Mens Street Fight Brawling Story

On a warm, humid evening, Ox moves through his routine on the heavybag, whomping away in a steady rhythm. No one else dares to use the specially reinforced bag Rusty installed for him. The booming sound of his punches is a regular part of the atmosphere at Rusty's gym. Only the newer guys stop to stare at the Russian heavyweight: at his last weigh-in, Ox had tipped the scales at 315. His pale yet weathered skin flushes red, and his skin shines with sweat. He wears his hair close to the scalp on the sides and in the back, but short curls of jet black hair cover the top of his head. He wears a white t-shirt, and it clings to his deeply etched muscles.

Nearby, Rick Logan and Mix Jeffries work the medicine ball, heaving it towards each other's abs. Mix has grown into the higher end of middleweight, and Rick hasn't quite made welterweight, but he's close. But they both owe Ox debts of gratitude. They've both taken a punch in the gut from the big guy, and surviving that has strengthened them immensely. Not too far away, Andy Jakes works the speed bag, and Chuck Henderson works the mitts for Ben Foster. Rusty's keeping an eye on things--he circulates from one area to another. At the moment, no one's in the two rings, but Chuck and Ben are almost ready for a sparring session. Rusty will head over there when they're ready, but Bumps has things in control for now. Just another day.

The door opens, which as always causes most of the guys to check out the new arrival, to size him up if he's competition. The new guy's 6 1/2 feet tall, maybe a little more, but well-muscled, black hair, alabaster skin, eyes intense and dark. He wears black jeans and a black "wife beater." He holds his ground just inside the door as he looks around the gym, psyching out most of the lighter fighters. Most don't hold eye contact--there's something a little too intense about him. It doesn't take long until he sees who he's looking for. He calls out, "Yuri! Yuri Petrovich Malinkov!"

That's when Ox pays attention. Only Rusty knows the full name, and he only uses it for filling out forms prior to fights. Ox looks to see who's yelling, but he knows who it is. "Sergei?"

Nobody but Ox and Sergei understand the conversation that follows. Sergei does most of the talking, and he's speaking Russian (the guys assume it's Russian, since Ox lets out a "nyet" every now and then). The body language is clear. Sergei's angry about something, and his intense focus holds on Ox. He approaches aggressively, chest thrust out, chin jutted forward, hands balled into fists. Ox is harder to read--after the initial surprise, he manages to regain his stoic composure, with only a slight blush to betray his emotions. Ox doesn't back down, so Sergei gets in his face. When they're within inches of each other, their physical differences are obvious: Sergei is taller, but Ox is at least 100 pounds heavier. But Sergei's voice sustains a high, accusatory tone, and the fury in his eyes seems greater as the distance between them decreases.

Then Sergei punches Ox, a solid right hook that sends Ox stumbling back against the heavybags.

Right away, Mix has to hold Rick back. The kid still thinks with his heart--his brain would have told him better. Rusty moves between the Russians, and Andy Jakes isn't far behind. Sergei doesn't look ready to throw another punch, and he's not shouting anymore. Rusty asks Ox, "What's this about? Who is this guy?"

From the moment he regained his footing, Ox has sustained eye contact with Sergei. "He wants to fight."

"Yeah, I got that. Why?"

Ox doesn't answer the question. Instead, he says something to Sergei. In response, Sergei whips off his shirt and heads to the ring. To Rusty, Ox says, "We will spar." As usual, that pretty much settles things--Ox does what he wants. Rusty might call in a favor later, but this decision's a done deal. So Chuck and Ben become cornermen: Ben's with Ox, Chuck's with Sergei. Ox drapes his shirt over the ropes near his corner, then holds out his hands for Ben to wrap them. Chuck's already got Sergei's hands wrapped, and Sergei motions impatiently for the gloves. Rusty ducks under the ropes and into the ring to be ref. He goes to Ox's corner and asks, "How many rounds?"

"Until we finish. No rounds."

"You fighting legit or street?"

"He wants to fight. I say we spar. He say yes. We spar."

That's good enough for Rusty, and it's all Ox is willing to say. Rusty motions for Ben and Chuck to leave the ring. Sergei pays no attention to Rusty: as soon as Ox is gloved up, Sergei strides to the middle of the ring and waits for Ox to join him there. While the gym hasn't exactly stopped, most of the guys are paying attention on some level. The heavyweights in particular show interest in a lighter heavy who has the balls to sucker punch Ox and then accept what looked like a challenge, not an invitation to spar. On top of that, some of the guys are certain that Sergei isn't using a mouthpiece. The idiot must want to get creamed.

The fight starts the way Ox's fights usually do. Ox meets Sergei in the middle of the ring and stands his ground. He puts up a fair defense but mounts no real attack. Sergei's punches start to get through--another right hook, a straight left, an uppercut or two. Ox just absorbs the punishment--and that tree trunk of a neck keeps him almost motionless. Sergei's punches bounce off Ox's chin, their impact likely to do more damage to his hands than to Ox's brain. Sergei moves to Ox's body, that cast-iron gut so many have tried to break down...with no success. Even so, punching those muscled abs, that deeply chiseled grid...there's more satisfaction in it, less potential damage to the hands. But--again--Ox holds his ground. Bigger men than Sergei have failed with this approach. Sergei digs the punches in hard, targeting the center ridge, the lower ribs, the solar plexus. They lean toward each other--Sergei for leverage, Ox to wear his opponent down.

