Rages Raging Fight Story
Arch and Rusty
had made plans to cover their own fight if the third match between their gyms
went to a draw. They would trade punches in the pattern established by the
match. Since Arch's boys had taken the first two and Rusty's guys had taken the
last, the pattern was set at two shots per man, starting with Arch. They'd stand
center ring, toe-to-toe, repeating that pattern until one of them went down.
But the night had contained a few surprises. Rusty would have to check on Rick Logan at the hospital tonight. The bantamweight was still just a kid at 15, but he'd really pushed to be a part of the match. Arch and Rusty had kept the weights heavier for the first two matches--most of the guys under featherweight at Rusty's gym were high school kids, and most of their parents wouldn't have agreed to let their son fight in this kind of competition. But Rick had trusted Rusty, and so had Rick's father. Arch had even agreed to let the kid's father watch the match, an event otherwise restricted to its participants. Logan hadn't lost outright--but he'd passed out just before the second round. This weighs heavy on Rusty's mind as he gloves up for his fight with Arch.
Arch has no such baggage, but there's still some surprise for him. TJ, Phil Martin's gutpunching bag, is still unconscious in a heap next to the ropes on one side of the ring...and he's still naked except for the thin gloves Phil had provided as an illusion of a defense. Phil and Bumps Murphy are back in the lockers, as a grunt or a smacking sound indicates from time to time. Arch and Rusty have both gloved up now, but, since TJ isn't in the center of the ring, he shouldn't be in the way. At worst, it's all just a little weird.
"You ready?" asks Rusty.
Arch's first two shots are both straight lefts, and they land with enough force to knock Rusty back a step or two. Rusty answers with a left cross and a straight right, but his heart isn't in it--he's feeling too much guilt over Rick. Arch throws a left cross and follows it with a right uppercut. Rusty watches the punches coming and leans into them, trying to increase the impact of the blow. He wants to be hurt, to be punished. Arch's punches do rock Rusty's head, but the "disconnect" doesn't follow. Rusty targets Arch's jaw with two right hooks, but he doesn't really follow through.
Arch steps back. "You swattin' flies or what? Stop pulling punches."
Rusty shrugs. "I'm ok. Let's go."
"The kid's gonna be all right. The Doc said so. Just dehydration."
"Just hit me, ok?"
Arch goes to the body, two uppercuts to Rusty's solar plexus. Rusty trained hard for this one, melting the few extra pounds from his gut until it hardened into rock. Arch's shots should cause more pain than they do, but Rusty barely feels more than impact. On the other hand, Arch let himself go a little since last time. A slight layer of fat blurs his formerly ripped abs. Rusty throws a couple of shots just above the navel. Arch grunts both times. Arch repeats the double uppercut to Rusty's gut, but the lack of effect is the same. Rusty digs a left hook just beneath Arch's ribs, then evens the attack with a right hook to the other side. Arch is into it now. He's already breathing hard, but Rusty's barely broken a sweat. Arch throws another pair of punches into Rusty's gut, then braces himself for the attack.
Somehow all of Rusty's guilt turns to anger. Arch has been slacking off. The punches don't hurt, not the way they used to. Suddenly it's Arch's fault that Rick passed out, Arch is the one delaying the hospital visit, Arch is the one who needs this crap. If Arch went soft to lose faster, then Rusty's willing to oblige. He rockets a pair of uppercuts into the softest looking part of Arch's gut, that puffy layer just at the beltline. Arch crumples a little, smiling yet wincing at the same time. Rusty waits for the moment when Arch lets his abs loosen. When he does, Rusty goes on hard attack. Rusty starts with that softened gut, whomping four, five, six solid shots just above the navel, visualizing his gloves cutting through muscles and organs. Arch tries to cover up, so Rusty goes upstairs. Three straight lefts and a right hook to the jaw, then two more hooks, left and right. Arch's smile is gone now. Rusty backs him into a corner, pounding the gym owner's face with power shots. Arch tries to raise his guard, but Rusty fires right between the gloves. With a final barrage of five alternating hooks, Rusty unleashes a warcry, a single note of fury that ends with the final blow. Arch slumps to the canvas, his back to the corner, his head dangling to the right, his legs splayed out. Rusty steps back, glowing with sweat and breathing deeply. It isn't enough. Not yet. He wants Arch on his feet, but Arch is clearly out.
