The Everlast bag swayed back and forth as Mitchell smothered it. He let loose two jabs near mid-center, fired a right hook near the head and weaved out. Suddenly, the tri-colored bell sounded and flashed red, ending the round. Mitchell rested his arms on his head and tried to catch his breath. His arms ached from the constant combos and Coach Lewis wasn’t cutting him any slack today.
“Come on, Mitch. Get it right,” said Coach Lewis. “I called double jab, right uppercut, left hook to the body, then weave out and finish with a straight right to the head.”
Mitchell took a deep breath, readied himself and performed the combo.
“Now that’s a lot better. Don’t be in such a rush to throw your punches. Let them flow steady where they can sink into your opponent.” Coach Lewis demonstrated the combo once again placing emphasis on each blow.
Mitchell nodded and eyed the water on the stand. His throat tightened and the insides of his mouth felt dry. Then fluorescent blurs crowded his vision. His head pulsed. Mitchell’s legs quivered—a cold sweat engulfed his whole body. He knew he was about to have a seizure and motioned for Coach Lewis to ready himself. —
“How long was I out?” said Mitchell as he rose from the carpet.
“Nearly seventy seconds, Mitch,” sighed Coach Lewis. He sat near the wooden door with his chin in his hands. Three broad lines appeared on his forehead as he took a deep breath.
“The fight is in two days, and I’m not sure we should go through with it. You‘re not holding up well. This is twice now.”
Mitchell let out a sob and flung his arms at the air. He kicked the Everlast bag and fell to the carpet, pounding his fist against the defenseless surface. “It isn’t a big deal, Coach! I can still win this fight.”
“I’m sorry, Mitch, but I think it’s time you— ”
Mitchell rose from the carpet. “Don’t you dare say that. You can’t quit on me now, you bastard.” He grabbed Coach Lewis by the collar of his windbreaker and glared right in his eyes. “We’ve been through too much, and I’ll be damned if I let this shit take me down.”
Coach Lewis nodded in agreement and gently pried Mitchell’s hand off his windbreaker. “You need to think this through, Mitchell. There’s a lot at stake here. What about your family? Little Adele?”
Those words dug into Mitchell as he drifted back. Silence fell.
“Like I said, think about it. Go home and talk it over with your family.” Coach Lewis patted Mitchell on the shoulder and departed for his office.
Mitchell biked in silence the whole way home. His thoughts were clouded, weighing the options—to fight and risk another seizure or retire for the sake of his family. Nobody understood the sacrifices he had endured other than his family. The years of training and preparation, going through amateur bouts, finally turning professional, and having an unblemished record. The thoughts ate at him.
As he rolled into the driveway, his wife Lola and six-year-old daughter Adele were playing in the front yard. The bubble machine was running. The gentle breeze carried the bubbles, spreading them throughout the yard. Adele dashed around in circles with a bubble stem in her hand, big bubbles billowing with every step she took.
Mitchell smiled. All the laughter and happiness cheered him up. Those girls meant everything to him.
Lola and Adele always supported him no matter how dark times were or how bad his injuries were after his matches, but these seizures were ruining everything. They started after his last match. He didn’t guard his head.
Tears filled his eyes. Adele had called him a champion. His stomach tightened at the memory. In her eyes, he would always be her champion, but he wanted to prove it. He held on to that thought and mumbled, “Always a champion.”
Mitchell understood he would always remain a champion in his daughter’s heart. This title match was not worth the risk of her losing him for good. He would not allow his daughter to feel so much pain and emptiness while growing up. She needed him more than boxing and he would be there for her. To teach her how to ride a bike, to chastise her first boyfriend, to see her play sports, see her graduate. He smiled at the thought of planning her future and pushed his bike into the garage. He watched his family as he lifted the bike onto the wall rack. He pulled out his cellphone and called Coach Lewis. It went straight to voicemail and he left a message.
He took a deep breath and walked over toward Lola and Adele, who were watching him closely. “Don’t count me out,” he said, picking up a bubble wand and joining his family.