By John Clise
You’re a light heavyweight in the battle of your life against a heavyweight bruiser. Your legs feel like lead. Your feet are like bricks. Your arms are like tree trunks. Your vision is blurry. You’re cut over and under your eye.
Standing in between the ninth and tenth round you hear your corner man yelling instructions but you can’t really hear a word he says because there’s a freight training running through your brain, but you shake your head yes anyway.
The crowd has grown quiet either in in disbelief you’ve lasted this long or mad as hell you didn’t get your head torn off in the second round, or have yet to be carried out on a stretcher to a certain death. You don’t know if you can keep going, but you know you can’t stop. The bell rings for the next round.
You drag yourself to the center of the ring. One hundred and seventy four pounds at the first bell, your 221 pound battle foe tells you to “just go down.” “I can’t,” is all you say. You see a look of disbelief and defeat in his eyes. His spirit is broken, but that’s all you have left. Spirit and heart.
He’s eight inches taller than you. One last stand to end this thing one way or the other. Him or you. It doesn’t matter any longer. Even if you get knocked out you still win. No one ever lasted this long with the champ before. No one your size ever got out of the first round. Or the first minute.
With all you have left you begin an assault of his rib cage. Lefts and rights. Like a fly at a family picnic. There and gone, there and gone, there and gone. He throws lefts and rights wildly missing anything including you.
You throw a hard left, hear a crack and he winces with pain hard dropping his hands to protect his ribs. There it is. Unprotected. His big pointy chin. Wide open. His eyes spring wide open as you snap a devastating left, with everything you have left, catching the tip of his chin. All you see are the whites of his eyes as his head snaps back as he begins to waiver like a mighty oak tree under the weight of a storm it can no longer stop. You step back as his legs fold under him. He crashes to the blood-stained canvas. He is motionless as you stand there with your heart racing. The referee begins to count one, two, three, four, five, the crowd is erupting in equal parts anger, rage, shock, laughter, six, seven, and he waives his hands… the fight is over.
Your vision is blurred by sweat, tears, blood, blows to the head. You stand there for a second or two, though it seems like an eternity. You’re more overjoyed that is over than you are you have won the fight.
Your mouth is swimming with your own blood as you spit leaving your own autograph on the canvas as hundreds of other fighters have done. You hold your hands out so your corner can cut your gloves off. No one says a word. The crowd is still screaming, throwing cups and anything else they can get their hands on. You just stand there.
Your opponent is still out cold on the canvas being tended to by his corner and EMTs. You take a clean towel from your corner and hand it down to his cutman. He looks up and takes it, shaking his head in approval of your gesture.
You stand there still bleeding with a freight train running through the middle of your head wondering what you really won as your are awarded a championship belt by the referee and the ring announcer. “No one expected this outcome,” the announcer screeches into the microphone lifting your arm over head. Followed by “Nasty Nation in the house tonight.”
You walked to the ring alone. A solitary man on a journey that seemed to be predestined. You left the ring with with a championship belt, and an entourage of security to protect from the crowd of angry fans who wanted your blood spilled.
You wake up the next morning. One eye still swollen shut. Stitches over and under the other. Same freight train running through the middle of your head. Same question rattling though your brain as you see the belt hanging over a chair in your two room apartment. You won the fight, but what did you really win.