“Greg – how’ve you been?”
“Well if it isn’t ‘Natty’ Nate McDaniel himself, calling on little old me! It’s been too long Nate – when you dragging your worn out butt over here so I can whoop you at golf one more time?”
I winced but didn’t take the bait. Golf had never been my game but Greg Severn made me feel like I should be banned from anything more advanced than a mini-golf course. The man needed another hobby – or maybe just a job that didn’t involve schmoozing sponsors on driving ranges and putting greens.
“How’s your November show coming together?” I asked instead. “Is the card all filled up?”
“That depends who you ask,” he replied. “I got two guys who swear they’ll be ready to go by fight night but their doctors don’t look so sure. Why – you interested in coming over to show one of these kids how it’s done?”
“No, but I might be able help you out,” I said as I flipped open the notepad on the kitchen island. “Is either problem child a light heavyweight by any chance?”
“As a matter of fact, they both are. What do you got for me?”
I scanned my hastily collected notes, took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was speaking with a friend. It didn’t help to settle my nerves but I don’t think it made them any worse either.
“A kid who deserves a shot and I’m hoping you’ll be the one to give it to him. This would be his first professional fight but he’s got some serious potential Greg. You remember The Black Bomber?”
“Yeah, that Carter kid destroyed an American on my April show, sent the crowd home happy.” That man never forgot a name that appeared on any fight card he promoted – we didn’t call him Elephant just because he had big ears. Well, some of the boys did.
“My guy rocked Bomber from one side of the ring to the other when they were sparring the other day.”
“Is that right?” I had his attention now. “Well, sparring in an empty gym is one thing – this show is sold out already, I’m looking at 5,000 butts in the stands here. Will the kid hold up when all those eyes are on him?”
“Greg… you’ve got my word on this one.” I heard the non-committal noises he was making and knew I had to take it a step further. “I’ve got a good feeling about this one - he could make it all the way to the top. And one day, when they do one of those fancy retrospective TV specials to sell a pay-per-view he’ll be the main attraction of, they’ll be able to say it all started in Victoria. In a show promoted by Gregor Severn.”
“Now you’re speaking my language Natty,” he said, the smile on his face coating his words. “What’s his name?”
I breathed a sigh of complete and utter relief. I had him.
“He sounds more French than Napoleon – he from the Maritimes?”
“Haiti, actually.” I bit my lip and hoped for the best.
“Nate… if he disappears before the show I am going to be a very unhappy man,” he said, his smile a distant memory. “Of the two walking wounded I’m dealing with over here, the one who’s least likely to be ready in time is in the main event. The people love me here but I’m not stupid enough to think they would come rushing back for the next show if I don’t deliver on my advertised promises.”
Alex would be in the final fight in his very first bout? I closed my eyes and fought away the screaming, sharp-toothed head of jealousy that had suddenly joined me in my kitchen. This wasn’t about my career, my failure to live up to my promise; this was for a man who had so much more on the line than I ever did. There’s extra cash to be found in the main event, money Alex needed yesterday. I only had to repeat that silently five times before I could speak again.
“I promise you: he’ll be there.” I was pretty sure I sounded more confident than I actually felt. I hoped so anyway.
“You know I value your word Nate,” he said. “But your name, in writing, means a lot more to people in this neck of the woods. You’ve given them a hell of a show every time you’ve fought on my cards; they have faith in your name. I’ve got posters going to the printers tomorrow morning… if you want this kid’s name on them, in the main event, then your name has to be with his.”
“You mean as his coach?” The word tasted like failed dreams and abandoned hope in my mouth.
“Exactly – a double debut: a promising boxer's first professional fight, with a first time coach in his corner! What do you say?”
“If that’s the only way you’ll agree to this… then do it.”
I hung up the phone and looked around the apartment without really seeing anything. I had to fight a sudden urge to call Greg back, to see if there was any other way of making it happen.
I walked to the window and looked down to the sidewalk, crowded with suits, ties and briefcases, and knew I did not belong with them. My world was made of gloves, rings, gyms and blood thirsty crowds.
Maybe it was time I admitted it.