andrews boxing story


I had him. No way he should've made it past the first round.
The name's Andrew Jakes, and I'm a fighter out of Rusty's Gym on the east side. Rusty's a good guy, an amateur who never went pro even though he knocked out most of his opponents before the third round. Only one guy ever beat him, and that only happened once. That guy--Arch Dobbs--runs a gym on the west side. These guys fought four times in the amateurs. Rusty floored Arch once, Arch returned the favor, and they closed the official record with a pair of draws. A little unfinished business, you might say.
About three months ago, we had our first gym-to-gym match against Arch and his stable. Well, I wasn't there, but I sure heard about it. Rusty hosted at our gym, but the event was "participants only." Each gym chose four fighters--three predetermined weight classes and one wild card match. Rusty and the guys brought it home but good, winning all four fights.
I come into this three months later. When I heard the guys talking about the next match, I went to Rusty and begged for the wild card bout. That should tell you a little about me--I'll step up against pretty much anybody, and I can get pretty stupid about it sometimes. Rusty looks out for me and tries to keep me from any insane match-ups, but he gave me this one. I got the wild card. Arch hosted this time, and I carpooled over with the other fighters. Rusty drove over by himself.
We didn't do too well this time. Only one guy, a middleweight named Chuck, even had a chance, and he won on a split decision. By the time we got to the wild card bout, I was our best shot for some kind of honor. Fine by me.
Then I saw my opponent, Stone Bradford. About 5'10" and a solid 165, maybe 175 pounds of ripped muscle, lean and hungry. Thick in the chest, wide in the shoulders, strong in the arms, thin but sturdy legs. No problem. I had him by twenty, twenty-five pounds. Where he was big, I was bigger. I could've had trouble with a true heavyweight, 'cause I like to slug on the inside. I could've had trouble matching the speed of somebody lighter. But this guy...just right. Plus I could see fear in his eyes as soon as Rusty removed my robe. Money in the bank.
He came out like I knew he would, scared to get close, jabs too tentative to scare my grandmother. I made him pay. When his right missed, he ate a left. When his left grazed past my chin, bringing a cool breeze and nothing else, I slammed a right to his jaw. After a minute or so of this kind of punishment, his hands went up the way I knew they would. I moved in and started tossing hooks and uppercuts to his brick-hard abs. He offered no real defense, no resistance. I threw punches from every angle, thumping each ab muscle, pounding his kidneys, drilling his solar plexus, even bouncing a few hits close to the belt. With each hit, I sensed the muscles giving way, and I heard his breathing growing labored and shallow. Only a matter of time. Finally, he tucked his elbows next to his ribs and leaned over a little. I tossed an uppercut right down the middle, rocking his head back, then followed with a series of rights and lefts. When his back hit his own corner, he tried to duck under to escape to the right, but he met my left. He fell back into the corner, his hands too low to guard his face, too wide to protect his gut. I pulled back a step to have enough leverage to deliver the final right...and the bell rang. Stone slumped downward, and Arch barely got the stool underneath him in time.
I strutted back to my corner. Rusty didn't have much to say between the rounds. Just, "You took too long. You should've had him."
"I'll get him. First thirty seconds of round two."
"Famous last words."
Just before the bell rang, Stone was on his feet, banging his gloves together. All the fear had vanished from his eyes, replaced by...anger? No, not anger. Some kind of urgency, as if he wanted to end the whole thing right now. Fine, I thought, bring it on.
The bell rang.
We both came out like freight trains, each hoping to use the momentum of the rush to raise the power of the first punch. I threw a right hook. He ducked under it and brought a punch up from the canvas. I couldn't tell you what he threw. Later, the guys told me it was a left with phenomenally bad intentions.
I saw stars. THUMP! More stars. THUMP! I came clear long enough to realize I'd moved a few feet to my right. THUMP! Then I was facing a different direction, uncertain where I was anymore. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! At one point I remember feeling the ropes against my back. After that, the punches came fast, too fast for me to get clear between the hits. Next thing I know, I'm on the floor, trying to sit up. Rusty's holding me down, saying, "Easy, Andy. Just stay there. It's over."
So I'd blown it, and we'd lost the match. Bumps Murphy, our corner man, got me back to the locker room and left me there. The other guys had already showered and gone out to the car. Seems they knew what I knew--Rusty wanted time to chew me out alone. I sat there, my back to the lockers, replaying the fight in my head, finding that one moment of hesitation at the end of the first round. Then I realized Rusty was standing in front of me, his hands on his hips.
"Don't say you're sorry. Sorry won't cut it. Leading with a right hook? What, did you want to get hit?"
"No." Something about his eyes scared me, and I sat up straight. Just then I realized Bumps hadn't taken off my gloves.
"SHUT UP!" Rusty shouted. He'd yelled at me before, but nothing like this. This was pure rage. "You know why I quit, why I didn't go pro? I liked it too much. Not fighting. Getting hit. That moment of disconnect--it's a drug to some guys, and I'm one of 'em. So I got out. What about you? You like getting hit?"
"You sure about that? Stand up. STAND UP!" The tone of his voice threw me, and I jumped to my feet. Rusty got up in my face. "I think you like it. I think you should quit. From what I saw out there, that's what I think."
"Look, I'm sorry I lost, but--"
"SHUT UP!" Rusty slapped me hard. Without even thinking about it, I threw a punch. My right cross connected solid, sending him back against the wall. His head went back with enough force to thud against the bricks. Rusty's eyes glazed over a little, and he started to fall forward. I caught him under the arms and tried to move him to the bench. His hands clasped my shoulders, and his feet braced to prevent me moving him. He kept his cheek against mine and whispered into my ear, "Hit my gut one time. Just once. C'mon."
Rusty quit fighting about five years ago, about a year after he'd opened the gym. He's not as trim as he used to be, but he's kept in pretty good shape. He abs weren't nearly as ripped as Stone's were. They weren't all that pronouced, really, but you could still see them molding creases into the light layer of fat over the muscle. Nowhere near as hard as he used to be, but not exactly atrophied.
He whispered again, "Just one time." He dug his fingernails into my shoulders.
So I hit him. Not my best punch, but a good one. He hadn't flexed his abs much, so the punch went deep. His breath rushed past my ear, and he groaned a little. "That's my boy," he sad. He released my shoulders, reached up, and held my face in his hands. He looked straight at me, right into my eyes, and then he kissed me full on the mouth, long and hard. I guess the whole thing threw me a little, and he took control. He turned us so that my back was against the wall. Then he lifted my right hand and caressed his face with my glove. He came in close and pressed his hips forward, his hard sex pressing against the clothing that separated us. He held me like that for a while, pressing his hips forward and back. He shuddered, then pulled away, the damp spot on his crotch and the slight musky smell in the air providing the only evidence of our encounter.
"We'll work on your combinations. You want to throw a right hook, fine, but you have to set it up. You got a ride back?"
I nodded. What could I possibly say now?
"Good. I'm taking a couple of weeks off. You keep to the basics until then. When I get back, we've got work to do. I'll get Bumps back in here to get the gloves off. You should see the Doc again tomorrow, but he's not worried." He turned and started to walk towards the door that lead to the gym.
I felt I should say something, if only to prove I could still speak. "Rusty?" He stopped and turned back to wait for what I had to say. What did I come up with? "You o.k.?" Brilliance.
Rusty smiled. "Yeah. I gotta stick around and pay off the bet." He turned away and left me there.
Weirdest night of my life. Bar none.

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