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The Man Called Malaipet, the Lion Fight Years and Retirement Talk

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Entering his rematch with Justin Greskiewicz at Lion Fight 17, Malaipet Sasiprapa had indicated that a third straight loss would lead to his retirement. Michael Schiavello informed the AXS TV viewing audience that the man known simply as Malaipet would honor the remaining fight on his contract for Lion Fight. He turned aside any retirement talk with a vintage performance taking a UD win. Now the talk will be about what is next for him. Before that, lets look at how we even got to the retirement discussion in the first place.

Thirty three years old seems young to retire 

To a casual American fan raised on boxing, a boxer at Malaipet’s age, 32 years young, is still in his prime. While for a Muay Thai fighter from Thailand it is closer to retirement age than their primes. The difference is the mileage on a Muay Thai fighter versus a boxer. Both start training at a young age but it is very different in Thailand. Over there they turn professional as young boys and train like them.

Malaipet turned professional at the age of eight and has a record of 150-29-6, while Floyd Mayweather at 37 years old is 46-0. At four years younger, Malaipet has fought four times the fights of Mayweather. Also, consider that Malaipet turned pro seven years before Mayweather who did so at the age of nineteen. That puts Mayweather 18 years into his pro career. Whereas Malaipet would have been 26 years old when he hit his eighteenth professional year as a fighter.

A clue to one of the big discrepancies in the number of fights between the two fighters can be found in their nicknames. Malaipet is The Diamond due to his freakish legs and their hardness. Contrast that with Mayweather and his “Money” nickname which is a direct reference to money. He is the highest paid boxer and earned more for his last fight than Malaipet has for his whole career. There is no need to fight very often when you make a guaranteed $32 million dollars plus a cut of the PPV. While Malaipet has been fighting to help support his family since he was a young boy. Mayweather could support a Thai village by just donating his next purse and he would still be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It is a direct reflection of the two different countries, cultures and the two sports. Boxing emerged as a sport while Muay Thai was developed for combat and turned into one. That is why Muay Thai is more brutal on the human body. A knee, elbow and shin are all harder than a fist inside of a glove. Broken bones are much more common in Muay Thai than they are in boxing.

It is more than just the fights there is the training

The training for a young Muay Thai fighter is much different than it is for  an American boxer. It is much more intense as they start training like an adult fighter only they also mix in school work for as long as they stay in school. If they show promise most likely they will quit school in their teens to concentrate on training.

A young fighter will leave his family to go and train with a camp. They train before school and after and then will often fight on the weekends to earn money to pay for their training and send back home to their families. For someone like Malaipet, this started at eight years old.

One of the reasons for such intense training in part is due to the complexity of the sport. There are multiple techniques to learn. There is striking with the eight limbs and the defense for them. When you consider a boxer only has to worry about the hands versus a Muay Thai fighter who has to defend against them as well as elbows, knees and kicks. It is easy to see that Muay Thai is much more complicated.

Then there is the clinch. It looks simple to the untrained eye but it is one of the more complicated elements of the sport and can take a lifetime to master. Malaipet is one of the best clinch fighters in the sport. Trying to clinch with him must be like trying to wrestle a wave underwater. If you do not know what you are doing he will send you spinning and flying through the air before you crash down to the canvas. It takes many years to learn the clinch game at the level of someone like Malaipet.

That kind of intense training for 25 years is both psychically and mentally draining on a person. It can wear someone down and so to hear retirement talk at 32 years old is not that surprising. In some of his recent fights he has admitted to not training very hard for them. Even with a more relaxed training regiment, Malaipet was 5-2 for Lion Fight and 6-2 overall in the last three years.

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The Lion Fight Era 

Malaipet got his start with Lion Fight at Lion Fight 4 where he took on Jose Palacios on just two days notice. Despite that short time he took a tough SD win over Palacios. From there he fought Greskiewicz for the first time at Lion Fight 6 taking a UD win. Many considered it to be the best he has looked in recent years. Throughout the fight he seemed to be dialed in to almost all of Greskiewicz’ strikes before he threw them.

