Joshua Kettlewell | Projects

Joshua Kettlewell

Ph.D Student,
Singapore University
of Technology and Design

Becoming a Muay Thai fighter in Singapore

This is an account for others, and for myself so I don't forget, about training for a Muay Thai fight in Singapore - from scratch.

A quick reflection

On Sunday morning I wake with my left calf cramping. I try to retract my leg to grap my foot but my quad informs me that isn't on the cards today so just wait until it stops. I try to remember if I took my contact lenses out last night and pinch my eye to check.

I look over at my girlfriend, still asleep in the morning sunlight beside me and wonder what I'm going to do for the next few days of July now the fight is over as I listen to bird song and the mrt rattling past from clementi station.

Earlier in the year, in Febuary, I saw a poster in the elevator up to my office. "MUAY THAI CLUB FREE TRIAL SESSIONS ON WEDNESDAY". I haven't done any martial arts since middle school, but I remember being very good as a 13 year old and I want to do more sports at the university. Sure, my tendons have all stiffened, the midrift had widened, the flexibity and posture had been completely thrown out the window my a Masters and PhD behind a laptop, but the ego... the ego was going strong. Also I used to love martial arts. The training is fun, you work in groups, theres a social aspect, and you feel you are learning something useful. You never know what day a drunk Aussie is going to stumble down circlular road or clubstreet, angsty about someone spilling a pint and decided your previous orthodontic work wasn't sufficient. (Note: I'm not taking a stab at Aussies - most are lovely, but chances are if someone going to fight me in Singapore its more likely to be a big lad who can drink like a fish than the local Mr Tan who mostly has Tiger beers at the Hawker).

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In January I had come back to Singapore after Christmas break, slightly more plump than when I left, and have decided to shave my beard. On my first day back no less than 9, yes 9, of my friends remarked that I looked fat. My italian coworker quipped that I'd been gifted a second chin for Christmas, and my chinese coworker said I look very strong... before pausing for a moment before saying this translates as fat. I was 95kg. I was quite taken aback by the comments. I didn't feel unhealthy! I felt strong. I felt comfortable.

But after that I'd taken the hint and had started on a "no shit" diet. It was pretty easy - just don't eat any unhealthy shit. Pizza was out, and so was burgers, chocolate and crisps (chips). Then I also cut out things that are empty carbs - so less bread, rice, potatoes and noodles. I immediately sweated out 2kg in the week in the first week.

In the previous months to seeing the poster I had started running 3 times a week. In each run going slightly further than the previous time along the same route along bedok canal before heading pack to tanah merah.

After 3 weeks I was running 11km each time - from near tanah merah station, along the canal, around bedok lake and back. 6pm is precfect. The wind picks up as the twilight sets in, and whisps away the humidity before it returns in the chircada filled night. The sky across calms from a bright a brilliant blue to orange and purple, dimming over the course of the run. As I ran I didn't think but just watched the clouds dissipate between the HDB blocks as 2418 tracks played on repeat. I loved running to vapourwave - finishing a fast split seem like effort - it seemed like prophecy.

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My weight was down to the upper 80s within a month. Id also gorwn the beard back, not wanting to take anymore insults on the chin, as it were.

So, I was looking for something the break the monotony of running and maybe work the chest. I went to my first Muay Thai training session on feburary 10th.

For the few weeks of training I didn't take things to seriously. I was ok - I knew how the stand and my jab cross was fine. Andrew, the club captain, showed me how to throw uppercuts and hooks (something I'd never done before in Karate which it took me a few sessions to realize the footwork and hip movement required) and how to kick. This was much different to my previous experience. Instead of flicking the leg you swing it from the hip like a baseball bat. I didn't have the hip flexibility to do this and pretty much sucked. I could barely swing my leg at much above knee level in slow deliberate arcs.

One thing I really enjoyed about the club was the hands on approach - they actually did sparring. At the end of the session, everyone would gather around the edge of the mats and 2 people of a similar size would spar. This was frankly a little scary. You get punched while people watch. But I remember a phrase I had heard regarding my old coach discussing McDojos, the BullShido blackbelt factories that focus more on learning silly Japanese names than skills - "a martial art without sparring is just glorified dancing".

