Muay Thai

Pay the standard higher charge for foreigners, the concierge informs them, so when you arrive at Lumpinee they receive you, seat you on a stool till the current show has ended, and then take you inside free from the bustle of the line and put you in good seats by the ropes—very near the ropes. I sat and braced myself. The ring was bright; but where we sat, the spills from the last show hadn't been mopped off the floors. The regulars sat behind tall meshed barricades. An American sat next to me, and next to him another American, young, of Indian origin. They sensed their common nationality and promptly plunged into talking, and they talked every moment, for more than two hours, till the very end, even during the tensions of the matches, even when a knockout happened in the fifth or sixth match, even in the top-billed seventh match. They spoke American things, long and loud.

Two kids fought the first match. Their eyes were locked on to each other so hard, I wondered if it was right to be watching it at all. The announcer did speak oft a minimum age but her accent was strong, I didn't understand. They were kids alright. The loser almost came to tears when the match went off his control; but his backers showed him much kindness when he came off the ring, his head limp and hanging forward in shame and disappointment. As the evening progressed the matches got better. They started every match with a slow graceful dance, played to pipes—they played the pipes even during the bout, and the fighters often stepped and poised and advanced to the rhythm of the music. The referees were sharp and wouldn't allow too much risk—so the players were quite safe, even if they took many blows.

In the prime match the losing boxer moved snake-like, his head dancing sideways on his neck, and his constant technique was to curve his hand in a slow searching motion, as if seeking a secret path through the air to his opponent's jaw. The winner was brusque, and he did not put his technique too much on show, and after a while he had his opponent all winded, throwing punches wildly, agitation on his face, control leaving visibly.

I followed the winner. They were taking pictures of him at a victory-spot, and I had someone take my picture with him. I followed him into their open dressing-area. It was a dim open space, and there they tended to him. The loser sat at the end of the tables, alone. He didn't appear to want attention anyway.

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