It was in his next fight at Lion Fight 8 that we got to see his hard shins and how he got his nickname as he finished Vishnu Gulati in the second round. Malaipet punished him with powerful leg kicks. When Gulati tried to answer with his own low kicks to the leg he only hurt himself on Malaipet’s shin when he checked Gulati’s kick.

Malaipet then had a rematch with Sean Kearney at Lion Fight 10. The two had fought a few months earlier under a different promotion with Malaipet taking a UD in that fight. Malaipet was originally scheduled to fight Hakeem Dawodu who had to pull out due to an injury. Kearney showing a lot of heart stepping up on two days notice to take on Malaipet. This fight was the first under his new exclusive contract with Lion Fight.

Just a quick note on the pace of the fight in Thailand and how it applies to strategy

Now in Thailand gambling is one of the driving forces of the sport and there are bets happening constantly during the fights. The fighters start slow to allow the betting to build up over the first two rounds. There will be music played during the fight known as Saramba. The pace of the music will correspond with the fight increasing in speed as the action in the ring does over the last three rounds. The music helps urge the fighters on during the fight and adds to the artistic element of the sport.

It also has developed one of the strategies to defeat the Thai fighters. Many Western Muay Thai fighters will try to attack them early. They can then take the first two or three rounds of the fight and score a decision win, or catch them cleanly for a KO win.

This has not worked too well against a focused Malaipet. He lives and trains in the states and is well aware of how to counter that strategy. Now, when he is not as focused or in shape then it is possible as we will see.

Back to the Fights

It all starts with Malaipet’s timing and vision. They led to early kicks in the Kearney fight as Malaipet punished his body and legs. While catching a couple of Kearney’s kicks and dumping him hard. Having fought Kearney just a few months before, Malaipet was completely comfortable with him right away.

In the second round he quickly put Kearney down with a sweet little sequence. With his back against the ropes he threw a right rear round kick that Kearney avoided and tried to catch. Malaipet ducked down and forward into a clinch pining his head underneath Kearney’s chin.

At this point one of Kearney’s first concerns is he does not want to get dumped backwards. Malaipet has him wrapped up and if he can remain pinned against Kearney as they go down his head will create an impact as they crash down. Between the weight of the top fighter and the impact it can rock a fighter. A good example of that technique was Gaston Bolanos in his debut with Brian Del Rosario at Lion Fight 14 in the third round. Del Rosario was rocked and it slowed him down for the rest of the round. In the next round he would get the TKO finish with another dump. This one was perfectly executed.

What Malaipet does next was so sweet to watch and re-watch. His left arm is pinning down Kearney’s left at the bicep while the right is over the neck. Kearney brings his right leg up to guard against being dumped and brought his right arm down to Malaipet’s hip. They shift to Malaipet’s left as he is pushing that way with the right arm and this causes them to slightly hop. As soon as they hit after the little shift Malaipet releases Kearney’s right arm and brings up a hard, fast and accurate left elbow to the jaw dropping Kearney straight back. Malaipet gave us his signature raised arms and it did look like the fight was over. Somehow Kearney got up and lasted the distance.

The judges got the fight right but the scores were a little strange as Malaipet dominated the fight and got the knockdown in the second round. Still, one judge scored the fight 47-47 while the other two had it 48-46 and 49-45 for Malaipet who took the MD.

Mazzagatti is gonna Mazzagatti

The next fight for Lion Fight was at Lion Fight 11. It was like something out of gladiator days in which apparently someone was sacrificing Caio Urugai (13-2) against Malaipet Sasiprapa (148-27-6) who was not taking this fight remotely seriously. He claimed to have only sparred in training for this fight doing no roadwork or pad training. Malaipet also made this statement before the fight, “The fight ends when I want it to and anyway I want it to end.” Technically it was ended by Urugai’s corner mercifully throwing in the towel as Malaipet bludgeoned Urgai at will with his right hand. Thankfully, Urugai’s corner could recognize what was happening in the ring because referee Steve Mazzagatti could not.

Right from the final instructions Malaipet wore a bemused smile on his face throughout the short fight. It was very clear he did not respect Urugai’s ability. He held his hands down by his legs daring Urugai to come into range. It was just 39 seconds into the fight when Malaipet landed the first powerful overhand right that sent Urugai crashing down to the canvas. Urugai showed heart in getting up. Less than 20 seconds later and another overhand right put him down again.

