You can’t play boxing

He was breathing hard as he returned to his corner. The stool was out, so was Arnold and he didn’t look happy. Arnold took his monthpiece and passed it to Tony. It had blood on it, his blood. He sank to the stool weakened by the ordeal, but the shock of the cold water Arnold was pouring over his head revived him.

Arnold wiped his face with the towel then gave him a drink. He wanted to guzzle, but Arnold pulled it away and told him to spit, he did.

“Look at it” Arnold demanded as Tony applied the enswell against the small mouse beginning to rise in the corner of his eye.

“That’s your blood son, what are you going to do about it?” Leaving no opportunity to reply Arnold continued. “You didn’t look too damn fleet out there. You’re behind on everyone’s card. You got one more round, 3 minutes and unless you get your shit together and take this guy out, the dream dies here.” The 133 amateur fights, the Gold medal at the Olympics, the 19 – 0 pro record, all gone and you’re just another statistic.

You sparred 200 rounds for this fight ran 5 miles a day for 90 days and you’re letting him take it away. Your fight is in the middle of the ring. Stick and move, punch in combination, straight right hands, he’s leaning in, use the upper cut, then hook when his head comes up and you’re the next middle weight champion of the world, don’t and you’re not. So what’s it going to be Billy?

“I can’t get him off me” he complained.

“Of course you can, move your feet, be fleet. Just step off, don’t be in front of him cuz he’s just standing there right in front of you. He’s going to come running across that ring at the sound of the bell, step off and let him run by. He’ll pivot and throw that looping right hand. Get under it, come up with the upper cut and hook back. That’s all there is Billy, but you gotta do it. You got lots of gas left in those legs.” And as if to emphasize his point Arnold slapped him hard on his thigh, it stung. He was awake now.

While Tony finished working on the cut over the other eye, he felt Arnold’s big soft hands wipe the last of the Vaseline across his face. He looked into the eyes of the old man who had coached him his whole life and he saw the faith.

“I’ll do it, Arnold, I’ll do it” he promised.

Arnold smiled as he pushed the mouthpiece back into his mouth “OK Fleet Billy Jones, be fleet, give yourself room to punch, punch in combination, be the bully and don’t back up!”

He stood and began to bounce, Arnold was right, there was lots left in the legs. He saw the swollen face of the Russian across the ring. He put his hand up waving at the Russian to come, for this was his time, the time of a new champion.

The bell sounded and as Arnold predicted, the Russian ran across the ring. He had only taken two steps forward before the Russian was in his face. He stepped off to the right letting the Russian run by. The looping punch was there, Billy was under it, his right landed on the button and he hooked back with the left. The Russian stumbled as Billy felt the knuckle of his left hand break. No time to worry as he threw the right straight down the pipe. The Russian staggered and the swelling over the eye broke open. Billy was on him, slapping with the left, the pain was excruciating, and then the right driving the Russian back against the ropes. Billy moved in for the close. He saw the desperation on the Russians face, but not the wild left that caught him on the top of the head.

He stumbled back from the impact and his legs went dead. He tried to bounce, but nothing happened. He swung back with the broken left hand catching the Russian on the jaw knocking him to the floor. He backed away praying he wouldn’t get up. He watched as the Russian rolled over and reached for the ropes to pull himself up.

“OK, suck it up, don’t wait. No matter what, he can’t come forward, back him up” he told himself.

The referee waved them back in. His legs had recovered and immediately he began his assault. Each jab hurt like hell, and again the Russian swung wildly leaning in to attack. Billy was under it and up came his right. The Russians head popped up, he hooked with the left, stepped back and watched his opponent fall to the floor. Billy knew he wouldn’t be getting up as the referee waved his arms over his fallen opponent.

He ran to the opposite corner jumping to the ropes waving wildly. He was the new middleweight champion of the world. He turned to see Arnold running across the ring. He jumped into his arms.

“You’re the champ Billy” was all Arnold said holding him high in those huge arms.

And for Billy, nothing hurt as the referee raised his arm.

A short story by David Hutchison100_0036hobn (4)

davidh@shaw.ca

david@davidsnotebook.com