Thursday, September 23, 2010

Melissa Ray MuayThai and Mould in Bangkok

The first time I met Melissa Ray in Bangkok her right eye was bandaged and swollen. She looked like she'd been in a fight but hey, apparently the other girl looked worse. It's been great watching her career develop over the last few years, and meeting up every now and then for noodles and a chat.

Melissa Ray wins WMPF Lightweight title Bangkok August 2010
When British MuayThai fighter Melissa Ray first moved to Thailand, she only intended to stay for a short visit. That was four years ago.  Now she lives within cycling distance of Eminent Air gym in Bangkok (website here) and fights in Thailand, China and the UK. Her record stands at 38 fights with 25 wins, 12 losses, 1 draw. Ray says “I’d visited Thailand to compete in an amateur tournament and really enjoyed my time here. That’s when I decided I would like to come and train for longer and started saving money. Initially I thought I would only stay 3 months!”

As time passed, Ray found learning Thai was the best way to survive in a gym where she was the only fluent English speaker. She studies on Sundays; her one training-free day. MuayThai isn’t a big money sport in Europe so fighters there usually work and then train in the late evening or early morning.  But in Thailand fighters live in their gym - training morning and afternoons, spending the hours in-between sleeping or playing PS2. Choosing to live on her own in an apartment sometimes attacked by tropical mould, Ray says “ I don't have a kitchen so all my food is bought on the street. I love Thai food but sometimes feel I have less control over my diet here. In the UK I would be able to prepare all my own food and have more control over the fat and salt content.”

During her years in Thailand, she’s seen the popularity of female boxing grow. There was a similar growth spurt in the late ‘90s when women’s fights from Rangist stadium were televised; then all went quiet. But even though Ray points out that many of the main stadiums still ban women’s fights, she adds “I think there are many more high profile female fights than there used to be especially for international boxing with female boxers such as Usanakorn occupying prime TV slots.”

Not that Ray has much time for chilling out with her TV. Asked what her favourite time of the day is, she zooms in on a time most of us are still sleeping. “I’m a strange person who likes mornings. I like the quiet time between 5 and 6am when I eat my favourite porridge and yoghurt, and slowly prepare myself for training.”

Do you know of anyone else who has moved countries for their sport?

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