Then another 18 seconds later Malaipet caught a kick with his lefthand and landed another overhand right that sent Urugai careening across the ring. Yet, to Mazzagatti apparently the punch did not have much to do with Urugai careening across the ring.

Still inside of two minutes into the round Malaipet lands a hard body kick and then proceeds to club Urugai into the ropes with overhand rights. Then uses the momentum of one to bounce Urugai off the ropes into an elbow that put Urugai down again and his corner instantly threw in the towel.

It was a dominating performance over a clearly overmatched opponent. Again, credit to Urugai for stepping into the ring to face Malaipet but he never had a chance in this fight. The next two would be very different.

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Scott Hirano/Muay Thai Authority

The two losses: Fabio Pinca and the title fight

After the five straight wins in Lion Fight up next for Malaipet was a fight with Fabio Pinca at Lion Fight 12 for their Welterweight title. Pinca, a French fighter, has had great success against Thai fighters. He one of the best records against them. Malaipet was the nineteenth Thai he had defeated, as well as other legends like Saenchai Sinbimuaythai and Diesellek Aoodonmuang.

This was Malaipet’s toughest opponent while fighting for Lion Fight and a great title matchup. A very even fight going into the bout. Against another very decorated veteran of the sport. Just the kind of challenge to get Malaipet excited.

In the first round, Malaipet showed how he had adjusted to western fighters by coming out aggressively and taking the first round. Malaipet had fun in the round but also landed the more effective and powerful strikes. He started the second round the same way and looked to be on his way to the title. Pinca answered right back with some effective counters. A little after the midway point of the round Pinca started to take over the exchanges including the clinches.

The fight looked to be even going into the third round. They came out firing body kicks into each other and Malaipet went for one of his catch-and-sweeps when Pinca was able to reverse it. As Malaipet went to sweep out Pinca’s right leg with his own right one Pinca hopped around for a couple of beats and used Malaipet’s momentum from the sweep attempt to twist him down to the ground.

Pinca further seem to frustrate Malaipet with his fakes and feints. Now it was Pinca that was the aggressor and he kept Malaipet on the ropes for much the round. Malaipet scored a bone jarring dump in the last thirty seconds of the round and looked to engage in more clinches as the round concluded.

To start the fourth round Pinca walked Malaipet down and back into the ropes. Pinca also seemed to be the fresher fighter of the two. It was clear that Malaipet had trained harder for this fight than the one with Urugai but not necessarily to his best. It was a grueling type of fight with both fighters attacking the legs and body. The clinches were also grinding them down even when they did not result in a someone crashing down to the canvas.

Pinca really took over in this round. He was the aggressor and negated most of Malaipet’s offense while consistently landing combinations including winning the clinches and dumping Malaipet at the end of the round.

Malaipet, showing his warriors heart, came out landing a body kick and then dumped Pinca hard to the ground. It was one of the elements of this fight that was insightful to the two fighters watching their reaction to getting dumped; each time popping up quickly and seemingly a little pissed off and then came back hard at their opponent. Pinca did exactly that after getting dumped but he was not reckless.

It was an action filled round with Pinca getting the better of it with more combinations and his aggression. The judges awarded him with the UD and the first Lion Fight welterweight title. A tough loss but one that did not make you think that Malaipet should consider retiring, but that is from the outside. It is hard to say what he sees and thinks as a fighter. It may be that he knows he would have beaten Pinca a few years ago. When you’re fighting as this level just micro-seconds make a difference between a technique landing or missing.

As an observer it was a strong performance by Malaipet and it seemed more like Pinca was the better fighter on that night. In a rematch Pinca might be the slight favorite but you could easily see Malaipet getting the win. Up next was a different challenge for him. A familiar one against a much lesser known fighter.

Shane Oblonsky 

After Pinca, the next fight for Malaipet was against Shane Oblonsky at Lion Fight 14. Despite being only four years younger than the legendary Malaipet there was a vast gap in Oblonsky’s experience. Coming into the fight Malaipet had held as many World Titles as Oblonsky had overall fights.

