A Roll of the Dice
Each time I go to a show, no matter where it is, I know it’s a hit or miss affair. Nothing is ever set in stone. Fighters are human, as are those putting on the event, thus you never really know what you’re going to get when you go to a show. You might get the “fan man,” you might see someone’s ear bitten off, the lights may go off during a fight or you could see the referee knocked out instead of one of the fighters. A fighter might have an off-night, he could be sick, he may not have trained the way he should have; any number of reasons could contribute to an unexpected ending.
Fantastic match-ups can turn out to be disappointing and vice-versa. You never really know what’s going to happen – which is what keeps us watching, keeps us coming back. Each fight is just a roll of the dice. Boxing experts and bookies can put forth an educated guess when choosing a winner but they know every fight is just a roll of the dice.
Some of the shows I’ve covered in the last month had me questioning why I shelled out cab fare to get to them – the fights were garbage and a few of the fighters weren’t ready to set foot in the ring, let alone in front of a crowd – however small.
Each time I tell my wife I’m off to the fights, she always feels the need to ask if I really need or want to go to.
“You already know who’s going to win and it’ll be on TV anyway,” she says. “Just stay home and watch it.”
Admittedly, she’s right. I can’t remember the last time a Filipino beat a Thai in Thailand; it’s been that long. The Thai always wins. It’s what you might call, “legalized fight-fixing.” It happens all over the world, in small shows as well as the larger ones (Barerra – Fana) and is supposedly a necessary evil. Legalized fight-fixing detracts from the roll of the dice; sort of like having an ultrasound done to find out whether it’s a boy or a girl. “It’s a boy” after an ultrasound doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as it does after waiting 9 months.
Here in Thailand, the chances of a visiting fighter defeating a Thai are always the same, slim to none. And yet I always go to the fights – driven by some unseen force, I always go – I must go. I don’t want to miss a show that actually has fights worth watching, or by some miracle, a Filipino fighter who beats the long odds and wins for once – just once.
Lately I’ve started rooting for the foreigner to win; just once I want to see some poor guy who’s supposed to be on the receiving end of a beating surprise all those watching, including his own corner, and win. Winning via decision is unlikely; normally a visiting fighter needs to knock out his Thai opponent to prove he’s the winner.
In two recent fights one visiting fighter nearly beat the odds and another made mincemeat out of them. Hallelujah!
March 24th, 2006 – Queen Sirikit Garden in Ladkrabang, Bangkok, Thailand
For once I got to a show early – too early. Most of the time, I arrive just as the fights are going on the air (Thai TV), or just before the main event. This time I got to the fight two full hours before the show started. The Bangkok traffic that is always so miserable was nonexistent. That’s the thing about Bangkok traffic, sometimes a twenty minute trip takes two hours and other times it takes ten. At least I wouldn’t miss any of the action.
The makeshift ring was in the middle of a parking lot in a sports center where locals come to play tennis, basketball or picnic on a sunny day. I sat around twiddling my thumbs until the first fight started. Actually it wasn’t a fight but an exhibition. This time however there were no pretenses made.
WBA interim bantamweight champion Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym would box six rounds; two rounds against three different opponents. The champion wore headgear so as to not suffer a financial setback in the form of a cut. It was clear he was working and thus while the exhibition was interesting, it lacked excitement. He put in six solid rounds with his partners and made it look easy. He fired off combinations and then stood in front of his opponent to practice his defensive techniques. I was glad I got to see him spar but glad when it was over.
By now there were a few hundred spectators milling around and the crowd was growing larger with each passing second. They also wanted excitement, they wanted blood. And blood they would get. .
When Thai fighter Saohin Srithai Condo (51-12, 34 KOs), now using the name Saohin Sabuyoko, took on Filipino fighter Ariel Delgado (2-1, 1 KO) in a scheduled twelve-rounder for the PABA featherweight title, I didn’t give it much thought.
After all, Delgado only had two fights and was in the ring with an experienced fighter who had twice challenged for world titles (failed both times) and who had went the distance with Paulie Ayala and Jorge Linares.
It was one of the bloodiest battles I’ve ever seen in-person
For eight rounds the two fighters battered each other to and fro; not only with punches but with head butts. There was hitting on the break, elbowing, hitting while holding. They broke each other up and down from all angles, using any method imaginable.
By the third round, the Thai was cut over the right eye and bleeding copiously. The fight was in danger of being stopped. The doctor was called in but after a quick assessment he let the fight go on.
At the end of the fourth, the referee stepped into each of the corners to advise them the fight would now go to the scorecards to determine the winner should the bout be stopped.
Four more rounds quickly passed. It was a brutal bout. Both fighters were bleeding profusely; blood was splattered across their chests and backs and on the ring canvas from corner to corner. Their shorts were stained pink and their gloves, sky blue in color, were smeared with streaks of maroon.