In my first time sparring with Andrew my ego took most of the beating. Well.. That and my nose. Despite Andrew being only 70kg he is also the same height as me, about 183cm. I couldn't hit him once. My right hand was too slow and seemed so far away from him, and he'd back away from my kicks almost as soon as I'd taken a foot of the ground. I would jab and he would pull away - then hop back a sock me square in the face. If he threw more than one punch all I could do was put my hands in front of my face and look at my feet. And he was so flexible that he didn't seem to be so much kicking me as slapping me with longer, bonier arms. I left with a slightly bloody nose, both my contact lenses knocked out and a combination of apology/congratulations from Andrew who I think felt a little guilty for causing me to bleed in front of the other students.

I realize latter in watching the footage of the sparring the fear of being punching in the nose caused my shoulder so I face him at and angle. He was merciful not to punish my left leg for this but it mean I could only jab. Lesson one. Square shoulders to the opponent. Lesson 2. Don't look at your own feet.

After two sessions we starting hitting bags and I realized why people wear wraps. Throwing a hook without one really hurts your wrists. At the start of March I ordered my first pair Gloves, 16ox twins specials, with wraps and some shorts. They're absolutely beautiful. I came to the club on the weekly sessions they had every Wednesday.

On one of these days Andrew introduced a trail coach - a short man named Steven who, from appearances, seems to mostly do bicep curls in his free time, and was accompanied by his "assistant" Elson. I say assistance as Elson seemed to be significantly more skilled than himself. Steven was on trail to be our couch for the club as Andrew would be graduating in September. The first session he was ok (and helped demonstrate the footwork in hooks and Elson demonstrated how to rip kicks into the pads with intimidating ferocity). He then trained us one more time a few weeks later. On several occasions he forgot to show up. On one occasion Elson turned up and Steven did not.

At this point it was announced within the club we would get a new coach.

On the 19th May Steven turned up at the Uni at the end of a session. I remember this being odd as we hadn't seen him for some time. But he announced he was preparing a fight in mid July and that he was really busy with NUS and SMU people how may also be competing. At which point me, and another group mate Linus, asked to fight!

The immediate response was "Sure -Great! But you'll have to train hard. I can put you down now and hopefully find you an opponent. But you should come to my gym once a week - that way I can keep an eye on your progress and make sure I get a good match for you".

This marks my journey on toward my first fight with hat must be the worlds most useless promoter.

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At the next week I go to Chowaroii gym to train. I was at then under the impression that he was a coach here. Apparently not. The gym is run by a man named Robert - a large man with a mullet who seems to command a lot of respect from all the other fighters and coaches. The walls are adorned with pictures of people winning medals, or of Singapore national fighters - Robert features near the fighters in most of them - clearly the coach. Steven turns up half an hour late after me and Linus have been warming up (as directed to by Elson... who is there). The training is good though and at the end I'm dying.

We go the next week; again Steven is late. On the third week he doesn't show up. Elson is there so he trains me instead.

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I have another sparring session with Andrew after the 3rd week and get a big wake up call. Andrew is 10kg lighter than me. This time my nose is spared but my front leg isn't. Because I'm in boxer mode there is too much weight on my front leg. This, combine with Andrew hiding his kicks behind a jab or two quickly takes its toll and after 3 minutes I'm struggling to put weight on it so I can kick myself. It I have 3 rounds like this with a guy who I really trying to hurt me then I'm going to be in a lot of trouble.

At this point I decide to get a monthly membership to a gym 100% motivated by fear. In my mind I flip between Chowaroii and another gym BXG. I go with BXG which is closer to my house and I can get directly there on the bus from my work. Steven calls me up to making excusing for missing the training (I should call to confirm before trainings apparently) and that I should train everyday. I tell him im now 79kg. Apparently this is fine but I can't loose anymore weight if I want to fight.