Oblonsky was well aware of the magnitude of this fight. In a pre-fight interview on their site he said, ““I’m actually more excited than anything…This is a big opportunity for me because Malaipet has a huge name in the Muay Thai and fight industry. Regardless of what happens I’m going to fight the best that I can and put everything on the line.” It is the perfect attitude for a fighter to have when facing a legend. It is easy for the moment to overwhelm a less experienced fighter. When the fighter is truly excited about the opportunity then they have a better chance of turning in a great performance. Which is more what Oblonsky seemed concerned about more than a win and more about fighting with heart.

Oblonsky was not as known to the casual fan going into this fight as he became after it. Getting the win against a legend like Malaipet will give a fighter a much higher profile within the sport. Since this fight, Oblonsky took part in Glory’s recent featherweight 4-man tournament at Glory 17. Oblonsky met Gabriel Varga in the finals and they turned in one of the best fights of the year. Before Glory there was this battle with the legendary Malaipet.

One thing you notice is that Oblonsky is the much bigger fighter. At 6’0” he was 5 inches taller than Malaipet. The reach advantage was only 2.5 inches and 2 inches in the legs. Those advantages did not sway the AXS TV viewing audience. According to Schiavello, the voting via their app had the viewers picking Malaipet by an almost unanimous ninety-eight percent. None of that mattered once the fight started.

Oblonsky started out with a few low kicks. Then went to work using his height and reach advantages through his front kicks and jabs. That flowed into some nice combinations mixing in hands and low kicks. Malaipet landed a solid low kick that was shin to shin. Oblonsky came right back with a low kick of his own and then back up top with the hands. Malaipet countered with a catch of a kick and went for the sweep. Showing excellent balance, Oblonsky stayed upright and went right into another combo that ended with a low kick.

Jack Slack has talked about the advantages of attacking a fighter with their preferred technique. It is usually one that an opponent finds to be an effective weapon and difficult to defend. The problem with Malaipet is that his legs are just different than the average fighters. The massive size of his legs gives him an advantage that makes it difficult to attack him there. As Gulati found out you can hurt your own leg kicking Malaipet’s. Oblonsky was having success due to him being the larger fighter. He only weighed in three pounds heavier than Malaipet but looked like he was a full weight class above him in the fight.

Malaipet attacked the legs and Oblonsky went to work with his hands to the face. The smile was gone from Malaipet’s face just over a minute into the round, replaced by a look of grim determination.

Near the end of the round there was a nice sequence from both fighters. Malaipet landed a nice right hand. Oblonsky responded with a thudding left hook that produced a welt under Malaipet’s right eye. Then Oblonsky followed it up with a left kick to the body. Malaipet caught it and was able to executed one of his body jarring sweeps as Oblonsky came crashing down onto his back from a few feet off of the ground. He popped right back to his feet all fired up. Unfortunately, a few moments later he caught Malaipet square in his nether soft man parts. It was a solid, square shot that had the place cringing.

It was a great first round. A lot of action. A close fight. Oblonsky was showing some excellent hands working his combinations. His size and strength where helping negate a lot of Malaipet’s clinch offense. Miletich scored the round for Oblonsky. It was close and the case could be made for scoring it for Malaipet.

Early into the second round Steve Mazzagatti proved he still does not understand the clinch and broke one up right as Malaipet seemed to be on the verge of scoring a dump. This sent Schiavello into a slight tirade. It was a justified one as Mazzagatti apparently means “I do not speak clinch” in Italian.

Besides sending Schiavello into a rant it also can affect the fight. Malaipet is a master of the clinch and he uses it as a weapon, not to stall and hug. His clinch game is designed to send you crashing down hard to the canvas. It is a technique you see in all of his fights. When Mazzagatti steps in and stops Malaipet as he was starting to engage in a toss it changes the fight. What would have happen from that moment is now gone. Would Malaipet scored a dump that rocked Oblonsky? Or does Oblonsky reverse it? Instead of finding out what happened the action was stopped and the advantage that Malaipet achieved was denied to him by a referee who does not seem to understand the sport.

As the round progressed Malaipet used mostly low kicks to the leg and a few to the body. Oblonsky’s size was shutting down his right hand and creating problems for him in the clinch. A couple of times it was Oblonsky landing knees and getting the better of the clinch exchanges.

