What Did I Sign Up For? (Raotang Boxing Club, Thailand)

By Bill Watts

My eyes flickered open and I began to wonder, what time is it? Immediately, I remembered it didn’t matter. It’s Sunday. Today is a day for rest. Necessary, too–we had a hell of a night last night. I need more sleep. I rolled over and tightened my eyes, forcing my body to follow my mind into the void.

As I began to lose consciousness, dull thuds and thwacks echoed in the distance.

Ignore it, I told my curious mind. It will die down soon enough. It’s too early for that now. There’s no way it will keep up.

Thud. Thwack, thwack, thwack. Thud.

I groaned, submitting to my restless body and restless friend insisting on making noise.

I guess now is as good a time as any, I lamented.

Rolling out of bed I pulled a pair of shorts on and shuffled into my slippers. My awareness rose to meet my body and I noticed all three of the beds in my shared room were empty. How long have I been asleep?

Brushing off thought I hobbled toward the door. My body was completely wrecked. Every waking minute reminded me of the damage I did to myself last night. You need water. With a clear mission I set out with vigor. Nothing could stop me.

I pushed the door open and realized the error in my haste. A wall of humidity and sweat stained air smacked me in the face. The familiar artificial smelling salts did their job. I was officially awake.

One quick scan revealed my makeshift alarm clock. One of my roommates, Thom, was busy pounding away on a heavy bag in the corner of our training room. He was methodically drilling short combinations with unparalleled relaxed intensity. There was no timer to signal beginning or end; just him, his target, and his tools. I stopped in our doorway for minutes watching, losing myself in his technique and abandon.

When I fully settled into my position he began to circle the bag until it was between us and he was facing me.

“Ay Bruhv!” He waved a glove in the air at me.

“Thom, what are you doing up?”

“What’s that then? You do realize what time it is, yeah?”

“No. Enlighten me,” I said, shuffling towards Thom.

“Mate, I got up at 11:07 to get some breakfast and a little stretch in before all this…that was, what, an hour ago? Hour and a half?”

“You’re lying.”


“Whatever. I don’t have enough energy to question.”

“You gotta lose something every now and then, Jake,” Thom grinned up at me. “Especially after that gutsy performance you put on last night.”

“Did you see how fast that kid was? His leg would lift and then it was digging into my thigh. I can barely walk today. I don’t know how I made it to through two rounds of that.”

“Yeah well I’m sure that elbow you put on ‘em was a fair bit of that.”

“I’ve been working on that for months-”

“I bet those beers picked up when the adrenaline wore off.”

“Ha. I needed a beer after that one. Or twelve.”

“We all needed one after Conor’s fight. Were you ‘round for that?”

“That was hard to watch. I was a little buzzed, couldn’t really see what was going on, but it looked like he didn’t know what day it was. That knee…”

“That knee was a rough one.”

“I feel awful–”

“Do ya?”


“Ya feel bad for the kid who’s got a scar ‘cross his brow to remember ya by?”

“Well, I mean, I guess…”

“He signed up for it, you signed up for it, Conor signed up for it…we all signed up for it. For this. Eat, sleep, train, train some more, and hope we don’t get too busted up ‘long the way.” This place ain’t all sunshine, cheap beer, and elephants.” Thom smiled at me, raising a glove, “You know as well as I do, people that fight out here-they’re getting out of something. They’re learning something, teaching people something.” Thom raised his arms to his sides and shrugged.

“Right. Thom I’m going to ride down to the beach.”

“Enjoy the sun! It’s a right nice day to nurse your headache and hematomas!” Thom laughed before he resumed pounding away on his heavy bag.

I threw a water bottle and several bananas into a small unused backpack near our communal kitchen. I nodded and waved at whoever was awake. They returned smiles, happy to see my body was intact. With everything I could possibly need I hopped on my scooter parked in front of the Raotang Boxing Club and headed for the water.

We all signed up for it, echoed clear and loud.

Why did you sign us up for this, my body asked wearily.

I snorted in amusement as I hopped off my parked my scooter and walked to the water.

You’re constantly bruised, you’ve got scars to cover two people, you’ve barely got the energy to do anything after training–actually that doesn’t matter. You don’t have the money to do anything over here, except wait to waste away.

The sea smell cleared my palate.

What are you going to do after this?

 The sand on my toes was soft and relaxing. The sun was warm and restorative. The melody of the lapping waves refreshed me.

You’re 26…how long can you do this?

I plopped onto the beach and removed a banana from my backpack before taking off its peel.

Good-bye, Jake.

I couldn’t help but smile. I had just won my 6th fight since coming to Thailand and the sun was smiling on me. My tiny beach is hidden from the main drag, deserted on Sundays. It was quiet, I was peaceful.

“We all signed up for this,” I laughed and the waves rolled in.