The member ship is 200sgd pcm and, starting to get a little nervous about the fight I dicided its good to go every day.

The format format for the beguinner sessions is as follows: Stetching walm up. Directed shadowboxing combos Free shadow boxing 3 minutes Then pair up and pad work for 4 rounds with 1 minute breaks between A couple of directed combos (repeat each one 5 or 10 times). 5 right kicks 5 left kicks 4 minutes pad work directed by your partner 10 right kicks 10 left kicks (or 30 is it's the final round) 10 pressups. After 4 rounds switch partners.

Then a bit of "PT" (just exercise) at the end. Usually rounds of pushups, crunches, leg raises and planks. Then a quick stretch before finishing.

After a week and a half I switch to the intermediate - this has a similar setup except as the shadowboxing is either with a partner or self directed, and its 10/20 kicks between rounds and 60 each leg at the end. The PT is replaced with sparing or clinching with your partner.

I train everyday for a month and a half. The guys at BXG say I should probably be 75kg or lower to fight competitively at my size. When I tell the other people at the gym I'm fighting after only training for a short time the reply is "brave". Inside I'm absolutely shitting it. I realize that - although my fitness is pretty good, all of the other people in the gym who are fighting and over 70kg would wreck me in a fight. My sparring isn't bad anymore - and we trade shots well, but the only other fighter my height - Willis (3 fights, 70kg) would destroy me. Theres another guy fighting near my size Alex, but unforntunately we seem to go to the gym at different times. Now I'm not the worst in the gym by any means. By this point I would happily fight any of the small guys, and all the guys my size who are just training casually and not training to fight. But the fighters and the club casuals are different breeds.

When I say Id fight anyone smaller than me theres a couple of exceptions. The first is all of the trainers who are all ex-fighters. Joe is one - quite a bit shorter than me and probably close to 65kg - but completely owns me in the clinch.

The second is Dejun.

Dejun is an up and coming 60kg fighter who trains out of BXG (the last 2 fights I've seen him in hes won by the KO, in the 1 and 2nd rounds). In one session I sparred with him, then clinched. It was like trying to punch a ghost. After 3 minutes he'd smacked me in the face 3 or 4 times will enough to give me a decent nose bleed. In the clinch he alternated between throwing me to the ground and slapping my hip with the side of his knee. This really, really hurt. More than anything else previous, worse than the bloody noses, the shin injuries from checking kicks and hitting pads and the split knuckles on my right hand. Every time I tried to avoid it I got thrown and if I lowered my hand to try and catch the knee he would raise his elbow to my temple to imitate a strike, then tell me to guard my face.

Lesson: Don't fight Dejun. Even if he is 6 years younger, 30cm shorter and 17kg lighter.

As he tried to explain where I was going wrong I had to fain tiredness, as I knew if I spoke my voice would break. I could feel my eyes welling, trying to betray me to crying (party from swelling after being punching in the face, partly from my hip killing me, but mostly for having experience about 10 minutes of being completely at someones mercy - He could hurt me and there was nothing, nothing I could do about it). I wasn't going to cry in a Muay Thai gym infront of other fighters so I just gasped breathless and nodded to his advice.

I came out of the gym demoralized. It was a week before the fight and upto this point I felt I had made great progress. I was a sixpack now (when in good lighting), could do the pad rounds without problems, and was feeling pretty in control in the sparring sessions. Against smaller opponents I felt I could dominate them. But on the bus home I message my girlfriend stating how worried I was. My opponent is good I'm going to be destroyed. I've only been training a short while.

Andrew had found out who my opponent was - the Captain of the NUS team. In the photos I've seen I'm worried. He's got a shaved head, looks close to my height or taller and has been training for a few years... at least 3.

At this point I really am scared. In my mind I want to fight... but I want a fight I have a chance on winning. In my mind if I fight this guy the odds are against me. I remember Andrew lost his fight against his opponent last year from NUS - the old captain. If Andrew didn't win what chance do I have.