It was not just the size difference as Oblonsky fought a very smart fight. Some fighters struggle with the ability to use their reach effectively but not Oblonsky in this fight. He used his jab effectively to set up combinations and continually mixed in his kicks.

While Malaipet would land an inside low kick then one to the outside. A jab and then a body kick. Oblonsky answered with a five punch combo into a clinch with a couple of knees and elbows.

Continually throughout the round it was Oblonsky walking Malaipet down right through the low kicks to the leg. It was showing the visible signs of Malaipet’s attack on the lead left leg of Oblonsky but it was not hampering his movement in the ring.

In the third round Malaipet started to kick the right arm of Oblonsky to try to slow down his hands and boxing. He also began employing step-in elbows to get to the inside. The problem for him was on the inside Oblonsky was also out landing him utilizing elbows and knees. He showed good balance in not just avoiding getting dumped to the ground by Malaipet but also by being in positions to land strikes as well.

Once again, Oblonsky was able to walk Malaipet into the ropes and let loose with his hands. With his size it is easy to not notice the speed right away but Oblonsky has sneaky fast hands aided by a nice sense of timing. Malaipet was also trying to land the big power strike while Oblonsky continued to put together combinations.

The fourth opens with Oblonsky marching right in and landing a series of punches and elbows that had Malaipet in trouble. The first half of the round is all Oblonsky who even landed a partially blocked spinning kick. Moments later Malaipet was able to dump him to the ground.

When Oblonsky got back to his feet Malaipet just backed himself straight into the ropes. He seemed to be a little tired at this point. It had been a grueling fight for him. Instead of slowing down Malaipet dug down and tried to answer back. Both men were just throwing down going back and forth. Malaipet just missed with a overhand right and came back with another one. A couple more and it was Oblonsky backing up for a moment. Then he came forward again. The round ended with the two fighters going toe-to-toe in the corner.

The final round started and both fighters seemed to be tired. Malaipet employed the technique of backing himself into the ropes and fighting from there. Oblonsky fought a smart aggressive round to cap off a brilliant performance against the legend that is Malaipet.

The perfect trap 

The Oblonsky fight was the perfect trap for Malaipet to fall into. Oblonsky comes in with little experience by comparison, unheralded but very tough and talented. The win introduced him to many people. It was the biggest fight of his career when it was fought and he came in prepared for it. Malaipet was not and he admitted it in an interview on Lion Fight’s site before his rematch with Greskiewicz that he has not trained as hard in the past:

“For the last 10 years I didn’t train very hard because I was just focusing on teaching my students,” Malaipet said. “I didn’t run for 10 years – now I run three miles in the morning and three miles at night. I kick 1,000 kicks a day. I needed somebody to push me and now my trainer, Ajan Monlit, has a visa and has been training me for this fight here in America and I’ve been training hard like we did back in Thailand. I train two times a day. I eat, sleep and train and right now I feel like I did 15 years ago back in Thailand. I feel really good, I feel young again. I’ve been up and down for a few years and now I want maybe 10 more fights and to really push myself.”

“When I lost, I didn’t feel nothing,” he said in his thick Thai accent and choppy English. “I didn’t complain. I born to fight (sic), so I fight. And every time I fought, even when I lost, my body was never hurt. I just felt really tired because I wasn’t in good shape. But I don’t want to lose my students. I have to work a lot to pay the bills. And you make money by winning fights.

“So when my trainer came to see me he said, ‘You’re still good but you have to be serious again.’ The first two days I trained with him I had to throw up and I couldn’t lift my legs up. But the harder I trained he said, ‘Your body’s coming back.’ … So now is the time to be serious.”

– You can read the full interview here.

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image via Sherdog

Malaipet turns back the clock

Malaipet brought a new attitude and a return to his old training ways and trainer Monlit into the rematch with Justin Greskiewicz at Lion Fight 17. You could understand the retirement talk a little bit better now. It is one thing to lose some fights that you did not train fully for but it is different to come in fully ready and lose. Especially to a fighter you have already beat once.

Malaipet’s performance quieted the retirement talk as he looked like a vintage version of himself. This was a different fighter than the one who had faced Olbonsky. He was sharper, quicker and much more dangerous. Instead of focusing on low kicks to the legs he attacked all levels. There were kicks to the body as well as some to the legs and he really showed off his boxing skills. He almost ended early with a devastating right hand that sent Greskiewicz crashing down.

