So I’ve got these two things on my list that I’m working towards and really it’s things that I can’t do alone and that’s the ability to spar with anyone (excluding pro level amateurs).
That requires honing my ringcraft and I can only do that with a coach and partners.
I wanted to write about this because one day I want to look back on this and remember how I felt versus how it actually went… if I make it that far.
In my mind’s eye I’m alone out there. Some small-time amateur night in an unspectacular, small-time hall with a few tables, chairs, the judges and the referee. A venue that’s more “spit and sawdust” than bright lights and dry ice.
I’m alone. Utterly alone out there on the canvas. Gary (my trainer) is a professionally licensed boxing coach and therefore he isn’t allowed to be in my “corner” for an amateur fight. It doesn’t matter that he has two professional boxers under his wing. This isn’t a professional fight. No, he’s sat out in the bleachers with his camera phone – probably hoping I remember the advice he’s given me.
I can’t picture in my head who would be there in my corner and maybe I don’t want anyone I know seeing what’s about to happen. Not yet, anyway.
The guy I’m fighting is only twenty-two years old. I don’t know him but he’s over 15 years younger than me. All piss, fire and vinegar. The second that bell sounds he’ll come right at me with the explosive force of youth that can only come from being that young. The same explosive energy that turns from an ocean into a tiny well, once you’re older, like me. The type of energy that isn’t my domain to conjure at will any longer.
I’m nervous. The referee looks at my face. There’s some mild, perfectly feigned recognition in his eyes. Yeah sure it’s me. There’s no other Chinese-looking boxer in this building I’m pretty sure of it.
I’m almost distracted for a second when someone anonymous helps me with my face guard. I feel the velcro fasten tight at the back. Anonymous pats me on the shoulder. “You’re good pal.”
I beat the forehead of my face guard three times to make sure it’s secure. I look at Anonymous and nod my thanks. I glance up at the bleachers looking for my trainer, Gary. Hmmm where, where, where?
There he is.
…3rd row up,
…a few seats to the right.
I clench my jaw and wink at him. He probably didn’t see that but it’s something I would only do if I’m nervous.
I look back round and feel the referee’s fingers touch my chin. He wants to see my gum shield. I open my mouth and bar my teeth at him. It’s legal. No red colour.
I stretch my neck to my shoulders, left and then right. A ritual I only do when I’m being serious. The ref waves us both over. I walk over trying to keep my shoulders loose. The referee starts to talk but I only make out a few words as the kid I’m fighting’s trying to stare me down and I just stare back through him. In the end all I catch is “fight clean and touch gloves” and we do. A quick tap.
I walk to my corner, grab the ropes, squat once and cross myself. Not because I want help from God but because somehow I’ve found my way to the canvas of this hall.
I barely hear the bell but I come forward wanting to claim some space early. No roar of the mob behind us, just a few loud whistles to break the silence of a nondescript hall.
The kid comes right at me. Fuck! I was just kidding earlier. I came wanting to box but the kid really wants to brawl and trade.
I’m old but I’m not stupid kid.
I pivot hard right and my old feet obey, if only, for the time being.
A pity I could never move that well on a five-aside pitch. Probably would have tripped over myself. I shoot out a combination to his chin that would have sent the kid’s gum shield flying onto the first judge’s crotch. – That might have actually happened if I was entering an amateur fight and the kid mistook this as a pie eating contest but Kid adjusts his feet, fast and his head slips perfectly. My jabs glance harmlessly away. I curse through my gum shield. I wanted to knock him down in under thirty seconds but if I was that slick I’d be fighting in the MGM Grand. Instead I’m fighting in a hall where the men’s toilets look like they were oft Christened by a nightly blowjob, a line of coke and a diarrhetic mule.
I’m horrified temporarily. The kid’s younger, faster and that’s all that’s barely registering through my head as he begins to throw down again. Kid lands a couple of blows that were worthy of three points apiece on a basketball court. All I can do is keep moving. Protect myself where I can and fire back where I’m able. The three rounds feel like twelve but when the bell sounds I don’t feel anything but relief. I offer Kid an outstretched glove which he punches. He pats me on the back with his other glove and as he nods I see he’s as tired as I am.
I return to my corner and spit out my gum shield, tear off my glove and grab the water relieved I can drink greedily instead of sparingly. I catch Kid’s eye and nod at him one last time. For just a few seconds I forget we’re on the score cards and we look at each other. This is us, Kid. All us.
“The Kid” is the first piece of short fiction I’ve written in a long time. It started out as a favourite daydream of mine.