The Brawler

by Joseph Grant

“Alright fellas, hey, I said break!” the balding referee in the bow tie, blue shirt and pressed black slacks bellowed and pushed Archie “Boom Boom” Mannis and Jimmy Jay Tanner apart as they wound up in yet another crowd-groaning clinch, but not before Tanner threw a few rabbit punches, a thumb, a headbutt and an elbow or two. It had been the second warning by the blood speckled thirty-year veteran and he was clearly becoming agitated, Mannis knew, as he welcomed the breather in between getting pummeled by a palooka like Tanner, but he knew if there was one more hold, they could each be docked a point by the judges down below at ringside and he needed those points. Mannis took a step back from his opponent, a young bleeder, an outside fighter who possessed the exasperating technique and footwork style of stepping back after each combination, sometimes even feinting bolos, making it nearly impossible to weave and let Mannis deliver his signature hook and jab, leading to his legendary power punches. The peal of the round bell sent both combatants tiredly stumbling to neutral corners while Mannis’ Chief Second took out the bloody rubber mouthpiece, gave him water to wash the metallic, bloody taste from his mouth, handed him another mouthpiece, dabbed at the cut above his swollen eye with q-tips dipped in coagulant and Vaseline, with his cut man and corner man both reminding him as he stood to work his uppercut and to remember to keep his guard up. Mannis watched the blurry and slightly chubby round girl as she paraded around the ring in her ridiculously small bikini holding her card too low, not that the fans cared and recalled the card girls were better-looking and had less cottage cheese on the thighs for the bigger purse fights, but this one looked familiar, although he couldn’t remember or not if he had slept with her. Slight nausea washed over Mannis, cold sweat stinging his puffy eyes as the clang sent both he and Turner between the ropes for the last round and as Mannis swung, landed, missed and was tagged repeatedly, hearing the crowd roar in vacuous slow motion, he did not hit the canvas once and although he lost the fight on a split decision, the morning newspapers would write of how the aging boxer was beaten but never is he defeated, go the distance and could leave the ring and his boxing career on his own terms, still standing.


Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst. Joe is also a 6SC3 Prize Winner.