It came off some slick inside work from Malaipet. First he put out a feeler kind of jab that was not intended to land but to distract. At the same time he slipped a jab from Greskiewicz and brought the overhand right up from his hip. Greskiewicz had his weight shifted over on his left foot due to the punch he threw and Malaipet’s punch caught him wide open and vulnerable. When it landed Greskiewicz crumpled to the ground with Malaipet standing with his arms spread wide open.

Greskiewicz stumbled backwards into the ropes when he got back to his feet and somehow gathered himself and finished the fight. Not without taking some serious punishment courtesy of some vicious body kicks from Malaipet. He worked both sides of the body just hammering away at Greskiewicz sides. When they did not land on the body he was battering the arms. Greskiewicz continued to gain respect for his heart as this fight proceeded. He took some brutal body shots and kept coming.

The second started with another vicious body shot to Greskiewicz’s right side who answered back with a couple of solid punches. They did not slow Malaipet down who continued to work all levels and really mixed in all of his weapons. Everything, his movement and strikes all seemed to be just a tick quicker with more snap to them than the previous few fights from Malaipet.

As the third round started one of the questions to be answered was Malaipet’s cardio. In his last two fights Malaipet slowed down in the final three rounds. He fought hard with a lot of heart but he was visibly slower. The first two rounds of this fight had been at a high pace and Greskiewicz had fought better in the second round than the first.

He continued to have some success in the third but Malaipet really looked like a different fighter than the one who had lost two in a row. His cardio was holding strong and he out an emphatic stamp on the round with a thudding dump of Greskiewicz with thirty seconds left in it.

Malaipet caught a right kick from Greskiewicz. He held it as he stepped slightly into Greskiewicz instead of just sweeping the back leg out. Then Malaipet drove Greskiewicz backwards forcing him to hop. As he was resetting himself on his left leg is the moment that Malaipet swept it out while pushing forward and down with his upper body and holding onto the leg. This put Greskiewicz’ body parallel to the ground. Then Malaipet released him shooting him down audibly and causing Greskiewicz to bounce a little as he landed square on his back.

When the action resumed, Greskiewicz’s reward for his toughness was another thudding kick to the left side of his body. There were very visible red marks on Greskiewicz’s sides. They were starting to resemble the sides of beef from the Rocky movies.

The pace slowed down a little in the third and Greskiewicz had his best round of the fight. He was able to open a cut near Malaipet’s right eye but he also ate some vicious kicks to the body. They fought back and forth in the final twenty seconds of the round. It was close and could have been scored for either fighter.

Going into the final round it was Malaipet’s fight to lose. While Greskiewicz had a good third round he never really had Malaipet in trouble. Yes a KO was possible but it was very very unlikely.

The round played out with Greskiewicz searching for an opening that was not there. When he did land a strike or two he just did not have the power to hurt Malaipet at this point in the fight. What power he might have brought into the fight had been sapped from him by Malaipet’s bodywork.

The future 

Greskiewicz fought hard with a lot of heart but he was just overmatched by the rejuvenated Malaipet. The reunion with his trainer and rededication to his training produced a classic performance from the legendary Malaipet. Instead of retirement talk I think we could be looking at a rematch with Pinca for the title later this year. It was something special to see Malaipet show the world that he still is one of the best fighters in world right now and not just in our memories.

This was exactly the kind of fight that Malaipet would take lightly in the past. One against an opponent he had already easily beaten. Instead of training lightly he pushed himself harder than he had in years and it showed in his performance in the ring.

A fighter like Malaipet with his skill and knowledge can beat a lot of fighters without being at his best. That is a trap that a fighter can easily fall into. With each win it easy to continue to justify working less and then you meet an unknown like Oblonsky who is talented. Suddenly a fight you could and should win slips away from you it is easy to question yourself or just retire at that point. The hard thing to do is to find away after 25 years to refocus yourself on the daily grind. To do all the little things. That is exactly what Malaipet did as he returned to the basics and his roots. What he found was a warrior still inside with a few more fights left in him.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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