Tommy Miles was decent, decent but not good. Not nearly as good as he thought he was. He was a light heavy with a record of 16-4. The wins came mostly against washed up palookas or kids who had just turned pro. The losses were against guys with .500 records. He had never fought anyone of note. He was destined to become nothing but another tomato can.
His trainer told him about a fight in Oregon. Tommy envisioned The Civic in Portland. It was actually at an Indian casino in Klamath Falls. But it was an eight round main event with a ten thousand dollar purse. His opponent would be a kid from Yakima named Hector Chavez who had won the Washington Gold Gloves and was 5-0 as a pro, his five early round knockouts stamping him as an up and comer.
Frank Serratoni had trained fighters in Oakland for forty years. It was all he knew. Guys like Tommy were all he had ever trained. And he had known Tommy’s destiny from the beginning.
They stopped for lunch at a place called The Hi-Lo in Weed. Frank sipped coffee while Tommy picked at a steak that was mostly gristle.
“Look kid,” Frank started. “Here’s the deal. We get an extra five thousand if you go down tonight. The guys backing this Chavez kid got on him on the fast track.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Tommy said. “What happens to my career if I do something like that?”
“You need to face the facts Tommy, this is your career.”
They rode in silence. Just across the Oregon line it started to snow hard little flakes. It was the first time Tommy had seen snow. He shivered and Frank turned up the heater.
“What happens if I don’t go in the tank?”
Frank looked over at him. “That wouldn’t be good for either of us.”
After he finished taping Tommy’s hands, Frank slipped a robe over his shoulders. There was a full house; the crowd was either loud, beer drunk cowboys or Mexican field workers. The cowboys’ cheered and the Mexicans jeered as he climbed through the ropes. Chavez was already there. Thick, muscular and tattooed over much of his upper body, there was scar tissue under both his eyes making him look older than he really was. The Virgin Mary was inked on his hairless chest.
Through the first round, they felt each other out, waiting for a weakness to be exposed. They threw tentative jabs like meaningless insults. Tommy must have given away something because Chavez rushed him to start the second. He feinted with a jab then threw an overhand right that caught Tommy flush on the chin. For a moment, the lights went dim, and his head felt as fuzzy as fresh picked cotton. He got up at eight and clinched through the remainder of the round.
“Why the hell didn’t you stay down?” Frank said.
“Fuck that,” said Tommy.
Chavez hit him hard again in the fifth, his legs got wobbly and the cobwebs were back. Chavez started throwing sloppy bombs, making it easy for Tommy to cover up and move away. By the end of the round, Tommy knew Chavez was punched out.
The fight ended by TKO in the sixth. Chavez had never gone more than four. Tommy wasn’t a big puncher. He systematically picked Chavez apart, like a carrion bird pecking at road kill.
“We’re fucked,” Frank said. “Grab your shit and let’s go.”
It was still snowing and the wind was up as they drove away.
There was nothing but two lanes and emptiness in the eighty miles between Klamath Falls and Weed.They were twenty miles out of town when headlights started closing on them fast.
“Sorry kid,” Frank said as he pulled a short barreled .38 from his jacket. “Never thought it would end this way but it’s the only chance I got.”
He pointed the gun at Tommy and pulled the trigger. Then, he slowed, opened the door and pushed Tommy’s lifeless body onto the snow covered road.
For the second time that night, Tommy was down. This time there would be no beating the count.