An Aging Boxer Attempts to Hold Himself Together For One Last Fight
The bell rings signaling the start of round 15 and I stumble back to my feet. The rests seem to get shorter and shorter as the match progresses. This time it seemed like I had just sat down. My mind had barely registered the advice my trainers had given me as they were cleaning me off... something about guarding my left side.
My body had taken a lot of punishment in the previous 14 rounds. My opponent had gotten in a lot of hits. I wasn't going to win this one on points. It didn't matter anyway. The two of us had agreed that this match would be ended by Knock Out. This was a sold out event. Promoters had dubbed this fight the "Brawl to End It All". James Sampson's last chance to regain the title.
My vision is blurry as I stagger towards the center of the ring where my opponent Miles De Santos aka the "Sandman" is there to meet me. He quickly delivers a flurry of blows. My arms go up instinctively protecting my face from oncoming hits. I feel a set of sharp pains in my ribs as a series of punches connect with them first on my left side and then on my right. I jab out with my left hand only connecting with air as he tilts his head to evade the blow. I swing out with my right hand once again unsuccessfully managing to land the hit.
There is a copper taste in my mouth as his right hook connects with my jaw. My lip is bleeding.
De Santos' fighting record is 27 - 0. He made his way though the circuit boxing at local gyms eventually claiming the featherweight championship; a title he's held for over a year now.
3 years ago I could have probably taken him easily. 5 years I would have done so without breaking a sweat. Now however my timing is off. My punches are sluggish and they don't pack the power that they once did.
Everyone knows that my best days in the ring were behind me. I'm no longer the top dog in my field. I doubt I would crack the top 20. The odds bookies set on me winning this match were 10 to one. I have no illusion that I'm coming out on top. I had officially retired from boxing a year ago but the temptation of getting another shot at the championship just proved too tempting to resist. I knew the reason De Santos's team arranged this fight. While my name was still recognizable in the boxing world the challenge to him was low risk. It will sell well when adding another achievement in the Sandman's stint as champ.
Whop!!! Another hit to my midsection knocks the wind out of me. I cough as I feel my lungs burn.
My body feels almost numb at this point. I stumble back leaning against the rope. I'm tapped out. Even lifting my arms to guard is exhausting at this point. So tired....
Whop! Whop! Whop!!
My arm wraps around the rope trying to hold myself but the urge to rest is too strong. Before I realize it I'm on my knees. My mind is a jumble of pain and exhaustion. I can't tell if I'm on the floor because he put me there or I had intentionally went there for a moment of piece. Regardless I find myself taking a count.
One second ...
Two seconds. This is it... the end of my career. By round 10 I had decided that win or lose...I'm done with boxing after this.
Three seconds. Is this how I'm going out?
Four seconds. I hear the crowd around me. They're jeering.Will this be the last moment that they get to see of me? A washed up Boxer... A shadow of his former glory...
Five seconds... I can't let it end like this.
Six seconds... I can't let it end like this!!!!!!
I lift myself up. The palm of my glove pushing off of the ground. In the corner of my vision, I see the ref move back giving us space. My eyes lock with my opponent. For a second my vision clears as I focus on him. In that moment it just seems like the two of us are there... no ref and no spectators. As he closes in resuming the fight, my arm goes up in an uppercut. I catch him off guard. My fist connects with his chin. One fluid motion.
He falls and slumps against the mat... his eyes shut. I put everything I had left into that punch.
Suddenly the room is filled with people again. I hear the cheers of the audience around me. The ref is counting down De Santos. Is he out? I'm too exhausted to confirm it. Whatever adrenaline I had mustered is gone. The thrill of the fight and desire to preserve my legacy disappeared along with my energy. I just feel empty now. I collapse against the mat tired and worn out. I close my eyes as everything goes black...