His left foot was planted in front of him, and his torso was facing his left foot. Both hands were in front of his body for protection. The right hand was slightly higher and closer, just under the chin and to the side. He took the third swing to his torso with his right arm, and curved his body away from his opponent. He knew the next two swings would be to his head. He had studied this guy well.
Sweat was running from Alejandro’s tiny brown hairs on his head, down his large forehead, along his crooked nose. From the tip of his nose a drip of sweat would plunge down to his busted lips. Half of his sweat would end up inside his mouth, but he did not notice through his blood, the blood that beauty escapes out with. Then the sweat, some blood, and beauty slowly drips down his muscular and cut body until they are soaked up by his shorts or make it all the way to the ring under his feet. This, however, goes unnoticed, for he can only afford to concentrate on his opponent’s next move, and does just that.
As the first punch was thrown at his head, he arched his back and leaned his head back. The black, bloody glove whizzed just past his face. He then ducked forward as the second swing, a hook to the head, flew over him. He then popped up with a bang! He delivered a right uppercut under his opponent’s still extended arm. The head jerked back, and the chin lead the body into the air like the nose of the rocket. The body flew into the air. The arms quickly became tight, his hands like weights tied to the shoulders, being pulled along his body. The entire body then became parallel to the floor before bouncing on it. “Red” was out cold, and soon everybody would know the name Alejandro Mathew Fernandez.
Ting ting ting. A man at a bar tapped on a glass, while standing on the footrest of a stool.
“I’ll like to make a toast!” the man yelled. “To our good friend Alejandro. He put the ‘Kid’ to sleep; he slayed a ‘Red Dragon,’ and may he crumble a ‘Stone’ next month. After that you’ll be the most widely known boxer in America. Even the non-boxing fans will turn at the sound of your name. All you have to do is beat the current biggest boxer, Michael ‘Stone Chin’ Elm. To get ready, let’s all get as drunk as hell! Drinks on Alejandro!”
“Thanks,” Alejandro said, “but you’re costing me lots of money, my friend.”
“Do not give me that crap,” the man, Tim, replied. “You won a big match today, you have a huge match in a few weeks, and you’re wearing a freakin’ thousand dollar coat.”
“Hey! You know how much these guys can drink. Especially you Irish pigs! Mickey! I’m only givin’ these guys one drink each! And only the ones wearin’ my shirts!”
At around 2 a.m., Alejandro stumbled to his hotel room and passed out on his bed. By 1 p.m., Alejandro and his team were on their way back home. Once they got back home, they would have two weeks before heading back out. These two fights were extremely close together, but it was the only way it could work out. The actual fights were over three weeks apart, which gave him enough time to heal nicely. They were only leaving so soon for press conferences and vacationing.
Alejandro walked into his house tired, but glad to be home with his wife, Sandra. At the sound of the door, she came running down the spiral staircase and into his arms. He remembered why he married her. He did not mind the pain and sensitive bruises that hurt with the slightest pressure, as long as the pressure was coming from her.
“I won!” Alejandro exclaimed. “Of course.” He was cocky, but always respected opponents and their skills.
“That is great honey.” Sandra only cared about him getting hurt, and when he won he got hurt less.
“I want us to do something together this week; while I have time. Next week I have vigorous training, and we head out to Nevada the next.”
“Why do you have to go so soon?” Sandra asked with a frustrated frown. “You’re barely home this time!”
“I know baby, but this is a big one, and the only time we could make these two happen.” Alejandro tried to explain.
Sandra then sarcastically commented, “I get so lonely while you are gone, and all your cute friends that I want to have an affair with go with you.” This plopped an angry-curious look on Alejandro’s face. Sandra just giggled.
Alejandro quickly commanded, “You’re coming with me!” and then suggested it. “No seriously. Why don’t you? We are going down there so early so we can enjoy ourselves, and I enjoy your company.” Sandra just sat in thought, so Alejandro decided to continue. “This is the biggest match of my career so far, and I’ve been thinking. I would like if you could be there with me.” Sandra’s face went stern.
Sandra had not gone with him to one of his matches for a long time. It had been even longer since she had actually watched one. She did not like watching him take beatings, but she had even stopped traveling to the cities with him. She prefered not to be around him after a fight. If he won, they went out to celebrate at the hotel bar or his friend’s bar, Flanagan’s, if it’s around there. If he lost, he would go drink away his pain and miseries at the first bar they found, or at the house if he was close enough. It was a lose-lose situation. Either way he comes home drunk and stupid or angry. They would fight every time, and he was starting to really scare her. At least Timothy was kind enough to drive him home. He could not seriously hurt himself or an innocent stranger that way.
