By Chris Errington
“I’d have to get in roughly nine hours late to be in danger of missing this fight” That was my bold prediction as I boarded the night train from the northern city of Chiang Mai to the sprawling madness of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. Somewhere amongst the chaos the unfortunate Filipino Alvin Bais, 13-0-0 (3 KO’s), would be fighting Thailand’s own Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, 15-1-1 (14 KO’s) for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Super-Flyweight Title. Well… guess what? I missed the fight. I missed all the fights.
To say I’m gutted would be a huge understatement. Not because of the distance I travelled or the cost involved, but because this is what I came to Thailand to do. Watch fights. Write about fights. Screw the beaches. Screw the bar-girls (no, not like that)… I came here to watch fights and I blew it. Somehow, through a whole litany of circumstances but ultimately my own assumption that getting to the venue wouldn’t be that hard… I blew it. There are upsides to the story. I got to see about 90% of Bangkok, albeit from the back seat of a taxi.
I drank whisky with two soldiers brandishing machine guns. Now that’s not something you do every day. In fact, that was probably the pinnacle of my day. That, and escaping eating a plate of spiced beetles, which some stall owner was intent on feeding me. Yes, I was hungry… but I’d have to be dying on my arse to include insects in my diet. I ate pig intestines last week. I’m no sissy, but I can only go so far.
Sitting in the guest house restaurant at lunchtime I was assured by two locals that the fights wouldn’t start until evening. That’s what I wanted to hear. It’s hot as hell on a Bangkok afternoon. Logic would dictate that two men wanting to punch the shit out of each other would wait for the temperature to drop a little, right?
In Thailand there is no logic. This was a WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight title fight, not two gypsies scrapping it out on a farmyard. Was there any advertising? No. Not anywhere? No. Was it possible to find out fight times from any credible source? No. Did anyone even know there was a fight? No. Do any of the fifty thousand taxi drivers in Bangkok know where North Bangkok University is? No. Will they lie and pretend they know then drive you around for twenty years before admitting they don’t know? Yes. Am I naïve for going along with their constant charade? Yes. Will I let it happen again? No. Not ever. It’s my own fault for letting it happen, but faced with a population that doesn’t talk about western boxing and a system that relies on these same people to promote western boxing solely by word of mouth, I was up against it from the start.
To cut a long story slightly shorter, I (finally) found a taxi driver who knew where North Bangkok University was. I arrived at roughly four o’ clock in the afternoon and had been travelling for over two and a half hours. According to Google maps the distance from my street to the university is twenty four kilometers. Now that’s slow going.
None of the drivers had a map and my wifi only worked within range of the guest-house. Again, it comes down to my naivety. When I finally arrived I was greeted with the crushing words. “Fighter go home. Fighter go home” I guess I didn’t look disappointed enough the first time he said it. He must’ve known he’d gone too far… the pity in his follow-up comment was palpable. “Hey mister… no problem”
All wasn’t lost. Not quite anyway. A few kilometers away Thai champion Wahneng Menayothin, 24-0-0 (8 KO’s) was facing off against Roilo ‘The Phoenix’ Golez, 14-9-0 (4 KO’s) of The Philippines for the WBC International Minimumweight title. Despite his patchy record ‘The Phoenix’ is no pushover. I’ve seen him fight before, giving Mexican former world champion Edgar Sosa a tough battle before being stopped on his feet in the seventh. What time was the fight scheduled for? I had no clue, but I decided to chance my arm and go for it. He who dares right?
The only information I had was that the fight was taking place in Bang Khen. Hardly precise, as Bang Khen is a significant sized portion of an already huge sprawling city. Cue taxi driver number infinitum. Cue the eternal battle with the language barrier. This of course, is no-one’s fault but my own. I’m not in England, I know that. This isn’t my part of the world and I don’t blame anyone for me not having made time to learn the lingo. Usually a few baht eliminates such problems but my driver, despite his best efforts, couldn’t find the venue. By then I’d started on the whisky. Nothing like a bottle of Bangkok’s finest to take the edge off a frustrating day. You can only go through so much crap before you stop caring and by then I figured I’d just get drunk and let the chips fall. After pulling over and asking the umpteenth person we finally found success.
The 11th Infantry Regiment. The Army base… Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Rolling up at about half past five I was ushered in by the (heavily) armed guards and pointed towards a beautiful sight. An empty and alluring boxing ring stood waiting, hungry for fistic fury to make its existence worthwhile. The lights shone brightly on the canvas, beckoning me over… calling me home. It had all been worthwhile. Two well dressed gentlemen stood against the ropes, clearly fight fans themselves. Enthusiasm was etched onto every crease of their ancient, craggy faces. I bounced over, new found enthusiasm coursing through my veins. One of them looked up, his face melting into a familiar look of sympathy. “Fighter go home. Fighter go home”
Crushed yes, but rapidly anaethasised by the consoling grip of hard spirits, I plodded around not just a boxing venue, but some kind of festival complete with live bands, makeshift restaurants, shooting galleries, a dance floor, fairground competitions and countless men in combat fatigues armed to the teeth with pistols and/or machine guns. I’ve no idea why weaponry was necessary. Naturally, I wasn’t about to question it all. Some of them posed for pictures. Two of them necked a shot of Whisky with me and gave me an appreciative thumbs-up. Most were friendly. Others ignored me. They probably wondered what some sweaty half-drunk farang was doing at their big night.
Mindful that most party-goers were tooled up like Rambo on a bad day I thought it better to leave before they got drunk, and before I got drunk enough to unwittingly offend any Thai sensibilities. Out on the road I hailed a taxi and told him the address of my guest house. “No problem mister” he smiled through cracked, bi-lingual lips. “I know the place. Jump in” Wrapped in a blanket of cruel irony, I was home in record time.
For what it’s worth Sor Rungvisai knocked Alvin Bais out inside two rounds. He was either unlucky or not that promising after all. Wanheng Methayin battled to a unanimous decision (110-117, 111-116, 108-119) over the always durable Roilo ‘The Phoenix’ Golez, and both undercards were littered with Thais knocking out vastly less experienced Thais, unfortunate Indonesians and overmatched Filipinos. Interestingly enough class-act Kompayak ‘Fierce Tiger’ Porpramook, 47-4-0 (32 KO’s) fought on the undercard of the Methayin – Golez bout, knocking out the hapless Johan Wahyudi, 9-22-0 (5KO’s) inside six rounds. That’s a fighter I would’ve liked to see, but I won’t cry over spilt whisky.