Mayhem on Mulberry
Five Points Fitness proudly puts a little bit of the fight back into Lower Manhattan with a Muay Thai Kickboxing card that left us shadowboxing our way home.
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By Norman Clausen
April 11, 2006
The Old St. Patrick’s Youth Center may have seen its fair share of playground skirmishes, but through its doors this past Friday night, a tempest was brewing. Four hundred people swirled around the gymnasium like the calm wind before the storm, eagerly awaiting the start to the mayhem. Continuing the proud tradition of fight nights put on by Five Points Fitness, the premier Muay Thai training facility in New York and the East Coast, The Mayhem on Mulberry 6 was upon us. Ready or not, the controlled fury was about to begin.
The crowd showed a good mix. For every person with tattoos spilling out of their tank tops, there was a buttoned down and khakied yuppie ready to let loose. I was the latter, and coming fresh from work, I rushed to the event without eating to assure that i wouldn't miss any of the bouts. Naturally, I was psyched to see a table of traditional Thai food waiting for me at the fight. As good as it smelled, I steered clear of the spicy chicken in green curry—in a room full of fighters taking kicks to the face, I wasn’t going to be the only one crying. I settled for the chicken in yellow curry, enough to fill me up, and make me break a sweat, but not break my bank—overwhelming portions were only $7. Wash that down with a little bit of Singha, a quality Thai beer, and I was ready for some action.
And there was plenty of action to go around. The first fight got the night off to bang as Justin Greskiewicz of Cool Hearts Muay Thai TKO’d his opponent with a flurry of quick knees to the chin. Cool Hearts would put on a stellar performance for the evening, winning all four of their scheduled bouts.
“Man that’s intense!” my friend said.
“What’s that? The food or the fight?” I answered.
Of course, he had gone with the green curry, so the answer was both. And he was right—it was intense. Each fight started with an authentic pre-fight ritual, called the “Ram Muay.” This is a traditional Thai ceremony, which pays homage to the gods, parents, teachers, loved ones, king, and country, while sealing off the ring to outside influences. The Ram Muay ceremonies, as well as the fights, were accompanied by traditional Thai music. This was no Ultimate Fighting Championship, where the only tradition is taunting your opponent as the crowd gets drunk and rowdy. Both fighters and fans respected the discipline and the traditions, paying heartfelt homage to the sport and the culture with every bout.
That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of UFC-style ass-whoopin’. Bruising and brutality is part of the sport, and even victorious fighters often hobbled around the gym shaking hands, but putting very little pressure on shins with knots the size of baseballs.
Consistent action continued throughout, as high kicks and high energy marked the fourth bout of the evening, seeing Five Point’s own Rob Wells pull out a hard-fought three-round decision. Fellow Five Pointer and hometown favorite, Natalie Fuz, posted a tremendous third round, standing toe-to-toe in an inside battle to rightfully claim her decision victory. Fuz and Rima Sidhu, who received her win due to injury forfeit, hope to continue their dominance as they represent the US against 49 other nations at the upcoming World Championships in Thailand.
It was somewhere around this point—right before the main event, which was carded for two professional bouts—that I realized how smoothly the whole event had run. Specifically, as I squeezed through the crowd to grab a second round of beers for me and my friend, I must have bumped, stepped on, and brushed against half the crowd and got nothing but smiles and excuse-me’s from every person along the way. In this gym of fighters, at this fight, I was seeing probably the only place in New York that you couldn’t start a fight if you tried. As intense as the action was, and as excited as the audience acted during the fights, the crowd interaction was totally chill. It was a young to middle-aged crowd of extremely physically fit, active people—as many women as there were men—sporting any kind of style you could imagine, and each one of them eager to lean over and talk about the fights, the food, whatever. Who would have thought that all it took for New Yorker’s to act civilized was a little Mayhem?
Friendly? Definitely. Civilized? Sure, I’ll even go that far. Uptight? Not in a million years. I hadn’t seen this many Mohawks in one place since a Rancid show at CBGB in 1998. Some of the fighters, the camera man, several people in the crowd, and a Mr. T look alike, who no doubt put in some ring time—all sporting Mohawks. Perhaps it was in honor of the mighty Mohawk Indians who once walked Eastern New York. Of course, it wasn't even the Mohawk that originated that style, it was actually the Huron (translated literally from French to mean, ‘Head of a wild boar’). How many of Muay Thai fans would still be wearing their Mohawk if it were called a Huron?
And while I sat there pondering hair in general and the rich history of the Native Americans, the main event hit like a tornado. Team Egypt’s Ahmed Fahim Mohammed came out with a flurry of lightening quick fists and kicks that seemed to overwhelm Nat McIntyre, fighting out of Minnesota Martial Arts. There was never a time when McIntyre looked like he was in trouble of going down, he just looked frustrated and unable to land anything solid on the quicker Mohammed.
And that’s when things got fun. Mohammed began to dance and taunt his opponent, putting his hands at his side, and dodging punches rope-a-dope style with no guard. His arrogance and disrespect elicited much warranted boos from the crowd. But the boos didn’t last for long. As he danced and dodged against the ropes, McIntyre landed a kick straight to the temple, sending Mohammed’s mouthpiece flying into the crowd along with any coherent recollection of who and where he was. Cheers went up from the crowd as everyone jumped to their feet. “That’s why you keep your hands up, son!” screamed Mr. T, as the crowd laughed and roared. After several minutes of close medical attention, hooked up to an oxygen mask, Mohammed was able to leave the ring under his own power with a swelling bruise that covered half his face.
All in all, it was an awesome way to spend a night. I met some cool people, got a great Thai dinner, and saw twelve tremendous battles. As the fighters left with title belts and bruises, the fans went away with a number of raffled prizes—anything from gift certificates for local restaurants, to a gnarly little beach cruiser I’d love to get rolling alongside the West Side Highway. Half the crowd left shadowboxing, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I wore an empty tissue box on my hand like a boxing glove while watching Ultimate Fighting the whole next day. Hats off to Kevin McGrath and the people of Five Points Fitness for putting on an evening with a great blend of action and Thai culture. I’ve definitely got their June event marked on my calendar, and I highly recommend keeping your eye on the Five Points Fitness website for details on their upcoming events. A little bit of Mayhem never hurt anyone—except that Egyptian fighter. Man, he got dropped!