The Walk Out Bout
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January 26, 1990
Marcos Palomino was a bundle of nerves and on the verge of throwing up. His stomach was doing all sorts of goofy gymnastics. Cartwheels, somersaults, back flips and every other movement known to man. He had been blessed with good luck and cursed with bad luck all in the same night. A true “good news/ bad news” situation. The good news was, he was making his professional boxing debut on a card that was going to be televised on ESPN Friday Night Fights. The bad news was that he was going to fight in the walkout bout. No one would see it on ESPN.
A walkout bout is a four round fight in which two young fighters at the very beginning of their careers face each other. It is given the name “walkout bout” because it is after the main event and when most of the fans are walking out. Marcos found it a bit insulting. He felt that he could have easily been allowed to fight earlier in the evening. The first or second bout. He had the pedigree. Twice he had won the Texas Golden Glove Championship. His opponent also had a Golden Glove Championship and already had two pro fights on his record. Both knockouts.
Palomino took solace in one thing. The main event had his hero fighting in it. Choo Choo Jenkins had been World Welterweight Champion twice. After the second time he lost the title he had been on the receiving end of a beating. He had appeared slow. Listless. His punches had lacked snap. Jenkins had always been a fight with your face type of fighter. A fighter that had more heart than sense but whatever his shortcomings, Jenkins made up for it with an entertaining, stuck on fast forward style and debilitating punching power in both fists. The thing about fighters like that is that sometimes, all the punches catch up to them at once. And all those punches had caught up to Jenkins the night he lost his title for the second time.
Jenkins had retired for a couple of years and had started a comeback a few months before. He had fought twice against fighters of little note who had not had any chance of winning, but were good for shaking off the rust that accumulated over the two years of being idle. Tonight he was fighting a young undefeated prospect who was stepping up in quality of opposition.
Marco winced as he watched Choo Choo Jenkins take a left hook flush on the temple. He watched the former champion get old punch by punch, round by round. He stood at the entrance of the arena throwing soft, short punches to stay warmed up. His trainer rubbed the back of his neck. He admired Jenkins' heart. Choo Choo just refused to stop fighting. He had already been down twice but had scraped himself off the canvas each time, but the kid was too fast and too strong. But then maybe not. Maybe all those punches from all those fights had shown up again. All at once.
The crowd noise erupted again as a left hook, right cross combination put Jenkins down again. “Stay down, Dude.” Palomino whispered under his breath. “Stay down.”
Marcos watched as Jenkins got to a knee, held on to the middle rope and listened intently to the count. When the count reached five, Palomino saw Jenkins glance quickly around the arena. Their eyes met. Marcos could see the pain in them. The longing for relief. Jenkins smiled at him and did not break eye contact. He whispered something that Marcus did not hear, then just stayed there motionless, staring at Palomino until he got counted out.
January 26, 2007
Palomino saw the left hook coming. He had seen them coming all night. He had seen a lot of right hands coming earlier, but between the bleeding from a cut over his left eye and the mouse that had grown under it, he couldn't really see them anymore. It was actually a relief to feel the rights land and not being able to see them. Being able to see them but raising his guard or slipping them a tad too late was frustrating. His reflexes weren't there anymore. They had been there the two previous fights, at least he had thought so. Maybe his two previous opponents were as bad as he had heard. Tomato cans, setups, fighters who were not even household names in their own households. Now stepping up against a real fighter. A young, hungry kid, how far Palomino had slid was obvious.
A right he never even saw put him down. He was not really that hurt. He was just tired. On his knees, Palomino glanced around the arena. Looking at the faces of the fans who would see his last fight ever. He was not going to do this again.
At the entrance of the arena Marcos saw a young fighter. A young black kid. He was in a new robe, new boxing shoes. The kid was probably nervous as hell. Fighting in the walkout bout. Starting out on a new career with a completely blank slate. So much promise but then it all comes to an end. Their eyes locked. Seventeen years ago, making his professional debut Marcos had locked eyes with a champion fighting his last fight. Before getting counted out, the champ had said something that over the crowd noise and distance Palomino had not heard. He had in fact forgotten all about it. But now he knew. He could hear the words that Choo Choo Jenkins had whispered so long ago. And as the referee reached the count of ten Palomino repeated them to the young fighter watching from the entrance.
“Your looking at your future, Kid”
Dare to dream!