"Is he gonna be all right?"
Rusty turns towards the voice in the opposite corner. TJ stands there now, still gloved and nude. He feels Rusty's anger as soon as they lock eyes. TJ raises his gloves into high guard. That's all the cue Rusty needs. They launch across the ring towards each other, but TJ doesn't come gut first as he had with Phil Martin. He's protecting himself this time...or trying to. Against other fighters Rusty's weight, TJ might have a shot. At 180, TJ has about ten pounds on Rusty, so a powershot showdown might favor the larger man. But TJ's already been knocked out once tonight. As for Rusty, there's no longer any specific guilt or anger fueling his attack, just white hot fury looking for a target--he's out of control.
They meet in the center of the ring, but TJ lands the first blow--a solid right hook. Rusty seems a bit dazed, so TJ fires up a right uppercut. Rusty slips the punch and hammers a left hook into TJ's aching abs. This robs the larger man's wind, but he's not finished yet. TJ throws a straight left that misses, then a right cross that hits and forces Rusty back a step. There it is, the "disconnect" that Rusty's addicted to, that moment of white light when the brain can't register the pain. Before Rusty gets clear, TJ throws another right, rocking the smaller man back against the ropes and farther into the "disconnect." Then TJ makes his mistake--he attacks Rusty's gut, winging uppercuts into the center ridge. Rusty's head clears, and his fury revives. Before TJ knows what's coming, Rusty clips his foe's chin with a fierce left hook. TJ actually spins about a quarter of a turn, away from facing the ropes and Rusty. Rusty repeats the left hook again and again until TJ completes the turn and has his back to the ropes. Rusty then fires three straight rights, each of them pushing TJ back, each connecting as TJ bounces off the ropes. Rusty finishes with six uppercuts to the jaw. On the fourth one, TJ starts to slump as Arch had, so the final blows lift him up to prevent his fall. Just after the sixth uppercut, Rusty feels a sharp blow to his lower back. He lets TJ fall and starts to turn to face his new challenger, but a strong forearm pushes him into a corner and holds him there.
From that corner, Rusty can see Arch just now coming back into consciousness. Bumps is at ringside, talking to Arch and holding him in the corner with one arm around the gym owner's waist. The guy behind Rusty has to be Phil Martin. Since Rusty had watched both fights between the cornermen, he realizes the danger he's in. Phil wouldn't mind fighting dirty--he'd aim for the groin or the back of the head. If Rusty keeps fighting, the "disconnect" would probably come again, possibly with some severe injury.
Bumps is trying to prevent that now. He calls out to Phil, "Just hold him there until he calms down!"
Phil fires a couple more shots into Rusty's lower back. Rusty doesn't have to see Phil's fists to know the cornerman has no gloves on. The knuckles dig deep, the smack of flesh on flesh is clear and loud. This wasn't over. Not yet. But the trick would be to act as if it were.
Phil pounds Rusty's back again, a little harder this time. Rusty goes limp, allows his knees to buckle, and leans into the corner. He looks down to check the position of Phil's feet. At first Phil doesn't buy it--his left forearm stays rigid against Rusty's upper back. Rusty breathes heavy, but he doesn't move. Phil decides it's for real and releaves the pressure, but he doesn't step back.
Rusty throws his head back, thumping the back of his skull against Phil's nose. He pushes himself out of the corner, knocking Phil off balance as they head backwards together. They fall over TJ and tumble to the canvas. Rusty lands on top of Phil, literally sitting as he lands on Phil's gut. Phil grunts deep when they land. Neither man is much of a grappler, so they're both looking to be the first up, at least not to lag behind and get hit from a superior position. Rusty doesn't press his luck--he rolls to his left, away from TJ and towards the center of the ring. He scrambles to his feet. When he turns to face Phil, he sees the cornerman's bloody nose. He lets out another warcry and bolts across the ring.
