fifth my hand was raised and I finally felt like a winner. It didn’t change the injustice i’d felt after our first bout but at least now I had proven myself as the stronger fighter.
Here’s the excellent highlight from Muay Thai Scholar and you can also view the full fights in the links below.