“Throw a hard fucking jab, then a right to the body and a left to the head. That’s all you’re gonna have to fucking remember in these kinda fights. When they get in close to you, push ‘em back and bang hard to the body. I can guarantee you that none of the assholes you’re gonna be fighting are in half the shape you are.”
I had stopped ripping shots to the heavy bag to stop and listen to the instructions of my uncle. Uncle Billy sure didn’t look like he’d no shit about boxing. He looked more like Tommy Chong, only with dragon and snake tattoos all over his thin but muscular arms, but he had learned how to box in the Army and was now trying to pass his limited wisdom onto me.
Billy had come up with a real bright idea, although I was going along with it, I was secretly hoping that I just didn’t get killed.
Once a year, a guy who owned a farm over by Faribault, Minnesota promoted his own illegal tough man contest. Twenty four men could enter with a thousand dollar entry fee. The fights would be four two minute rounds. Winner of the last fight would win fifteen thousand dollars. Runner up would two thousand. Everyone else would get jackshit. It was an all night affair filled with cockfights, gambling, drinking, drugs, strippers, and hookers, along with the fights. Everything there was illegal in the state.
Billy had attended several of these gala events and thought that his young nephew, me, had the moxy to win the tournament for us.
Life had been different just six months ago. Then I was senior, an all state cornerback, and had three big colleges watching my every move. Then my dad gets killed driving while drunk with my girlfriend. Didn’t take a detective to figure out what had been going on. My old man just had that allure. Couldn’t keep it in his pants. Even with my girlfriend. My mom wigged out and has been in the hospital since then. I couldn’t take the bullshit at school. Everybody laughing at me behind my back. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Dropped out and went to live with my Uncle Billy to help with his business. The biggest pot dealer in southern Minnesota.
When Billy came home with the idea of the tough man contest I had jumped at it. If I could get my ass whipped back into shape like when I was playing ball and could pull off a win, I could use my share of the winnings to get my ass on the road and out of New Richland. Start all over someplace else. Someplace warm.
“How do I know that one of the guys that I have to fight isn’t some ex-fighter and I wind up getting the holy crap kicked out of me?” I asked.
“It’s against the rules of the tournament.” Billy answered with a grin.
“Rules? What kinda rules are they gonna have in something like this?”
“Listen to me, Jakey boy. The dude that runs this show doesn’t allow any bullshit at all. He knows that if anyone tries to slip in a ringer that he’s gonna get a bad rep and no one will ever sign up to fight again. And this guy is one bad dude. If anyone is stupid enough to try any shit they’ll probably wind up in a swamp with cinder blocks attached to their nuts.”
For four solid weeks, I got up in the early morning hours to do my roadwork, go to work, make Billy’s weed deliveries, and then come home to pump iron and work out on the bag. I knewI was in good football shape but wasn’t sure about fighting shape. The only fights I had been involved in were short scraps during a game or practice that were quickly broken up. My size alone had intimidated most people.
We drove to Faribault in Billy’s four wheel drive. I was silent but Billy chattered on like a monkey, wired to the gills on crank, and drinking out of a tall can of Grain Belt.
“Just let ‘em come to you. Let them do the work. They come to you, you just unload on them. Push “em off, and do it again.” Billy was ranting like a amped out Angelo Dundee.
“That stick and move shit won’t work here. Just hard fucking shots to the body to
soften them up and then go to the the head.”
“Goddamn it Billy. Will you just shut the hell up for a minute so that I can think?”
Billy glanced over at me and took a swig of his brew. “Sorry kid. I’m just nervous is all. Shouldn’t have taken that zip.”
“Yea, I know. I’m sorry too. I’m just ready to get this thing going.” I replied.
We cruised through Faribault and passed by the state mental hospital and continued out of town for about three miles and then turned down a long private drive ending up in a wood covered natural hollow. Cars and pickup trucks were parked all around a brand new bright red barn. Already you could hear the sounds of men drinking, and men already drunk, emitting from the open doorway. We got out of the truck as a large biker with a clipboard approached them. It was hard not to notice the .357 magnum strapped to the his chest.