Phil meets him with equal force. Both men launch straight shots to the chin, but Phil's arrives first. Rusty goes blank for a few seconds, but it's enough time for Phil to wrap his left arm around Rusty's neck and pull him into a headlock. Rusty's clear as Phil digs his fingernails into the flesh above Rusty's left eye. Phil draws blood and then punches the wound to force it open. Going on instinct now, Rusty hooks his right arm between Phil's legs and lifts him into the air. Phil's panic forces him to release the headlock, and Rusty throws him to the canvas. This knocks the wind out of Phil for a moment, so Rusty finally has a few seconds to plan the rest of the fight. With blood getting into his eye, Rusty knows he'll be vulnerable when Phil resumes his attack. Time to fight Phil's fight fully. Time to end it quickly. Phil is almost on his feet now. Rusty gets to him fast, digging an uppercut into Phil's crotch and causing him to collapse again, his right hand still gripping the middle ring rope. When Phil starts to pull himself up, Rusty hits him with a left uppercut to lift the jaw, then a right hook--the same combination that had finished TJ earlier. Rusty hits Phil with three more rights. Phil's grip on the rope breaks, and his eyes roll back into his head. He's out cold.
Rusty hovers over Phil, his right fist poised for another blow. When it's clear that Phil is out, Rusty stands up straight. He turns to his right, the blood obscuring the vision in his left eye. TJ is still out, his cock erect from the fresh beating. Arch is still groggy, still sitting in a far corner. Bumps still holds him there.
"You done now? I ain't gonna come in the ring if you ain't done." Bumps meets Rusty's glare with calm, steady eyes.
It's over. Finally over. Breath comes in deep gulps, some of the gasps catching in the throat. Without a target for his fists, Rusty's anger fades, dissipates. All that's left is the hangdog shame of a schoolboy. He feels tight in his throat and warm around the eyes, but neither Rusty nor Bumps would call it crying. Breaths become sobs, but not for long. Rusty lowers his gloves to his sides. Calmer now, he lets his chin lower as well.
Bumps releases his hold on Arch. He pushes a couple of stools through the ropes. Without speaking, Rusty goes to the nearest stool and sits there, hunched over. Bumps slides his kit into the ring, then ducks through the ropes. He works on Rusty's cut. It's deep enough for a stitch or two, but the coagulant should work until Bumps can get the Doc's opinion. That's the worst of it. Arch will be fine--he's already on his feet and tending to TJ. Bumps takes the other stool and gets TJ into it. The guy's pretty tough to take two beatings in one night and still get clear that easy, but that seems to be the case. By the time it's Phil's turn, Rusty has already moved the stool next to the fallen cornerman. Phil has yet to move. The nose has stopped bleeding, a few drops fresh on the canvas, the rest drying on the face. He's breathing fine. Bumps checks Phil's eyes, and Phil groans. Bumps tends to him gently, using a damp cloth to dab at the drying blood. Slowly, Phil comes around. He'll be all right, too, as long as he stays prone for a few minutes. The Doc has some work to do.
As Bumps heads back to the Doc's office, he realizes Rusty's following him. Since Rusty's cut is the worst damage, the Doc should check him first anyway. The coagulant is holding, but he shouldn't wait long for the stitches he really needs. "Get him to Mercy General. I'll call ahead so they know what's coming. Second call tonight."
Rusty asks, "How's Ricky?"
The Doc speaks as he starts to leave, not even making eye contact. "He's fine. They'll keep him overnight on fluids, try to rehydrate the kid. Should've seen that one coming. No kid at 15 should drop that much weight that fast." And the Doc is out the door.
Bumps starts to leave, too. "And don't call him Ricky. He's Rick now, remember? He'll kick your ass if you call him Ricky." Bumps laughs a little, recalling the whole gym's response to Rick's threat. At the door, Bumps looks back over his shoulder, but Rusty hasn't moved. Bumps waits.
Rusty doesn't even look up. "Maybe he should kick my ass."
"Nobody blames you but you...and maybe the Doc."
"I know. So does Rick. C'mon."
Rusty nods. Maybe he'll end up in a room near Rick. Maybe he'll get a chance to apologize tonight. Maybe he'll let Rick smack him around with a bedpan.
No. He owes the kid, sure. Should've watched him closer, maybe focused a little less on Jakes and Jeffries. Gotta pay up on this one. Starting tonight.
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