Friday Night Fights- NY

569_lgThis past Friday night local promoter Justin Blair presented to NY city fight fans the first ever all female fight card which he corrected during the rules meeting by saying coyly that it was actually the second one that he has held under his promotion company, Friday Night Fights. The June 11 presentation of Hell Hath No Fury was an understatement with rematches between Muay Thai Fighters Marisela Badillo vs. Rima Sidu and a main event match up between Jill Guido and Florina Petcu!

The doors to the Broad Street Ballroom opened at 7:30pm sharp to an already waiting line right in the heart of the Financial District. It was pretty clear it was going to be a full house which was great for FNF because a portion of the proceeds was going to support the Lower East Side Girl’s Club.. The ring was set up between large fluted columns inside this intimate venue which seated approximately one hundred exclusive seats with the remaining space enough for 400 standing room only, bringing together what appeared to be a very diverse group of sports fans!

A total of six amateur Muay Thai fights were scheduled as the ballroom rumbled with excited fans ready to cheer on their favorite fighter! Mine was of course amateur Sylvie Von Duuglas – Ittu, whom I saw knock out a Thai boxer with a devastating knee to the temple this past January in Chiang Mai. She spent the early part of the year in Thailand where she could compete because she was unable to find a fight close to home in her weight class of 102 lbs. How quickly things changed for her as Kru Nat Fuz asked her to fight on this all female card shortly after her return to the states! After seeing her in Thailand and winning 2 more fights by knocking her opponents out, if I was a betting girl my money would be on Sylvie.

It just so happened that the first fight of the night was Min Goodspeed verse Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu, who did not prove me wrong! After performing a beautiful Wai Kru Ram Muay, a ceremonial dance to pay respect to the trainer and the spirits of boxing demonstrating the beauty and brutality of the fight, Sylvie came out of the red corner with shin guards and head gear on in the first round composed with tons of power, knocking her opponent down with three different techniques! The first came with a whomping overhand right that put her opponent Goodspeed on her butt then again with a teep ( foot jab) to the chest. By the second round it was all over with two stabbing long knees (Tang Kao) to the solar plexus that knocked Goodspeed out at 1:37 min.

The next bout between Pam Giroux and Alana Ramprashad had these two ladies exchanging fierce round house kicks followed by a teep and knees delivered by Ramprashad leaving Giroux gasping for air. Giroux chased Ramprashad around the ring with strikes that did little damage compared to Giroux reaction when Ramprashad returned more accurate teeps and punches leaving Ramprashad looking more confident going into the second round. Giroux came on heavy with forward pressure as she clinched Ramprashad who remained patient and composed. Giroux continued her spree chasing Ramprashad all over the ring, but Ramprashad’s strikes contained more power putting Giroux on her butt and thrilling the crowd with a nice kick to the head. The third round was more of the same with the last 30 seconds being a slug fest. Ramprashad won by unanimous decision.

The third bout featured crowd favorite Jennifer Pearsall against Corinne Nehme. Both girls came out on offense, exchanging a flurry of punches, kicks and teeps. Most of the entire fight these two girls were clinching with lots of knees making this fight difficult to call and it could have easily been a draw but the judges gave the fight to Nehme by unanimous decision. The fourth bout between Stacey Scappecia and Luz Gandulla went for three rounds filled with roundhouse kicks, great punch combination by Scappecia, effortless control in clinching by Gandulla who would land a few knees then cast Scappecia away. But by the last round Gandulla looked a bit gased and Scappecia was smiling brightly and before the round was done she landed a jumping front teep to Gandulla’s solar plexus. Scappecia won by split decision.

The co main and main event were both rematches with five, two minute rounds. Marisela Badillo and Rima Sidu came out fierce and strong and if I didn’t know better I’d say of all the fight’s that these two were ready for MMA. They both wound up on the ground several times either by Sidu sweeping Badillo in clinching or Bandillo catching a leg kick then landing a right cross taking Sidu to the ground. I would have loved to see if these two had a ground game but MMA is not legal in New York. The crowd was pleased that Sidu won by unanimous decision.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned was the understatement I mentioned earlier with this rematch between Jill Guido and Florina Petcu. When Florina Petcu entered the ring she began her Wai Kru that was fiercely intense as she circled the center of the ring many, many, many times to release any anger or hard feelings toward her opponent or the fight in general. Petcu originally a dancer was coming back from a recent loss to Guido out in San Francisco and it was clear by the expression on her face that she was not going to lose again to the likes of Guido. Petcu had a height advantage but that didn’t stop Guido from landing some powerful over hand rights but Petcu used her height by kicking Guido repeatedly even landing a vicious head kick that sounded as if it smacked Guido across the face. Guido came back strong thou as she returned with a take down two times in the fourth round. Petcu was ferocious the last round throwing non stop roundhouses, and endless combinations giving her the win by decision. I thought at one point she broke her foot but it was just all the impact of kicking to her swollen shin that made her foot look that way.