I think this must happen to everyone before the fight. But the long and short was I was scared. And despite all the training a large part of me would be relieved if the fight was called off. At this point my opponent has grown in my head to be something comparable to a 6ft 4 mountain of a man, skilled as Dejun and probably with the 8 arms of Vishnu.

The next day train is better but I'm still not super confident about my chances. Then as I leave the gym I get a message.

"Your fight is cancelled"

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Steven has messaged me the day before asking what weight I was. The problem is I'm too light. When I signed up for the fight I was 81kg, (then I told him I was 79kg som time ago) but now I'm 78kg thanks to the training. I previously figured this shouldn't be a problem - as long as I'm below 81kg.

Well not quite - turns out Steven told the other guy he only needs to drop to 83kg instead of 81 (god knows why). Now it's not a case of whether I want to fight up a weight class - its now a case of whether the referees will even allow us to fight. I talk to Andrew and the NUS coach who he knows and is in charge of the other fighter and we all go in panic mode to see what can be done to fix this. It's suspected that the weight isn't the real reason. It's a combination of the facts that 1) Steven screwed up to match up and told people the wrong weights, and 2) Steven is no longer being invited to teach at SUTD (as the team quickly realized he was totally unreliable) and is annoyed. Instead they have hired Dejun (a great move for the team - having the national fighter as your trainer!) who it turns out is a friend of Andrew and looking to teach part time to get some income outside of fighting.

Its difficult to process the feelings I had at hearing the news the fight was cancelled. On one hand I had worked hard. I'm technically fighting fit. I've never been in as good a shape as I am now (a shape a lot further from round which is where I started). I've told my friends Im fighting. Ive told to guys at the gym, and in the club. I have to. My pride is. And my self esteem. I don't know how I will feel about myself if I don't fight now - will I look back and cringe at my past self for being a coward?

But on the other hand - I'm scared. If he's better than me I know how this could go down. Loosing is one thing, but it can be worse. I could be helpless for 3 rounds. Injury and tears are all I would get. Is it worse to never know - or to hold the memory of being beaten in a manner that Dejun beat me, except on stage, surrounded by the crowd of friends and team mates. I imagine the look of coming off stage - Andrew lying to me and trying to lift up my confidence telling me I did well but was simply outclasses and my nose bleeds and eyes water. I imagine my girlfriend saying it doesn't matter which could only prompt me to tears.

But I still want to.

I explain my feeling to my girlfriend. Everyone must feel like this before a first fight I reason. The talking helps.

But fighting for a fight you are scared of.. its hard. I'm fighting myself not just to tell the promoter what a cunt I think he is for this. To do all this appeasement for something that could be so awful.

Despite the message I receive in reply (which seems a bit... touchy) I go to the gym to meet Steven. Just as we thought Steven isn't so much concerned about the weight - it's because he's not getting enough respect from the SUTD committee and me regarding the fight. Personally we consider this a bit rich from someone who doesn't turn up to the training sessions and hasn't trained any of us. Also - my opponent and me have been busting our asses training every day to get ready for this, and are bringing a significant number people from the universities to a watch (which is how he makes money out of the event).

Nethertheless he will only fight if we show him respect so we go along with it...

He talks for some time about how he is the coach of SUTD, and that he is MY trainer (which is odd.. as I now train at BXG.. and have trained with him exactly twice) so we need to inform him more about what is happening. He holds out for apologies about our terrible, oh so terrible, behavior before he considers that the fight may be allowed to go ahead out of his generosity.

This comes with a three conditions: the day before weigh in he wants me (as a representative of SUTD) to go a help him build the ring the day before the fight just before the weigh in. He also won't allow Andrew to corner for me - Elson will have to do it. Finally, to make sure there's no problem with the judges I need to weigh over 80kg - so I need to gain a little under kg in a week.

I have no problem with Elson cornering for me but the other two are pretty crappy.

Now I've seen this Asian power abuse before, where someone will act like a complete knobhead because they feel they are more senior than those around them, but this is the first time its been pulled on me. It's a very strange thing to watch friends, professional and intelligent 35 year olds, being treated like infant children by a guy they don't respect and going along with it. This is one of the worst things about working in Asia if you are in a local company as this behavior can be rife. It's also prevalent within university admin in how they treat each other but that's a whole other story...