“Name?” The biker grunted.
“Billy Morrow and my fighter, Jake Morrow.”
“I.D.?” The biker looked at his clipboard.
We showed our state driver’s licenses which the biker glanced at.
“Through the door.” He pointed to the barn, obviously a man of few words.
When we walked through the door, I was surprised to see what looked like an official boxing ring set up in the middle of the barn. In each far corner of the barn, small stages were set up, and there were nude dancers on three of them. A bar was set up on two sides of the barn and men were in a circle watching what appeared to be a rooster fight in action.
The place was packed. It smelled like sawdust, pot, booze, blood, and fear.
The fattest man that I had ever seen was waving us over to a card table with a schedule taped up behind it on an easel. He grinned and shook hands with Billy.
“Hey you old douche bag, how the hell they hangin? the fat man yelled.
“Always lower than your needle dick.” Billy laughed.
Fat man grinned. “Same old asshole Billy. Man, you never change. Still giving head to the brothers for cigarettes?”
“You know, me and you could in the ring tonight.” Billy joked as he raised his fists.
“I’m too busy tonight, maybe some other time. This your boy? He pointed to me.
“Sure as shit is. This is my nephew, Jake. He’s a tough son of a bitch. Jake, meet Don Lang, one of the meanest convicts to ever walk the cell blocks of Stillwater.”
I reached out and shook the fat man’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Good to meet you, kid. I just don’t think you’re gonna be as happy though when you see who your first fight is against.” He pointed over to a corner of the barn.
Standing and grinning like an idiot in front of one of the strippers was a huge black man wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. He looked close to weighing three hundred pounds and stood way over six feet tall. He was flanked by two smaller white men.
“That retard’s name is Charlie Johnson. He’s a patient from the nut house in Faribault.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Don?” Billy demanded. “From the state hospital? What the hell is he doing here?”
The fat man shrugged. “Those two guys with him are attendants who work his unit. They run kind of a loose ship over there with all the budget cuts and shit so they’re always low staffed. Their supervisor is on this, so they just walked him out a side door and drove his ass over here.”
“Why’s he in the hospital?” asked Jake.
“He raped a little girl, shot her in the head with a .22, and shoved her down the hole of an outhouse. He’s a retard so he couldn’t go to the joint. He was over in the maximum lock down in St. Peter for years, but I guess he was a good boy for a while, so he got transferred to Faribault.”
“Can he fight?” Billy piped in.
“Shit if I know. But those two boys and their supervisor chipped in the grand so I don’t give a crap. I heard one of them tell him that if he wins they’ll buy him one of the hookers.” He shrugged. “Sorry, luck of the draw.”
The three men stood and watched the giant retard swaying in his tracks and groping his crotch through his hospital issued pants. Everyone couple of seconds he would laugh and scream out “pretty lady.”
Don laughed and slapped Billy on the back. “Ain’t that a kick in the nuts?”
Billy grinned sickly. “It’s a kick in the nuts on all right.” He turned to me. “Come on man, let’s get you warmed up.”
Don was still laughing. “Don’t get too warmed up, you’re not on until the fourth fight. Maybe you’ll be lucky and the big dummy will have shot his wad by then, the way he’s grabbing at his johnson.” The fat man bent over and rested his hands on his knees, he was laughing so hard.
“I should have run a shank through that fat bastard in the showers in Stillwater when I had the chance.” Billy mumbled as he led me to a vacant spot to start my warmup.
“Jesus Christ, Billy! Did you see the size of that son of a bitch?”
“Don’t worry about it. Here’s the plan. Soon as the bell rings, charge him and stick him hard with your best shot. If he doesn’t go right way, get on your bicycle and let him punch himself out. He lives in a nuthouse. What kind of wind could he have?”
The bell rang for the first bout of the night. Two burly biker types hammered away at each other and in less than a minute one of them was punched right through the ring ropes and onto the barn floor where he was counted out. The crowd roared like they were watching Ali - Frazier. The winner leaned over the ropes and barfed onto one of the judges score sheets.