The entire fight was quite literally “a bloody mess.”
At the end of round eight, the referee led Delgado over to the ring doctor who this time wasted no time ending the carnage. The fight would go to the scorecards.
Both fighters could have been forced to concede the bout, but at this moment in time it was the Filipino fighter who was covered in his own blood. Srithai Condo had two gashes, one over each eye, and one smaller gash over his forehead and right eye but somehow his corner had been able to stem the flow of bleeding between the seventh and eighth round.
Judges scores: 78-74, 78-74 and 79-74
Unanimous decision for Saohin Srithai Condo.
Once again a Filipino fighter had been denied. Once again, I was denied.
Fight two and three:
March 26th, 2006 – Pattivikorn Market, Bangkok, Thailand
The first fight set the tone for the card and was between two Thai’s, atypical as rarely do two Thais fight one another when boxing.
Yodankaeng Por Choomchok, a fighter I’ve never seen before, faced off against another fighter I’ve never seen before, Noknoi Sithprasert. Por Choomchook was 8-0 and defending something called the WBC Youth Light Flyweight Title. The fight was close for the first four rounds. The champion did what he was supposed to in the first two rounds, using his jab, sticking and moving, and forcing Sithprasert to come after him. I gave rounds one and two to Por Choomchok and rounds three and four to Sithprasert.
In the third round, the aggression of Sithprasert became too much for Por Choomchok. The champion spent much of the round with his back against the ropes trying to defend against the whipping body shots of Sithprasert. Suddenly, the champion went down from a looping left from Sithprasert. He rose at seven, clearly dazed. A few moments later, he hit the deck again but once again he pulled himself up off the canvas. Seconds later the bell sounded to end round four, saving the damaged fighter for at least another sixty seconds.
Just under a minute into round five though, Sithprasert scored a barrage of punches, forcing referee Franz Marti (SUI) to stop the bout. It wasn’t a great fight but it was better than most and was well worth the 45 minute trip.
Next up, Fahpetchnoi Sor Chitpattana (Thailand) and Lito Sisnorio (Philippines).
I’d seen both of these fighters fight before and remembered Sisnorio as a sloppy fighter with a pretty good punch. Sor Chitpattana (13-1, 9 KOs) was the WBC’s #5 ranked flyweight and a decent fighter but still green. Quite frankly I didn’t think he was deserving of his #5 ranking as there are far better fighters in the division than he. Maybe he belonged in the top twenty or thirty, but not in the top five. Sisnorio (4-2, 2 KOs) was basically another gimme, having lost his two previous fights to Oleydong Sithamerchai and Pygmy Muangchaiyaphum.
The fight showed every sign of being yet another easy win for the Thai until….wham, Sisnorio dropped Sor Chitpattana in the first round with a short right hand. The stunned crowd is silent until Sor Chitpattana rises and shows he is capable of continuing. Most believe it was a lucky punch, me included. When round two begins though it becomes clear Sor Chitpattana is apprehensive of Sisnorio’s power. He is tentative and is backpedaling.
Crack – another big shot from Sisnorio and down goes Sor Chitpattana. He’s up at the count of seven but eats punch after punch while laid up against the ropes. Somehow he makes it to the end of the round and again the Thai spectators have some hope. “Of course, it can’t be true,” they think to themselves. “It’s not going to happen to our guy. We’ll come back – we always do.”
I on the other hand had my own thoughts…
“Just once! Just once the guy chosen to be the loser will win and win big!”
Sisnorio shuffled away from the Thai and looked over to his corner.
”What should I do?” he asked in Tagalog.
”Should I knock him out?” he continued.
Immediately I felt my blood boiling and my spider senses tingling. It couldn’t be true. Surely he wasn’t paid to lose. Did he accidentally knock down Sor Chitpattana without really trying?
The round ended and my questions remained unanswered until after the bout.
In rounds three and four Sor Chitpattana regained his senses and used his jab to put distance between Sisnorio and himself. He stayed out of trouble. He was shaky but his confidence was coming back.
“Damn,” I thought. “This always happens. This Filipino is going to fade, allowing the Thai to win the late rounds and steal the fight.”
But the dice were rolled and this time and it was the Thai fighter who would lose.
Just over halfway through round five, Sisnorio landed a crushing right hook that piledrived Sor Chitpattana into the canvas face first.
The referee didn’t bother to count – the fight was over and the #5 fighter in the world (the WBC’s world) was sent crashing unceremoniously into unconsciousness and possible temporary oblivion.
After the fight I asked Sisnorio why he didn’t go after the knockout in round two.
What was he asking his corner?
“Fahpetchnoi is my friend. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” he said.
Later I was told Sisnorio was inexperienced and had never won in Thailand. He was unsure if he was supposed to knockout his opponent.
Every fight is a roll of the dice. And sometimes the dice are loaded.