I feel shitty for going along with empowering this guy but it can't just tell him what I (and everyone else) think of him. There's 2 people and 2 teams in this fight and it isn't fair for me to disregard all the hard work everyone else has already put in.

Of course upon leaving the gym everyone unanimously agrees that Steven is a tit and we will go along with this for the moment and cut all ties with him immediately after the final bell.

The best thing to happen though from this is, apart from meeting all of the NUS muay thai team committee, I also happen to bump into my opponent when I go to meet Steven.. and am pleasantly surprised.

He's shorter than me. Awesome.

This is something I consider a huge deal. If he's heavier than me and shorter it probably means he doesn't have the same cardio that I do. Plus I have range on him.

But even more uplifting - he's a SUPER NICE GUY! Not only is he captain of the NUS team, but he volunteers part time with at risk kids and want to work as a teacher - and talks at length bout how passionate he is about helping others.

We both live in the east so he even offers me a lift home! We chat in the car about our training experiences (and nerves) and find we are having pretty similar thoughts. But unlike me this is the second fight he's trained for; the first one got cancelled on the day of the fight. I can imagine how frustrated I would be if that happened... and I've been training fro a fraction of the time he has. Afterward we say goodbye I feel a lot better.

I also feel that this I a fight I can win.

The last week of training passes without much noteworthy. I'm not on as strict a diet as before (as now I'm meant to put on weight!). One thing I've noticed in this month is how much more I feel like I'm part of Singapore culture. Even though most people in Singapore speak English its actually hard to feel like you are part of any sort of community here unless you went to school (and I meant pre uni) in Singapore. Most of my friends are expats - there's Malays, Indonesians, Greeks, Italians, Americans, Turkish, Indians and Chinese nationals to name but a few in my close social group.. But the only Singaporean is my girlfriend (cough tinder cough). I've always theorized that this is because Singapore is so small - people don't loose contact with old school cliques and keep friendship groups for life. You don't move far when you go to uni on the other side of the island, in fact most people don't leave home at all until they are in their mid 30s. People have their social calendar full already - why would they make friends with random people who aren't from around around here?

But now.. I'm hanging out with the SUTD muay thai club (students so not real people with jobs - but still Singaporeans!), my girlfriend, my trainers and all the guys and girls in the gym. The muay thai scene is not exactly full of expats like academia, finance, the bars and cold storage.

The day before for he fight I have to take a half day off work to build this bloody ring. After waiting at Bedok sports complex for an hour (I'm not even surprised at this point that Steven is late) a van arrives and I start helping to unload the steel frame and wooden planting on the ring.

I'm slightly concerned that it's the afternoon on the day before the fight and this ring hasn't been built yet. I'm also concerned that everyone here is a former "student" of Steven whose been roped in to help build this. After moving components for 4 hours I (but not the other helpers...) am drenched with sweat and have to leave to go eat before weigh in. The ring is assembled but there's no ropes or padding... Also the seating hasn't been put out yet. I'm guessing the others will be hear until midnight setting up to get it ready for tomorrow, or if not they will be back early in the morning to finish.

After listening to Steven chastise me about the lack of he's getting for another half an hour I go home, eat one pepperoni pizza and one desert pizza (skeptical of dessert pizza - go to Simpang bedok - "Mr Kneady's" does a great white chocolate and berry dessert pizza!), then head to weigh in at 9pm.

Steven is now more irrational that before a speaks completely uninterrupted for the entire length of his rant. I think he's frustrated about the having to talk to me and the NUS team previously, and is annoyed that he's not in control of the SUTD team that he wants to mentor. I discover that he actually teaches the SMU team... although none of them are fighting.. and I haven't previously heard of their existence unlike NUS and SUTD which have quite a presence.

