12th Round in the 11th Hour

This is a draft of a flash fiction piece I am working on.  I still have some details I need to work out, but I have most of it done.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

I stood at the corner, watching my boy Fernando “Babyface” Brown get rocked with one punch after another by the champion Zeke Martin.

This had been going on for the last eleven rounds.  My hands shook as I tightened the grip around the towel while watching Zeke block Fernando’s right hook.  The champ was the kind of fighter who went for points rather than going for the knock out.

Before the champion could step away, Fernando was able to catch him with a left jab to the face in the closing seconds of the round.

The bell rang and Fernando walked back the corner while Phil and I quickly entered the ring.  He gave us a smile, despite the left side of his bruised face being swollen and a mix of purple and red.

“You’re getting hammered out there,” I said while applying ice pack to his face.  “Are you sure you want to continue?”

“I can’t quit now Jim,” Fernando said between breaths.  “I’m fighting for the championship.”

I removed the pack and stepped back while Phil gave him a shot of water.  Those were Fernando’s words when he was asked to take the title fight on three week’s ago.  He had just won a bout by knockout in the sixth round the night before and a promoter called him, asking if he would be willing to fight Zeke for the regional welterweight title.

“I can’t pass this up Jim,” he had said to me when I arrived at the gym that morning.  “I’m fighting for the championship.”

Every day for the next three weeks, I kept hearing those words, and now in the final round, Fernando still believed he had a chance to win the belt.

“I can’t stop you from throwing the towel Jim,” Fernando said before spitting in the bucket.

“He’s ahead of you by points Fernando,” I said while rubbing his shoulders.  “You have to go for the knock out.  Look, I know how much this means to you, but if it looks like you’re in trouble, I’ll throw in the towel.”

Fernando gave a nod as the bell rang.  He made his way to the ring and touched gloves with the champ.  Zeke began his usual style of punching and evading Fernando’s own jabs.  As he stepped back, Fernando moved forward and fell into a six-punch combination by the champ.

“That’s it,” I whispered as I brought my arm back to fling the towel into the ring.  Just as I was about to throw, Fernando bobbed left, avoiding Zeke’s jab then came with a hard left hook across the champ’s jaw.

Zeke stumbled into the ropes, while Fernando continued to deliver rights and lefts to the champion’s chest and stomach.  The champion gave Fernando a shove before making a strong right jab to Fernando’s jaw.

I slapped the towel against the ring post while shouting,“ Come you have this, you’re fighting for the championship!”

Fernando took two more jabs to the face before firing back with a left hook, followed by a right uppercut  that landed in the center of Zeke’s jaw.  Zeke staggered back before falling to the canvas.

Just as the referee was about to make the ten-count, the bell rang, signaling the end of the fight.  Zeke’s corner came into the ring to help the champion to his feet.  Phil and I went to Fernando and put a towel over his shoulders.

“Maybe that last combo was enough,” Phil said in his thick Boston accent.

Fernando appreciated Phil’s optimism, but he and I both knew the judges would award the fight to Zeke based on his overall performance.

Sure enough the ring announcer called out the judge’s score and that Zeke Martin was still the champion.

Fernando sighed as I handed him the water bottle.  I glanced over at Zeke, who tossed his championship belt over his shoulder and walked towards us.  After shaking my and Phil’s hands, he looked at Fernando.  “I hate when the fight goes to the judge’s.  It happens.”

Fernando smiled and shook the champion’s hand.  After Fernando released his hand, Zeke said,” I know you took this fight on short notice.  Anytime you want a rematch, let me know.  We‘ll work something out.”

Zeke shook Fernando’s hand once more before going back to his corner.  I glanced up at Fernando as he downed the water.  “There you go, looks like you’ve got your next fight.”

Fernando tossed me the bottle as he watched the champ.  “And next time, I’m going for a first round knock out.”

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