The bloated gypsy stamped around like a hippo with a hard-on. Twenty-four stone of cheap booze and fast food, he pumped his fists like a TV wrestler, hacked a ball of phlegm onto the concrete floor. His cocaine-gaze bored into me like maggots in dead flesh. He dragged a thumb across his tattooed throat.
“I’ll rip yer foken head off,” he screamed, shoving a fist in the air like he already had me beat.
The Chinese, Pikeys and assorted violence-junkies outside the circle brayed their delight at the fat-man’s show boating. Bookies took bank notes like fry cooks taking orders. Donny Yip, arms crossed and face impassive, stared at me with Arctic cool.
Malone made his move a second before the bell. Dropped his lard arse into fifth. Trampled the distance between us. Looked to knock me flat with a shoulder barge.
Smooth as a matador, I stepped to the right. Hammered his liver as he barrelled past. Tried not to sneer as he dropped to the deck. Ignored the booing jeers of the crowd around me.
“You’ll pay for that,” he bellowed, both hands on his knee as he struggled to stand.
He came in again. Fists tight to his chin. Elbows tucked to his shit-sack body. Shoulders hunched like a wise-guy in the wrong part of town. Sweat leaking from his bald head thirty seconds into the fight.
For the joy of the crowd I made my move. Ducked and weaved around his death-slow haymakers. Tested his guard to the rhythm of jab-jab-hook. Rapped on his skull with a Witness’ insistence. Shit bricks when a cross took him square on the jaw.
My hands dropped with my chin. I watched him stagger. Saw every ripple in his bulky gut. Watched his batwing triceps flap in the breeze of his wind milling arms. Watched his eyes rolled back to white. Felt my guts clench around pig iron.
“Don’t.” A one word prayer to whatever power would listen.
I threw a look to Donny Yip, saw the his glacial cool replaced with a question. Knew the answer and turned back to the game.
Malone brushed off his second. Came at me like an elephant trying on a Salsa dance. Swung low like a chariot. Swung high like an idiot. Tried to focus with KO eyes.
I ducked back in. Choked on his body odour. Drummed a limp-wristed tattoo against his arms and stomach. Wound up for a big right. Telegraphed it to my ma back home in New Zealand.
The smart fucker read it.
My world turned red as Malone slammed his forehead into my face. Blood and snot filled my mouth with bitter copper. I hit the deck like an insane DJ. Felt my ribs buckle under Malone’s stamping kicks. Heard the crowd roar before it all went black.
I could have taken him. Could have sent him home to his caravan with one less eye and an important lesson. But Donny Yip asked me a favour. And when Donny asks, the kids ain’t safe ‘til you say yes.