The two men met in the middle of the ring and began warily circling each other. My heart was firmly entrenched in my throat as Alex fired the first salvo – two lightning quick jabs that snapped Kofi’s head back. An audible ‘oooh’ swept through the stands and Kofi shook his head slowly, anger radiating from his every pore. Alex responded with another jab and followed it with a hard right hook to the body before dancing away from the telegraphed counterpunch.
“He knows no fear,” Doc observed with a slow shake of his head. “I am not convinced that is a good thing.”
“You really think so?” I asked, his comment snapping me out of the stunned daze I had entered just before the match began. “I just think he’s a very talented athlete with all the motivation in the world. I don’t think this is going to be as easy as he’s making it look right now, but I don’t think anything Kofi can do will scare him. He knows what he’s up against.”
As if to test my theory, Kofi chose that moment to launch his first real attack of the bout.
He feinted with his left before driving a straight right into Alex’s stomach, then swung a wild left hook at Alex’s head with real bad intentions. Alex managed to block it but the force of it still sent him stumbling to the side. Kofi stalked after him and soon had him against the ropes, firing short, hard shots that alternated between the body and the head.
“Get out of there!” I yelled across the ring. Alex continued to cover up but he was absorbing a lot of damage that was going to add up in a hurry. “Tie him up!”
After taking two uppercuts square on the chin, Alex finally managed to wrap his arms around Kofi and the referee stepped in to separate them. Alex used the space which opened up between them to circle over to our side of the ring, making it easier for him to hear my instructions. Kofi came plodding after him, looking like he had put on at least ten pounds since the weigh-in.
“Keep him away with the jab! Keep your feet moving, make him chase you!”
Instead, Alex planted his feet and fired a hard right that Kofi blocked with his forearms before returning fire with two jabs to the body and a right hook to the head that landed cleanly, snapping Alex’s head to the right. He shook it off quickly enough to fire off a jab and scrambled away before more damage could be done.
“Well, if he doesn’t learn fear soon this could be over in a hurry,” Doc said as he checked his watch. “One minute to go in the round.”
“He just needs to survive the round.”
While we were speaking Alex had been trapped in the far corner and the same scene was playing out again. Despite the ache in my hand he was making me want to get in there and do the job myself. Maybe being the man on the outside of the ring was not the best career option for me.
Two hard shots to the head later, Alex tied up Kofi again as the crowd began to get on his case for not being willing to stand and trade with their beloved hero. I scowled as the action resumed, fully aware that they were only making my job harder.
With ten seconds to go in the round Kofi suddenly went for his knockout punch. Time slowed to a crawl as he dipped his left shoulder, looking for all the world like he was planning a left uppercut. My heart sank as Alex seemed to take the bait, dropping his hands down and to the right to block the punch. It was an effort to keep my eyes open as Kofi shifted his weight and unleashed his lethal right hook.
But Alex made me glad I did.
As the punch sailed towards his head he dropped to a low crouch, just like we had practiced a hundred times, and the hook sailed over his head. Uncoiling from his crouch he fired a blistering right hook to the body and followed it with a left hook to the head before stepping away. Kofi took the punches pretty well but I could see that he wasn’t prepared for what had just happened.
With a wordless roar he moved to chase after Alex but then the bell sounded to end the round and the referee had to step quickly to get between the fighters.
Alex turned away and came back to our corner while Kofi glared after him for a few moments more before moving to his own corner. I climbed between the ropes and Doc passed me the stool for Alex before he climbed up to stand on the outside of the ropes.
“The good news is you’ve already lasted longer than half of his previous opponents,” I said as Alex took a seat. “The bad news is you’re well on your way to losing this fight, regardless of how long it goes.”
“Look this way for a second please,” Doc said as he leaned through the ropes. Alex did as instructed, his breathing still even, and Doc performed a quick inspection of the damage done so far. “Nothing too serious yet but be careful of that right hook – a few more of those land and we’re going to have some swelling issues around your left eye.”
“This is a game of strength versus speed,” I told him after Doc let him have a sip from his water bottle. “Speed doesn’t win by standing still and slugging it out. Keep moving, keep working the body. We’re going to take away his legs and then we’re going to pick him apart, understand?”
Alex nodded, his eyes locked on mine.
“Alright, you ended that round beautifully. Kofi is going to come out of his corner like an enraged bull. Circle and use your jab and do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, get yourself trapped against the ropes again. Got it?”
Alex nodded again and stood up, rolling his head from side to side. I passed the wooden stool back to Doc and made my exit as the referee prepared to get the second round underway. The bell rang half a heartbeat after my feet hit the floor.
“Fastest one minute in sports,” I told Doc, feeling like I’d just run up a mountain.
“And now for the longest three minutes,” he replied as Kofi charged toward the middle of the ring while Alex lay in wait.
“I certainly hope so.” Doc gave me a funny look as Alex dodged a punch and circled away behind a cautious jab. “If this round lasts three minutes that means Alex hasn’t lost yet.”