|The bell rang, muffled by the din of the crowd. Jericho thought about his first fight, age 12, at Kings Boxing Gym in Oakland. Home of champions, at least one champion, since Andre Ward had come out of there and started climbing the ranks. Jericho remembered his first steps up those same stairs.
He lurched from his corner toward the center of the ring, straight at Najo, who was rushing at him with equal force. The fighters collided, propelling them both backward. Najo was tough, heavier than Jericho, a light heavyweight, and Jericho was still a super middleweight. But Jericho had a longer reach.
He’d always had a longer reach, longer than his grasp, one of his trainers used to tell him. Jericho had never been sure what that meant. But now he used that reach to poke a quick left jab through Najo’s defenses. Najo’s head snapped back. He stared at Jericho, then bore in with a furious volley of jabs and hooks.
Jericho had taken punishment before -- he was famous for it. It was his ticket out of East Oakland, and it had gotten him to Caesar’s in Vegas for a fight against Sinbad the Sailor Vasquez. If Jericho had gotten past the Sailor, the promoter said Madison Square Garden was next.
Jericho covered, while Najo pounded away. Then, an opening. Najo dropped his left, catching his breath, just an instant, and Jericho powered in with a right cross, on the button. Fast right, his biggest weapon. Najo crumpled to the canvas, and he wasn’t getting up.
The ref waved it over. The crowd filled the air with thunder, a sea of blue shirts. In the ring bedlam, Jericho’s trainer screamed into his ear, “You did it , Kid! You’re the king of San Quentin!”
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