The plaster looks brittle and worn. The fluorescent light flickers, which makes shadows appear and re-appear in the changing room. He’s breathing a little heavy after his warm up. The air smells stale. Hundreds of fighters have stood in that room. How many winners? How many losers? Doubt is an emotion that he can’t afford to have. A good fighter is also a good actor. He heard that once from one of the old boys at the gym.
His trainer gives him instructions but his voice sounds distant, as if speaking from the other side of a door. He clenches his fists. The wraps feel right. They were right the first time but he had them taken off and put on again, taken off and put on again. It was one of his rituals. One of the many that kept the little voice in his head quiet. A little voice that asks, “Have you done enough road work?” or “Did you take it too easy in that last sparring session?” The little voice gives you the excuses why you lost. It wasn’t because the other fighter was better than you. It was because you didn’t put the work in.
The changing room door opens. Another voice. It says, “Time to go.”
He stands up and bows his head so that it touches his gloves. He whispers a “Hail Mary”. Another ritual. He throws a few light upper cuts in the air and begins to walk towards the door. He hears the crowd. The smell of burgers, chips and booze hit his nostrils. The beads of sweat all over his body feels like a fine mesh protecting him. He stares ahead and walks with all the swagger and confidence he can muster. If the crowd sees a confident fighter then there’s a chance that they’ll support you. It’s a home crowd but if you’re losing and the good people have paid good money to watch you win, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. They will boo, jeer and throw their burgers at the ring. Dead meat at dead meat.
He hears music and the sound of his name being called. The crowd cheers. Applause. Keep walking. Pats on the back from strangers. Keep walking. The ring is getting closer, getting bigger. Keep walking. He hears a child’s voice. “I love you daddy!” The ropes are just above him. He looks up. He is utterly alone.
This work by Leonardo Morgado is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.