There's no timer clocking them, but this first assault takes a long time. Finally after landing three hard uppercuts just above the navel, Sergei backs off. He holds his arms open, as if begging Ox to throw a punch. In fact, the guys are all pretty sure that's how Sergei's shouts in Russian must tranlate. At any rate, it's clear Sergei isn't satisfied yet. He doesn't want to pound away--he wants a fight. Ox's expression hasn't changed. If this were one of Ox's usual fights, this would be the moment when he'd smile and then finish his opponent off with a few surprisingly fast punches. All the guys know this--so they're all ready for it, especially Rick.

Ox tosses out a couple of slow jabs, and Sergei slips them easily. But the lighter man doesn't counter. He taunts Ox--well, everybody's pretty sure he's taunting Ox, 'cause it's still in Russian, but there's something rude in Sergei's tone. He holds his gloves low and sticks out his chin: Ox tosses a few more jabs, faster but not at his full speed. Sergei gets caught by the third jab, stumbles back a step. But Ox doesn't move in. He lets Sergei recover, then he tosses a few more jabs. The guy's a bit luckier this time--he slips all three jabs--but Ox follows that with a right cross, still slower than usual, probably half his normal power. Not enough to floor the guy, but enough to wobble him a bit, which is what happens. Again, Sergei stumbles back; again, Ox waits for Sergei to recover. No more taunts. Guards go up tight. Sergei's the taller man, the one with the longer reach, so he backs off and circles Ox, flicking jabs. Good strategy, maybe, but not the kind of fight Sergei came in looking for. He moves a little closer, tries to land something behind the jab. Ox counters with a right hook in the gut, doubling Sergei over, almost forcing him down to the canvas. Again, Ox doesn't follow--he lets Sergei recover and return. It's a cat-and-mouse game, really, no way Sergei's going to do any real damage, but he keeps coming. He comes at Ox without jabs now, a fairly quick one-two followed by an uppercut. Ox takes the one-two, steps aside to let the uppercut fly by, then buries another hook into Sergei's ribs. Some of the guys swear they hear a rib break, maybe even two if the punch landed right. The fury that brought Sergei in here seems to dissipate. Tears of frustration start, but he howls them back as he comes in for another assault. His combination is lengthy but slow--two straight lefts followed by a right cross, a left hook to the body, another to the jaw, then a right uppercut. Ox lets all of it land, rolls with the head shots a little. Then Ox responds with a straight right that sends Sergei back into a corner.

Sergei shakes it off and comes forward. Ox smacks him with another right. As Sergei lands in the corner, Ox steps forward. Sergei comes at him again, and Ox greets him with a left hook. Sergei's back in the corner again, and Ox takes another step or two forward. Once more, Sergei comes at Ox, and this time Ox lands a right uppercut to Sergei's gut, making him collapse to the canvas. As Sergei uses the ropes to pull himself up, Ox waits, even closer to the corner. Sergei pushes off the ropes towards Ox, no real attack in it, just throwing himself at his opponent. Ox lands another uppercut, this time to the chin. Sergei flops back into the corner, then starts to fall towards Ox. Ox catches him and holds him up for a moment, but it's pretty clear that Sergei is out. Ox carries Sergei back to the Doc's office, eases him onto the table, hovers while the Doc checks him. Rusty and Bumps follow, get the gear off both of the Russians. Ox's weathered skin looks reddened, but other than that there's no damage. Sergei's a different story--there's a bruise on his left side, blood from his nose, and some swelling that might be a broken jaw.

"No mouthpiece?" Doc asks. Rusty shakes his head. The Doc calls emergency at Mercy General and gives them a heads up.

The gym goes back to its usual rhythms, minus the thunder of Ox working the heavybag. Rick watches from the door of Doc's office, and Mix is just behind him, holding Sergei's black "wife beater." Mix gives it to Rick, and Rick brings it to Ox. The big guy's crying now--big tears following the hard lines of his face, breath catching light and shallow. He takes the shirt from Rick, works it in his hands a bit, then lets it drop to the floor. He puts an ear to Sergei's chest and listens to the heartbeat. While he's listening, Sergei comes to, and they speak quietly now, Ox's big right hand spread out across Sergei's chest. This time Ox does the talking, and Sergei manages to mumble, "Da" a few times. Rick's desperate to understand, so he finally asks the questions Rusty asked earlier. "Ox, who is this guy? What's this all about?"

The big Russian extends his left hand towards Rick. When the kid's close enough, Ox puts his arm around Rick's shoulder. Ox says something to Sergei, and Rick could swear he hears his own name. Then Ox says to Rick, "Is Sergei. Is family. Like you. Family."

Ox doesn't offer anything more. Rick just has more questions, but he knows it's pointless to ask. When Ox wants him to know, he'll say something.

Sergei holds up his right hand. Rick takes it. They give each other's hand a quick squeeze. Then through nearly motionless lips, Sergei says, "Family"--his first word in English, probably. What does Sergei think it means, Rick asks himself. For that matter, what does Ox mean? Family?


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