We’re doing combinations tonight. My training regiment always varies. Joe likes to divide things up between, cardio, sparring, shadow boxing, and combinations.
I say this under my breath, hoping Joe doesn’t hear me. “No one can help me.” I dug my own grave years ago.
He doesn’t hear me. Joe raises his hands and I nail the red cushion-like pads with a series of jabs.
~ ~ ~
A few hours later, I decide that I’m going to ignore the broads and booze portion of the three b’s rule one last time.
I’m not exactly the type who likes to follow the rules.
I’d rather break them.
I go to this tiny dive bar on the west side of town sometimes called, The Shady Grove. I feel like the booth in the back right corner is my private VIP lounge and the bartender knows my drink before I take my seat.
I like dive bars.
Despite the musty smell of smoke and the old drunks that sit on stools in front of the bar ordering their alcoholic beverage’s of choice with a garbled tongue, I like dive bars. They feel homey and have a relaxed atmosphere. You don’t have to get all dressed up, and you can drink a pitcher of beer with your dudes without having to worry about impressing anyone. Plus they play really good music. A lot of 70’s rock—the classics. Zepplin. Cream. Floyd. Skynard. None of that pop crap that makes your brain vibrate.
“Sup Marty.” I nod at the short, bulky man who owns this piece of shit and he slides my drink toward me as I lean against the bar.
Reaching into my back pocket, my fingers brush against cold metal and I stiffen. I forgot about my gun. I don’t want to look suspicious so I relax and pull out my wallet.
Guns are a necessity when it comes to the brotherhood. You never know who’s out to get you, and you never know if you’re being followed. I always feel like I’m looking over my shoulder. I always feel like I’m being followed. Even if I’m not.
Marty puts a thick, chubby hand out. “This one is on the house, Right Hook.” He picks up a white towel, wipes his hands, and announces, “The pride of Cleveland is in my bar!” A wide smile crawls across my face.
“You act like I’ve never been here before,” I laugh.
That’s right. I’m not like some of the other athletes who shall remain nameless that abandon their hometown. I don’t forget where I’ve come from. Well technically, I’m an immigrant from Ireland turned US citizen, but since I was seven years old Cleveland has been my home. I don’t remember much about Ireland. I figure that I was so young and I’ve been away so long that I’m not sure if I’ll ever remember what my life was like there.
I snatch my drink from the bar and place a twenty dollar bill in its place. Even if my drink is free, I want to leave Marty a hefty tip. What can I say, the guy is good to me. And I’m one of those people that believes in treating people how they want to be treated.
I start walking to my seat. “Hey Right hook?” one of the patrons shouts. I glance over my shoulder at a guy sitting at the bar, his face weathered with age, and tiny sprays of gray hair atop his bald head. A comb over. I wonder if that look will go out of style for old men. I dip my chin to the guy and he continues, “You gonna knock out Mullins with that famous right hook of yours?”
I manage a grin. “You bet your ass I will.”
A series of hoots and hollers fills up the small bar as I take a seat at my booth.
Avery Mullins has wanted my title and belt ever since I got it. After all, he’s the guy I fought to win it. Weighing in at a buck eighty and standing over six feet tall, the guy was on the way to becoming a legend.
He was 24-0.
Until I came along. The cocky prick even took to the television, at a press conference before the match, spewing fighting words like word vomit.
Right-Hook Reilly is a pussy, he said.