The ref called the fighters to center ring. He checked their gloves, gave instructions and sent them to their corners. There was no pre-fight show, no bullshit like Sadie saw the last time. This was real boxing. She bit her mouth guard and faced her opponent. Jane looked back from the opposite corner. They sized each other, looking for weaknesses. When their eyes met, Sadie discovered her own: she liked Jane, something in her eyes. She didn’t really want to fight her…She quickly looked away. Fight. Fight. Fight, Sadie thought. “I need the fucking money,” she mumbled, then remembered she was about to fight and could get hurt, and that was all it took to gain focus.
When the bell rang, both fighters led with jabs. Both connected. Jane proved she could take a punch. She proved she could land one, too. Sadie would be impressed, later. Right now she was fighting. She was a warrior. She studied Jane, circling the stained canvas. Sadie didn’t watch arms, gloves, or head, and she didn’t watch Jane’s eyes. The eyes lie, send mixed messages. They can confuse a fighter. If you watch the eyes you get pulled off guard. You have to watch center mass. Don’t stare, just rest your focus there, so no movement is outside your peripheral vision. That’s where the fighting occurs, in the periphery. You respond instinctively, by blocking, or moving, or blocking and countering. Sadie responded by just countering hard. Her strongest asset as a fighter was that she wasn’t afraid to get hit. She could take a punch like a dude. Her second strongest asset was that she could throw one like a dude, too. If you threw a punch at Sadie that meant your arm was outstretched, which meant Sadie had an opening. That meant you were going to get hit and you were going to get hit hard.
Sadie’s defense wasn’t to block punches or dodge them. Her defense was to hurt. If Jane hit her with a hook, Sadie came underneath to her ribs. If Jane tried an uppercut, Sadie came down on her ear, then followed with an uppercut. But Jane kept throwing punches.
When the first round ended Sadie went to her corner but didn’t sit. She drank water and watched Jane. There was a commotion behind Jane. Two men were arguing with another, who was yelling at Jane. Sadie couldn’t hear them and she didn’t care. When the bell rang, the fighters went at it again. Neither looked fatigued. When Jane delivered, Sadie countered. By the end of the second round, neither had been knocked down.
Between rounds, the argument escalated. The two men were pushing the other, who Sadie saw was Travis. One of them pointed a finger in his face, then poked it into his chest. Travis pointed his finger at Jane, who avoided them all by staring at Sadie. The two women locked gazes. Sadie knew something was wrong. Just before the bell, she figured it out. Someone bet big, big enough to worry about the outcome, big enough to try to determine it.
When the bell rang, Sadie shuffled out, but was still watching the argument. Jane charged out and caught her on the chin with a hook. Sadie dropped to one knee, more surprised than hurt. Jane threw another punch, but Sadie came underneath with an uppercut. It caught Jane in the ribs and slowed her enough for Sadie to get up. When Jane flinched though, her elbow clipped Sadie’s left eye. Her brow split instantly.
Sadie rose before Jane, but couldn’t see to strike back. She wiped the blood from her eye and saw Jane’s corner erupt into chaos. Jane was yelling at Travis while holding her ribs and gasping for air. One of the men was hitting him and Travis’ bouncers were hitting the other. The energy quickly engulfed the crowd, and everyone on Sadie’s side started pushing toward Jane’s.
A few men climbed into the ring and pushed each other. When one pulled a gun, Sadie jumped from the ring and headed for the door, peeling her gloves as she wove through the crowd. The room was too crowded to reach the exit, so she ducked through the side door, into Travis’ office, and back out the front. On his desk was a bag of money. She snatched the bag and kept running through the bar and out the front door to the parking lot.
Sadie heard a gunshot just as she jumped on her bike. She was about to start it when someone yelled, “Hey.” Jane was standing with one bag over her shoulder and another in her hand. She held up the one in her hand. “This yours?”
“Yeah, it’s mine.”
“Oh.” Jane noticed Sadie’s other bag. She looked at the one in her hand, then back at Sadie, who made no move to retrieve it. Jane made no move to pass it. The noise from the bar swelled as the front door burst open and some men rolled out fighting. There was an eruption of gunfire inside the bar that startled Jane.
Sadie started the motorcycle and looked at Jane. “You coming?”