[Author's note. This is the opening chapter for a planned 20 Chapter Novel about a boxer]
Hamish was making his professional debut as a boxer. He didn’t look much like a Light Heavyweight; he was scrawny and bony but he was tall – six-five in fact and that made up a lot of his weight. Hamish couldn’t believe the words when he heard them back – HEAVYWEIGHT.
Inevitably the word light was in front of the word heavy but it still rang out with an air of indestructibility.
I am a (light) HEAVYWEIGHT.
Under-estimation was the key and they were always underestimating Hamish. Even in the amateurs; they took one look at this skinny, tall gangly teenage boy with spots and braces and thought, this guy is in the wrong sport. And that happened – a lot. And then Hamish would go in there and one well executed punch could be felt right through you into your tip toes.
Hamish only lost one fight as an amateur, and that was a disqualification from a clash of heads.
But here he was with the big boys.
It was a leisure centre, fifty spectators, a referee and his trainer watching. He came out to T-Rex’s Get It On. He came out first like a challenger and saw the audience snickering at the nineteen year old boy with acne scars and bushy eyebrows. Hamish was looking more suited to a McDonald’s drive-thru window. But here he came, with his hands wrapped up and his shirt off.
The next guy came out. He was defined, muscular. His abs shone against the spotlights. He looked like a black Adonis. He walked with a swagger and surety.
Hamish thought that in boxing debuts they line you up against a nobody with a losing record.
“Introducing the undefeated, unpredictable and incredible Martin Offiah.” The announcer shouted to cheers and cries.
The audience whooped and screamed in applause. Enter Sandman by Metallica played out.
Hamish turned to Brendan.
“What’s this guy’s record again?” Hamish asked.
“Six and zero.” Brendan said.
“I thought it was two and five.” Hamish said.
“He pulled out last week.” Brendan said.
“So, this boxer took it?” Hamish asked.
“He needed a tune up before fighting at the Wembley undercard next month – apparently.” Brendan said.
The disorganisation and shoddiness of low-budget boxing shone through. Hamish didn’t even know who he was fighting until the ring walk. All through training and preparation he thought he had an easy debut against a part-time boxer, full-time plumber. Last minute they spring a seasoned vet against him.
“Do you know anything about him?” Hamish asked.
“He’s unbeaten, orthodox and he works his jab for about three rounds.” Brendan said.
“We’re only boxing four.” Hamish said.
Before Hamish could start to develop a strategy, the bell sounded and they touched gloves.
Hamish put his left hand out and circled around Offiah. His right was ready to blow if Offiah came too close unexpectedly. Hamish was feeling him out. Getting a sense of how he stands and whether he comes to fight or comes to box.
Offiah stepped in rapidly and threw a jab but Hamish had his left hand out already and swiped it away. Hamish stepped back three steps and began the arm circling again. Hamish felt the fear of actually being hit by this beast.
Offiah stepped in with a right-left-right and hit Hamish hard three times. Hamish jolted back. They hit like rockets in the pro-game.
Hamish had never been hit quite like this before. All through the amateurs against part-time hobbyists with head-guards on, Hamish had never been rocked or shocked. This one punch reverberated down to Hamish’s core. His knees shook as he tried recovering. But he could never show that he was hurt, if he could help it.
Offiah stepped in again and Hamish jumped back.
Offiah stepped in again and Hamish again jumped back.
The referee called time.
“You come to fight, not run.” The referee said.
He called it back in again.
And there it was. A warning - a call to arms - fight or lose.
Hamish stepped in with a jab but missed and Offiah hit Hamish in the arms.
Hamish threw himself back against the ropes and let his body bounce off, Offiah stepped in again, but Hamish was too quick and stepped left and then hit with a right.
The round was over.
That was quick.
The fans started to boo Hamish, fans always hating the cautious boxer.
They were unprejudiced and uncaring about his fear and trepidation. This was the big leagues and they don’t give you a first or second chance here.
Hamish didn’t listen to Brendan as he sat on the stool. He just thought to himself:
You got this. You know how to box. You know how to punch. Fucking go for it.
Hamish stood off his stool while Brendan was still talking and took the centre of the ring. The bell rang and Offiah came again all guns blazing with those powerful, big, bronze arms. He threw a hook but Hamish dodged it and Hamish then threw a counter left to Offiah’s sternum. Hamish stepped back in appreciation of the hit.
Offiah spat in pain and Hamish had a quick look at the stunned reaction of Offiah’s corner. Nobody in here expected that.
The silence of the audience was noisier than the fireworks at Offiah’s entrance.
Hamish came forward again but Offiah had put himself into a tortoise’s shell. Offiah’s arms and elbows were covering all the sweet spots. Hamish hit anyway and managed to break through his peek-a-boo defence and clock him in the face – Hamish’s hands went through Offiah’s defensive fucking gloves.
The crowd were stunned. Simply stunned. This spotty teenager was out brawling a genuine contender.
Offiah got ready for a dog fight and started throwing bombs towards Hamish. Hamish parried them all like a karate expert. Swatting away every punch. Hamish took a step back and slapped his glove against Offiah’s chin.
The noise sounded like a car bonnet popping up.
Offiah went down.
Hamish jumped back and ran to the corner turnbuckle.
The ref started counting but there was absolutely no point. Offiah wasn’t getting up. His eyes had rolled into the back of his head before he even hit the canvass.
The crowd erupted in a ball of ecstasy. It was only a small leisure centre and somebody was going to scream the roof off.
Hamish went back to his corner to wipe the blood from his gloves.
Brendan knew the kid had power but that was something else. Brendan stood agape. His own trainer expecting a whitewash of his own fighter.
“Hamish, that was incredible.” Brendan said, and knew, finally actually knew he had something special right here in his hands.
“They hit hard in the professionals.” Hamish said.
“Get used to it. You’re staying here.” Brendan said.
“No, I’m not. I got work tomorrow.” Hamish said.
Back to work in an asthma pump factory. Keep taking fights, keep blowing up the leisure centres and maybe soon the big time will come knocking.
That was fight one. Another forty-nine and Hamish will be up there with Marciano.