He stood there waiting in the corner like a child who was just scolded for doing something wrong.
That wasn’t the case here, although you could argue to the contrary. He threw a haymaker that connected with the left side of his opponents jaw and sent him to the floor falling over like a tree that was cut down in the forest.
Thousands in attendance and millions all over the world counted along with the ref as each ascending number created a palpable sense of anxiousness in the arena.
When the ref held up nine that’s when the flashbulbs started. The lightning bug effect of each flash going off at different moments turned the crowd into a strobe light catching the movement in the ring as if it were happening in slow motion.
The boxer started to make his way out to the middle of the ring to the deafening applause of the sold out crowd.
A moment passed in conventional time however it felt like a lifetime to the boxer.
Events in the past rushed to the forefront as he stared blankly at the canvas. Everyone in the arena, including his manager, trainer, and his corner man, thought he was taking in the moment but that was hardly the case.
His mind started to race and matched the pace of his heart that was pumping more blood into his body due to the rush of adrenaline that he was physically feeling but not measuring mentally.
Flashbacks to his childhood took over.
Times when life was so much simpler. A time when innocence meant just that. A time where he wasn’t a puppet dancing on the strings being pulled by his sponsors.
What did this all mean?
Back in the middle of the ring people started to rush the boxer in a celebratory manner.
Physically he stood there hovering over his opponents body as he lay there motionless. A small bead of blood slowly made its way down his right cheek and it joined the others making a bigger crimson stain on the off-white mat.
None of this registered in his head.
None of this seemed to matter to him.
As a child the boxer wanted so much more from his life. He grew up in a broken family and didn’t want that in his future. His father left his ailing mother when he was only 10 years old. Her deteriorating health made the boxer grow up way too fast.
At 11 he was taking care of his two younger brothers while still doing his best to get himself to school after doing all he could to make sure his mother was comfortable before leaving the house. He would then have to lie to school officials so they would allow him to pick up his brothers and bring them home.
His own mental health was becoming an issue.
At 13 his mother died.
He did all he could to keep himself together but this was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. His aunt, who lived 351 miles away in Richmond, Virginia, took all three of the boys in to her one bedroom apartment that was located over a Chinese restaurant.
At 15 he left his aunt’s house.
Everything the boxer ever loved had abandoned him leaving him drifting hopelessly like a balloon that a child let slip through her fingers.
The boxer made his way from shelter to shelter finding himself in a new city every two months. Some friends he made would feed him or give him a couch to crash on but without being able to give them much money they would grow tired of him and send him back on his way.
The number of so-called friends were dwindling with each minute.
He walked into a gym one night looking for a place that may pay him off the books so he could put some cash into his pocket and afford a burger off the Wendy’s value menu.
Now he was fully surrounded by his team who were hugging and jumping around the boxer celebrating the victory that he himself couldn’t bring himself to.
He didn’t know he had it in him to fight. One night at the shelter he found himself having to fend off two other men who claimed he stole whatever haul they brought in earlier that night from street vendors.
The boxer did a lot of bad things up to that point but he cherished what little he had in the world and wouldn’t dare consider stealing someone else’s property.
Something clicked in him in that moment when the two approached him with ill intent in their eyes. Many call it “snapping”, in that you lose control of your emotions and essentially having an out of body experience where you only react and don’t think through your actions.
That’s what they said about the boxer when they found him with bloody knuckles standing over the two men who were doing all they could in their power to pull themselves off the floor.
He described it as extreme focus.
Others at the shelter corroborated his story.
He landed the job as a porter earning $5 an hour when one night he took some of his frustration out on a heavy bag. The owner heard the rapid pounding and slowly approached the boxer and watched him from a distance realizing what he may have just discovered.
That same man now has the boxer up on his shoulders parading him around the ring.
The two men would tirelessly work throughout the night perfecting the boxers craft. Eventually the two became so close that he invited the boxer to stay at his home and took him in like a son.
The owner convinced his wife that they needed to take the boxer in and she relented.
The boxer finally had the family he was searching for his entire life.
All the late nights. All the hours of studying tape. All the blood, sweat, and tears. All the times he lay on the bathroom floor hugging the toilet because he was dehydrated and exhausted.
This moment made it all worth it.
This is what life was all about to the boxer. He questioned all those around him at times. He hated the fact that immediately after he won there was a robe around him sporting the logo of a casino that bankrupted the impoverished neighborhood it moved into.
But acceptance and love is all he wanted, it’s all he yearned for. He may not like every aspect of his life, but the struggles to get to this moment only elevated it to heights he once thought were unattainable.