At weigh in all the fighters assemble and wait for an hour for Steven to show up. No one is surprised he's late but everyone is annoyed as most of them are desperate to just weigh in, then rehydrate and eat and sleep. Some of them have cut 5kg to make weight and really want to get this over and done with. This includes my opponent who actuality looks a little pale.

We are handed some sheets with insurance details we need to sign, are taught how to bow during the wai khru ram muay (with mongkhon a must) and finally weigh in.

I feel sorry for one guy who is over wieght.. he puts on a sweat suit and starts skipping outside.

Before getting on the scales I down 2 1/2 litres of water to get to 80.2 kg, and dash to the bathroom as soon as I step off them. I then wait around for some time to talk to Steven one final time to make sure we can fight (at this point he's still not given us a solid yes) before deciding its better just to go home and if he stop us tomorrow I just punch him instead of my opponent.

I'm almost back at Clementi when I realize that I've left my insurance sheet handed to each of the fighters back at golden mile. I swear aloud in the taxi - startling the driver a little, and call Steven. Luckily he is still at the gym.

"Yeah its here you need to come and get it"
Now - I know he has the form. I know he's carrying all the other paper work. He will be there tomorrow. "Would it be possible for you to bring it with you tomorrow..?". I'm hesitant to ask and take a few seconds to think before I say it. Its another reason for him to screw things up, but its just one piece of paper - he only needs to put it in the pile with the others and ill pick it up off him tomorrow. " I'm sorry - but I'm already back at Clementi. ..". "No."

Of course. I feel foolish for asking.

"ok.. I will head back now" The taxi driver is lovely - we go back and he waits outside as I run and pick it up from the counter. Robert is there and hands it to me. He takes it out of a pile of forms. It had already been put in a pile of forms he was going to bring in tomorrow that other fighter has left and wonders why I came all the way back here for it. I'm emotionally exhausted at this point and mumble something before thanking him and leaving. Never have I had to do so much for someone I dislike so much.

By the time I get home its gone midnight and I'm over 40sgd poorer from making 3 taxi trips (from the city to clementi, and back, then to clementi again on a Friday night). My girlfriend hugs me when I arrive.

I can't remember what we talked about. I order uber eats and sleep.

I wake up at 11.30am. There's nothing to eat in the house except a single banana and eggs. I eat the usual 3 raws eggs and have a banana but feel kind of as I've now screwed up my routine by waking up so late. I shower and head to Bedok for lunch and I pick up a burrito. I take the other half with me to eat later before the fight.

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Upon arriving at the venue I meet the other fighters. Everyone is here at 3 - even though things don't start until 6, to do medical checks.

At 4pm Steven shows up and we look inside the venue. Unfortunately the ring still hasn't finish being built; in fact nothing has progressed from when I left yesterday. But the test takes only 5 minutes so for the rest of the time we lounge around and sweat in the humidity.

As other coaches arrive to support their fighters they seem worried that nothing is ready. The heads of all the gyms in Singapore get on stage and begin building the ring and sorting the padding. The referee, who appears to be thai, doesn't seem impressed. He shakes his head at what's going on to imply this would never happen in Thailand.

Meanwhile spectators gather outside and wait. Many were here at 5.30 to sit and get a good seat as the 1st fight was meant to start at 6. By 7pm they are finally allowed in.

I watch the other fights before mine. I'm not nervous any more. I think I can win. I'm excited to go and get this done after months of waiting and all this drama with the promoter.

Before the fight my knuckles are wrapped by Joe. First he wraps my hands with tape - something I never do. Then, instead of starting from the thumb, he wraps a section into a wad and places it across the knuckles. The affect is a raised area that protrudes in the top of my fist after the wrap is complete - presumably to hurt more through the glove. I'm then covered head to toe in thai oil.

All the BXG fighters to this point have won tonight and I don't want to be the one who doesn't. But on the card I'm not representing BXG; I'm representing SUTD.

I'm disappointed though when I put the gloves on. They're only 12oz and feel light, which is great... but they're soft and the padding is loose. They feel even like they would hurt less than my 16oz training gloves, as they aren't packed as densely.

