The one in red shorts looked like she didn’t want to be there. Her hair was cropped short like Demi Moore in Ghost, a cut I realised later was standard issue for female Muay Thai fighters. And those cheekbones. So shapely they glinted in the spotlight like knives. I cringed at the thought of someone punching those perfect cheekbones even though she looked like she didn’t care much one way or the other. She was tall, at least she looked so from ringside, and had the strong lean body of a gymnast. According to the fight papers, she weighed just 102lbs. She looked about sixteen years old.
The ceremony began. It takes a few minutes for the fighters to perform their routine of praying and stretching and the punters declined to fall silent during. Looking around, the vast majority of people in there were westerners. There are a few Chinese and even less Thai and the atmosphere was like that of most sporting events, loud and boozy. The venue was called ‘something stadium’ but it wasn’t a stadium, just a warehouse with a ring in the middle and plastic tables and chairs around then sides. Waitresses shouted out drinks orders in piercing tones and the sound of a cockney voice could be clearly heard, brashly haggling over the odds for a bet.
By the time the ceremony was finished and they were ready to fight the one wearing the blue shorts looked mean. The expression on her face was somewhere between aggression, the will to hurt, and bracing, preparing to be hurt, but Red remained impassive. If it wasnt for the teeth rattling punches and stinging kicks she was receiving to her face and chest you would think she was dancing. All by herself.
I wanted Red to win but only if she wanted to.
The women retreated to their corners at the end of each round for a vigourous rub down, stretch and dousing with cold water by their team. Red was losing and even as her coach screamed and shouted in her ear she hardly blinked.
At the end of five rounds Blue was declared the winner. Red was led away with her hair plastered against her head with sweat and her magnificent cheekbones already beginning to swell. Sleep walking.