“You know I hate to be around you when you are drunk. You know you go drinking after every match, and you know you get drunk every single time!”
“Fine! I won’t go drinking.”
“Even if you lose?”
“I will not lose.”
“Promise!” she ordered.
“Alright, alright! I promise.”
“Okay, thank you,” she said as she gave him a hug.
“So you’ll come?”
“Yes.” She showed her beautiful smile that Alejandro loved. He kissed her; he was excited. She was worried.
“Vegas baby, Vegas!” Alejandro had decided to tour Vegas in style, by renting a limo while down there. The atmosphere was getting to Tim; making him very hyper. “The lights! Look at the beautiful lights. It’s sin city baby! Let me out here.”
“Timmy,” Alejandro said in a firm voice. “We must study every night before we party.”
Tim oddly responded, “I’m gonna get laid!” The entire limo of about ten erupted into laughter. He then jumped on his wife while yelling, “Come here baby!”
His wife, Shannon, was laughing, but trying to push him off. “Get off me! You’re drunk!”
“Drunk?” Tim was shocked. “I have not had one drink yet!”
“Here we are sir,” the limo driver announced. “The Bellagio!”
“Thank you, my man,” replied Alejandro.
“Anything for Fernandez!”
“Hey, you’re staying with us all this week, right?” Alejandro asked.
“Yes sir; twenty-four seven.”
“Then why don’t you party with us? You can stay with my brother-in-law, Oscar.”
“Yes, you must,” Tim pushed.
“We insist,” Sandra assured.
“We command it!” Oscar agreed.
The limo driver surrendered with a tilted-head nod and shoulder shrug.
“So what’s your name anyways?” Alejandro asked.
“Ramón Bustamanté,” the driver answered.
“Hi Ramón,” the whole group said synchronized like elementary children.
Alejandro rolled his eyes and then replied himself, “Pleasure to meet you Ramón.”
“Oh, no no! Trust me. The pleasure is all mine.”
As soon as they walked through the doors, they all were in awe. Any one that has been to Vegas can imagine what it would be like to explore Vegas for the first time. Tim started jumping up and down with tight fists and a lockjaw smile. Every new place gave them the same feeling of glee: front of casinos, interiors of casinos, restaurants, their rooms, their bathrooms, their view, and even the bus boys and room service for Timothy. Alejandro refused to splurge until Vegas. He felt it was bad luck.
That night Alejandro and Ramón started talking.
“So do you have a girlfriend or are you married?” Alejandro asked.
“Married,” Ramón replied, raising up his ring-finger, and continued, “but things are not going so well.”
“Why not?” Alejandro quickly became interested.
“I do not know. We are just starting to get on each other’s nerves. She is constantly nagging and whining. She complains I do not pay enough attention to her, and when I do, I get myself into trouble some how.”
Alejandro laughed. “That’s women, my friend, but obviously you haven’t been married long. The main thing is to always work at the relationship. Also, try to treat her well. Do special things for her once in awhile.”
Ramón tried to soak every word in. He kept quiet and took mental notes. Then Alejandro shocked him by pulling out his wallet and handing a wad of money to Ramón.
“Here take this. I want you to take your wife out on a very special date. Listen and pay attention to her all night. She’ll love you for it. You’ll be glad you did too.”
Ramón knew Alejandro would not let him turn this down so he took it. He did not know what to say, so he only said, “Muchas gracias senor!” He truly meant it too.
Alejandro just laughed at this.
Every night since his last fight, Alejandro studied Michael Elm. He knew the way he moved, the way he fought, and the way he rested. He even started to take on some of “Stone Chin”'s habits. Through these long nights, he learned that he must not try for a knock out, for he would not get it. He learned he must not tire himself too early, or he would not be able to finish and win. He learned that Elm throws miraculous punches to steal the match at crunch time. Most importantly, he knew if he forgot these three things, he could easily lose.
The fight night came in no time. Hundreds of people were at the match, and hundreds more were watching on Pay Per View. All lightweight boxing fans were waiting for this match, and they were not disappointed. The fight was one of the best, but Alejandro had secured the fight. He took some mean blows, but had given many more. When the bell rang one more time, the fight would be over, and he would be announced champion. Everybody was sure of it. If only he could refuse temptation.