In the walk up to the ring my mind is blank. With no contacts in I can't even see the audience but can here the crowd of 200 applauding the last fight. The ropes are opened for me and I bow to the judges and crowd, talk to the ref (no elbows, no knees to the head), then the music begins and we circle the ring to seal it.

To be honest I don't remember much of the fight. I remember in the first round I didn't feel like I did well - I was expecting the opponent to come towards me (the impetus is usually on the shorter person to get in). But instead he continually backed off and kicked and I simply walked around the ring following like a lumbering idiot.

After the first round I Elson, who was meant to be corning me had gone and Joe and Andrew had stepped in. He put Ice on my shoulders and told me to kick more and move faster. I don't remember what else.

Round 2 and 3 are better. I get my head in the game and am much more aggressive - I feel like my punches are landing more cleanly than his, which tend to glance of my head guard, spinning it on my head slightly. Early in the third round I jab as he steps forwards and see him wince - almost instantly his nose starts bleeding. The ref stops us for a short time but the doc says he's fine to continue. I throw him down once in a clinch - I can feel he's pretty exhausted as there's no resistance to my throw... I feel I'm winning. More time and maybe I can win convincingly this.

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The final bell sounds. We both smile at each other and hug briefly before we take drinks from each other's coaches.

We stand in the middle and the ring and the ref holds both our hands. We wait and...

I loose by judges decision.

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Looking back at the fight now it looks so clumsy compared to how I felt training. I have no head movement, no finess. I also realize that I should have clinched way more -I could possibly have thrown him down more times. I barely threw a single hook or uppercut - only straights. But meh. I'm ok with the result - its done.

After the fight Andrew looks upset with my result and so do the BXG coaches. They both tell me I won the 2nd and 3rd rounds and the judges must dislike me. At the time that felt right - I really felt good in the last round. I'm not sure if I believe them now though - maybe this is just what you tell to any fighter after they step out the ring.

Andrew then tells me something that makes my jaw drop. I wasn't wearing my mongkhon when I entered the ring. This may have played a big part in the judges decision. In terms of cultural respect I may as well have flipped them off as I got in the ring. At the time I hadn't even noticed, when I walked up to the ring I already had my head pad on. Elson told me to get in and seal the ring so I did and wasn't even thinking about the mongkhon. This may have explained why Joe stepped in for him.

It later transpired that Steven had my mongkhon as he was the SUTD coach (or thought he was) and didn't hand it to Elson - so theres really nothing he could have done. God knows where it was or what he did with it.

After the fight I congratulate my opponent who looks elated. I'm genuinely happy for him. I say thanks to all of my coaches - and then apologies to Dejun that I cant watch him KO his opponent. I'm not even joking when I say this - he been walking around prefight with a beaming smile on his face and couldn't look more carefree. Everyone knows who knows him he's going to win. The guy breathes confidence.

I get the number 24 bus home, drop my kit off, shower, and taxi into the city with my girlfriend to get drunk and dance in boat key for a friends leaving party.

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I found out the next day that my opponent had a broken nose, a concussion, and some very stiff legs. My legs also didn't function correctly for a week.

Anyway that's it. That's my experience fighting. Maybe I'll do it again, maybe I won't. The fighting isn't as hard as the training - that takes a lot of time, which now I don't have as I finish my PhD.

I don't feel bad about loosing despite how I would have liked to win. I could claim I was robbed, and stepping out the ring it felt a little like that, but looking back through the fight footage it looks close on the points and could go either way. It wasn't certain at the final bell and my opponent definitely owned the first round.

Also... I really think he deserves it more than me. He's been training for longer, had to do a hell of a lot of dieting, and then a water fast, to make weight. And this was his second fight. I'm glad he got to win in front of his teammates and parents. Plus he is a super nice bloke so it's hard to be angry.

My friends have joked I must have resembled the stereotype villain - a tall white guy how doesn't wear the Mongkhon and respect the culture! HA!

That all said... I am please I broke his nose. His injuries helped me keep my pride.

Oh and Dejun? Dejun won by knockout in round 2.

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