The punch drunk champion

by Max Saucedo

“Well hey there Mr. Murdoch, how are we doing today? You’re looking very good, actually.”

“Much better now that you’re here to save the day,” I think to myself. “I bet you’re so proud.” Nurse Joyce props me up into a sitting position and brings me a tray of food.

“Good Lord,” I think. “Again with the fish fillets. Wait, do I even like those?”

Reading my face, Joyce fills in, “Yes Kevin, you do like fish fillets.” I nod my head. It’s best not to speak and make a fool of myself because of my stutter.

As I eat, I read my list of things to remember. Name: Kevin Murdoch. Age: 55. Born in Los Angeles. Today’s date: What year is it? Why can’t I remember?

A doctor with a name tag that says “Dr. Steinman” walks in.

“We have a surprise for you today, Kevin,” Steinman says. “One of the custodians has a tape of you from when you were young, I thought we could watch it together. Maybe you can tell us about yourself?”

I barely nod yes.

They bring in the TV, plugging it in and inserting the cassette. Steinman sits in the chair on my left, Joyce at my right. The screen flashes bright letters “HBO Boxing Special Event.” The announcer introduces the match: Dominguez vs. Murdoch.

“Wait, I’m Murdoch! What am I doing there? When was this?” I think frantically.

The crowd roars as the announcer screams my name “The undisputed champion: Kevin Murdoch!”

The fighters meet in the center of the ring. There I am in the blue trunks. We tap gloves. I head back to my corner and say a quick prayer.

Suddenly, the images on the screen trigger something in my mind. It’s like I’m living in that exact moment.

It’s 1998. World Boxing Organization welterweight championship on the line. Dominguez dances around, throwing two jabs in quick succession. He’s fast. I crouch and feel my muscles tense up. I pivot to meet his next jab with a block. Counter with a jab to the body.

“Attack the body, attack that body,” a man in the corner yells. End of round four. He’s dabbing away at a bruise. I spit out water and he puts my guard back in my mouth.

“Wear him down,” the man says. “Easier said than done,” I think. The next round begins and Dominguez attacks my head with more jabs. I must look like a giant lumbering bear with a bright red nose. We go into round 10. I think I’m starting to get his patterns. He’ll never try to stick with me, always with the feints and ducks. What he doesn’t realize is he’s tipping off when he’s going to duck away. His feet dance a little quicker and he pulls his right back a little.

He’s coming at me again and looks like he’s going to duck out after this jab. I need to make a move before he busts my nose wide open. I pull my right back in anticipation. It’s then I realize I’ve made a mistake. He’s not going in for a jab; his right fist was pulled way back. That’s a hook, and its coming right for my head. I hurry my punch and grit my teeth.

As soon as we connect I realize he’s broken my nose. My punch connects, but comes too late. I hit the ground face first. Now the blood’s pouring out. I snort it out of my nose and shake my head. I close my eyes. How nice if I could just lay here. I hear the referee begin the countdown.

“One!” I wipe my face with my gloves to try and get the blood off so it doesn’t look so bad.

“Two!” I feel my body ache and groan. He opened me right above my nose, in between my eyebrows.

“Three!” The bridge of my nose screams in pain, not from the broken nose.

“Four!” There’s a ringing in my ears.

“Five!” Jesus, he hits hard.

The crowd roars for me to get up. I lumber forward and grasp the middle rope of the ring. The bright lights are nearly blinding me now. Sweat from my forehead and scalp runs down into my eyes.

“Six!” Not a lot of time now.

“Seven!” Need to rise up and grasp the top rope.

“Eight!” I pull myself up and stagger to my feet.

“Nine!” I see the ref, Dominguez, the crowd, the lights, the screens. And then it’s a blur.

I’m already falling down, first to my knees, and then to my side, just as a I hear that final number.

“Ten!” And then, nothing.

“Did this happen the last time you showed him a movie?”

“No, he’s never gripped his tray so hard. He goes into convulsions and almost has a heart attack. I don’t know how much more of this his body can take.”

“When was that fight again, Joyce?”

“Aug. 14, 1998, Dr. Steinman.” Steinman sighs and glances at the now-sleeping patient. “That day Kevin Murdoch lost his title, his speech and his mind,” he thinks. And for what?