With what appeared to be powerful kicks and punches especially after seeing Petcu’s shin, what struck me most about these fights with the exception of the first one was that there were no other knock outs that night. So I asked Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu some questions about her training considering she was the only fighter who knocked anyone out and curiously the only one I knew that had female trainers, which I was interested in hearing about.

Sylvie told me she was 3-2 with 1 knock out and 2 technical knock outs with this fight giving her 3 and 2 losses on points. She had been training in Muay Thai for a little over two years and fighting for just under 1 year. From the beginning her trainer has been Master K, who is a 72-year-old Thai man who trains students one-on-one out of the basement in his home in New Jersey, making Sylvie is his only female student because for a long time he wouldn’t train women.

Here’s what Sylvie told me about her training with Master K, “We have a very special and particular relationship that I think hinges on his “old school” feelings about training women. He trains me very well and thinks of me as a daughter, protects me and worries about me, and is proud of me on levels of both a trainer and a parent. He’s very enthusiastic about me going on to become a teacher of Muay Thai and he wants me to train other women. He’s remarkably pro-female Muay Thai.”

Even though Master K is pro–female Muay Thai, Sylvie has definitely felt some challenges in training due to gender differences make training awkward. For instance in clinching, Master K had expressed to Sylvie once that “[He] wouldn’t want a man clinching with [his] daughter.” And when she was in Thailand the younger boys were forced to clinch with the foreign woman but there was not a lot of instruction and the boys tended not to take it seriously so as a woman she felt as so many do that you suffer in the training. Sylvie did express how proud Master K was of her victories and wanted her not to linger in fighting but to concentrate on teaching.

As for the female trainers Sylvie said that she only started training with Kru Nat in the month before Friday Night Fights. Kru Nat Fuz asked her to fight on the all-female card so in turn Sylvie asked her to help her train. Sylvie had known Kru Nat for a while and felt a strong connection and a lot of mutual respect and that going from knowing Kru Nat as a pioneer badass in female Muay Thai to knowing her in the context of training with her was outstanding. By training with Kru Nat for a limited time before her fight this last Friday and Champion Muay Thai Fighter Sylvie Charbonneau in Thailand, Sylvie discovered that there are a lot of tacit differences between male and female trainers that have a lot to do with simply understanding each other on the basis of gender alone.

Her connection with Charbonneau in Thailand was remarkable in that she was also a female her own size who has accomplished so much (39 wins – 11 losses). However with Kru Nat, who is not physically similar to nor does she share the particular challenges in fighting at the size Sylvie does, they do share a social and political reality of the challenges ALL female fighters face in their training/fighting paths.

And as Sylvie states, “There are cultural and generational differences between Master K and Kru Nat that make the gender difference in training seem pretty minute. Between Kru Nat and trainers in Thailand, there are endless differences, none of which are separable from gender but none of which are that simple. Many women who train in Thailand express concern at the sexual complications involved in being a foreign female training with Thai male trainers, but I’ve seen similar sexuality expressed in US gyms between American men and women. Ultimately there are a lot of differences, but training with both of my trainers is satisfying in its own way. Because I am so intimately connected to my trainers, I cannot identify the differences solely on the issue of gender, as the difference to me are those of the individuals AS individuals. I greatly enjoy the advantages of training with a female trainer – the unspoken understanding that is inherent in our shared gender – and I love the ways in which I benefit from training with a male trainer – the misunderstandings and challenges that make the issue of gender a conscious one.”

Hmm it does make one ponder the questions concerning the differences in gender with so many females interested in a male dominated sport and the recent rise in popularity in viewing woman compete in combative sports as it evolves. Sylvie has been in a unique situation in that she has had training from both highly regarded male and female trainers having the opportunity to gain knowledge that just can not be written down and it showed with her unique style in fighting this past weekend. She is just starting out and I’m curious to see where this pint size ball of fire’s journey leads to the advancement of womans combative sports. Ultimately with promoters such as Justin Blair who is willing to hold many more all female cards, and by the energy of a very pleased crowd of fight fans womans combative sports should by all accounts have a bright and shining future!

By Shelley Devine

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