I grabbed my jump rope and began to try to break a sweat. The crowd roared again as a topless dancer climbed into the ring and began to dance a jig to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gimme Three Steps.
The second fight was between a obese Mexican who was covered in jailhouse tattoos and a middle aged truck driver. After pounding each other for thirty seconds, they spent the rest of the fight wrestling and clinching. Landing one punch at a time. At the final bell the ring was showered with beer as the crowd booed and screeched their disapproval.
Billy snorted another two lines of crystal and reached into our gym bag and retrieved the warm up mitts. I fired out the only combination I really knew in succession. Left jab, straight right, and a left hook. The crowd roared at the lesbian act that was going on in the ring, the promoter had felt bad at the poor showing of the last fight and felt he owed the audience a little treat.
Fight number three was between a tall lanky redhead with a farmers tan and a
bodybuilder. The redhead knew how to box. He spent the first two rounds backing away
from his opponent and snapping out a solid left jab which bloodied his opponent’s nose and mouth. In the third round the redhead got a little cocky and tried the old bolo punch like Leonard tried against Duran in their second fight. Only in this fight he didn’t pull back quick enough and the bodybuilder threw a smoking right hand that drilled the redhead right square in the kisser and sent him down and out. When they pulled his mouth piece out, his two front teeth were wedged inside.
Don walked by and announced we were up in ten minutes. The between fights act was a woman firing ping pong balls out of her vagina. Drunks at ringside were scrambling to pick up the balls and a couple of them were popping the balls in their mouths.
“Classy bunch of assholes, ain't they?” laughed Don as he walked away.
A greasy looking man who looked like he might have spent his life working as a carny approached us. He handed over a set of boxing gloves. As Billy started to lace them up, I noticed one of the redheaded fighter’s teeth lodged in the glove. Billy plucked it out and flicked it on the floor.
“You’ve got me into a real nice situation here, Billy.”
The crank was hitting Billy hard. He was talking a mile a minute. “Click in the reptile side of your brain, kid. This guy’s a retard for shit’s sake. You’re a trained fucking athlete. He lays around all day jerking off and smearing his shit on the walls. Get out there and kick his ass. This will be the only tough one. Rest of these guys ain’t shit.”
I stared hard at my stoned uncle. “Let’s just get in the damn ring.”
Billy leaned his head back and screamed out like a possessed wolf as we headed toward the ring. I felt like puking
The giant retard was already in the ring with his “handlers.” A fantastic looking blonde stripper wearing a Tilt-A -Whirl t shirt that was cut so that the top two thirds of her jugs and her tollhouse cookie nipples were exposed to the hooting crowd, was strutting around the ring.
My opponent openly leered and screamed out “pretty lady” at her as she passed by him.
“Here, take a swig of this.” Billy had tipped back a water bottle.
I took a long swig and felt the inside of my mouth go numb.
“What is that shit?”
“Spring water with a dash of coke. Little peppermint schnapps, too.”
We began to walk to the center of the ring to get the referee’s instructions. He looked like he had been let out of the nursing home on a day pass to officiate this fight. He was also wearing a Tilt -A -Whirl t shirt.
“What’s with the Tilt -A -Whirl shirts? Are they sponsoring this thing?” I asked Jake.
“What? Huh? What the hell are you talking about?” Billy was beyond manic. Too much crank.
“Why is everyone wearing those carnival ride shirts?”
“Oh, the shirts. They make Tilt -A- Whirls in Faribault.” Now Billy was leering at the ring girl. Great! My manager and cornerman was losing it.
As we reached the center of the ring, my foe raised his glove and said “Hi.”
The referee began his instructions. He had obviously been drinking and he smelled like a urinal that had been cleaned out with rum.
“OK men, keep “em up at all times, follow my instructions, and break when I yell break. Touch ’em up and return to your corner.”
We touched gloves and my opponent smiled and said “Bye.”