Alejandro was in his regular stance; left foot forward. Alejandro was staying back, trying to avoid contact. As long as he stayed conscious for less than half a minute he would win, but as he dodged a punch, he saw the perfect opportunity. He laid his uppercut on “Stone Chin” Elm. Elm’s head flung back, and then he stumbled back. Alejandro knew he should not, but went to finish him off anyways. He stepped forward approximately two feet and shot his right hand straight at Michael Elm’s head. As soon as Alejandro started to swing, he noticed he had actually walked into a right hand’s path. Elm’s hand ended up straight into Alejandro’s face, knocking him senseless. Alejandro stumbled back two steps and then one forward. At the same time, Michael Elm took one forward. Michael then gave a right-left combo to Alejandro’s body, and then a right hook to his chin.
The kidney shot had made Alejandro bite down extremely hard. His head rattled harder than ever before when his chin met Elm’s glove for the last time. He dropped like a sack of rocks to his knees, and then face down on the floor. He lifted up his head and was able to still and focus his eyes long enough to look at his coach before passing out. He knew he heard the bell ring as he was knocked in the chin. Or perhaps that was just his head. Either way he was done. Just before he blacked out, he looked at his manager, Oscar, whose eyes were now wide open. This was the last thing he saw until much later.
The next thing Alejandro remembered was taking shots of alcohol and listening to a stranger down the bar talk trash about Alejandro Fernandez. The man was too drunk to recognize Alejandro. Alejandro eventually knocked that man out and left the bar. Ramón insisted they go to sleep and took Alejandro to his room, despite his wants. Then a fight the whole top floor of the Bellagio could hear broke out. Sandra did not like that Alejandro went out drinking. There was yelling, slapping, and throwing; Alejandro was the only one that was slapped or hit by flying objects. Finally, Alejandro went and passed out in Ramón's and Oscar’s room. Sandra lay under a table crying for another twenty minutes. When she went to get up, the phone that was barely staying on the table after the fight, fell. It knocked her directly on the eye. She cried some more, and cried herself to sleep on her bed before she could put some ice on the eye. She woke up with a terrible black eye.
About twelve hours later, Alejandro had a press conference that did not go too well. One person brought up the bar fight, and the bad got worse from there on.
“No comment.” Alejandro could not figure out how these people could find out about the bar incident.
“What about your wife?” another member of the press asked. “How did she get that black eye?”
This made Alejandro mad, but he calmly answered, “I do not know.”
The man had to continue. “Did you give her the black eye?”
This truly offended Alejandro. He blew up at this question. “I did not touch her! I admit, I have a drinking problem. I have already decided to go into therapy for it. This is something I have been hiding, but now I see you must know.” Alejandro felt his gut drop and his stomach fill with butterflies. Not even his friends had heard of this. “I start in two weeks.” Only two people knew this: himself and Sandra. “I'm doing this for my wife; my wife who I love and I live for!” Alejandro was starting to get angry again, and he stood up. “My wife who I could never and would never harm! I have never brought physical harm to my wife, and am deeply offended that you would accuse me of it! This press conference is done!” Then Alejandro stormed out of the room.
The next ten days were hectic. Alejandro was confronted by each one of his friends one by one, and asked about his comments earlier that week to the press. He held his head low as he told them the truth. At the same time, the press, people of the law, and heads of a boxing committee harassed him and his wife. To round it all off, he heard the worst news at a private conference.
“Alejandro Mathew Fernandez, we hereby suspend you from boxing for an undetermined time. During which time, under the law, you will be submitted to a rehabilitation center until your alcoholism is cured.”
At this, Alejandro’s head dropped, and his eyes watered up. He was embarrassed and ashamed, but not of crying. He was not ashamed to cry. He was ashamed because he felt like he was failing, failing himself, failing his wife, just failing all around. He felt like drinking these problems away, but he knew he had to stop that habit. Instead he started thinking of what he was going to do.
When they finally got home, Alejandro sat his wife down and had a serious talk with her.
“Sandra, baby, I want you to do something for me. Now I know your mother had been dying to go back to Spain for a little while, while we still have the money. As a matter of fact, Oscar should go with you too, now that his job is in rehab.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Sell the house as soon as possible and live as inexpensive as I can. Once I’m out of rehab I’ll either move to Spain with you and your family if you're still over there, or bring you back to me. Either place I can try boxing again. I am sure I could fine another good job instead of boxing too.” He was not really sure about getting back into professional boxing.
After this there was a lot of crying, but ultimately they decided to do as Alejandro had suggested. Several days later, Alejandro watched the plane off. From the airport, he depressingly went to the rehab center. The first patient he met was an old high school buddy, Antonio. He started to think maybe this would work out after all.