Billy was so worked up that I thought he might have a seizure. “Did you hear that shit? Hi? Bye? He’s a fucking idiot. This is gonna be easy as hell. Get out there and kick his ass.”
Kick his ass. Is that the only advice I was going to hear?
The bell rang.
I fired out of my corner on a coke induced rush and as soon as he was in punching distance I wound up and threw the hardest overhand right that I could muster.
My grinning opponent walked right into it and it caught him directly in the nose. The giant shrieked, held his nose with both hands and charged backwards, knocking the geriatric referee down on his ass.
I took advantage of this and stepped forward and fired a screaming left hook to the retard’s balls. He screamed in agony and dropped to both knees. I couldn’t believe my luck! I ran to a neutral corner. But the referee had yet to get to his feet. One of the giant’s seconds jumped on the ring apron to protest the nut shot but was grabbed by the back of his pants by one of the judges, an enormous biker, and was pulled back on to the floor.
Finally, the ref staggered to his feet and began to start his count. The crowd was going absolutely batshit.
All I could hear was Billy screaming out “It’s a long fucking count. It’s goddamn Dempsey and Tunney all over again.”
The coke was making me hyperventilate.
The retard was up at the count of eight. He must have been down for close to twenty.
I charged and attacked my foe. Left jab followed by a right followed by a left hook. They landed in succession as often and as hard as I could throw them. Blood was pouring from the giant’s nose, mouth, and a gaping cut under his eye. He just stood there and took it. He didn’t even try to move.
After about thirty or forty seconds of this shit, I was totally exhausted and dropped my gloves.
Then the giant went on the offensive. His arsenal was even more limited than mine was. All the retard threw was a round house right to the side of my body. But wherever it landed it felt like a sledgehammer hitting. The first one landed on my kidney and the force of the punch picked my left foot right up off the floor. The second punch landed on my elbow and it felt like my arm was broken. I was too exhausted to retreat and tried to tie my opponent up but my foe had learned to fight on the floors of the state’s finest mental institutions. He grabbed one of my arms with his left hand and pounded away to my body with his right until the bell rang.
I slumped onto his ring stool. Across the ring you could hear the retard screaming out “pretty lady.”
“Fuck. Jake, drink some of this shit.” The coke flavored schnapps and water numbed my throat going down. “Box this fucker, Jake. Long range. Don’t get in close. Stick and move. Stick and move, goddamn it.”
The bell rang.
I was revived for a few seconds by the cocaine concoction and began to stick out my jab. It landed almost constantly, snapping my opponent’s head back. It couldn’t miss. But for every five jabs I landed, the giant was land one crippling shot to my body.
The retard’s face was a mask of blood.
The left side of my body was already turning purple.
After less than a minute into the round, I was spent again.
I stopped moving away from his foe and once more, this time in pure desperation, tried a round house shot to the nuts of my opponent. But I was way too tired and the punch landed on the giant’s hip, and exhausted, I fell into him. My opponent reached out, fast as a cobra, and hooked my head with his massive arm and tucked it securely in his vile smelling armpit while he whaled away at my unprotected body with his right.
I went down to one knee.
“One.. two.. three.. four.. pretty lady.. five.. six..I get to screw pretty lady.. seven..eight.. get the fuck up Jake.. nine.”
I got up.
I couldn’t raise his arms.
My foe advanced on me.
I tried to raise my hands
The retard threw another of his right hands, only this time it was at my head.
I couldn’t get my arms up. They were made of lead.
The ring floor was soft but it was bouncing up and down. I began to sit up but almost blacked out so I lay back down. It took him several moments to realize that I wasn’t in the ring but in the back of Billy’s truck. I recognized the car freshener that Billy always bought. Smelled like coconuts. The truck was still bouncing up and down.
With a groan I grabbed the back of this seat and pulled myself up. I looked out the back window. Billy had the stripper with the Tilt -A- Whirl shirt spread eagle in the box and was laying the wood to her. Hard.
I laid back down and went back into my fog.