It was the axe-kick that did it. I should have seen it coming but my opponent, a southpaw, had peppered me with jabs all night.
Southpaws are my kryptonite. My whole career in the cage (15-3-1) had only been marred by lefties. Two losses and a draw had come early in my career. Now, I had one more blemish on my record. So much for a title shot.
There’s something about a southpaw’s movement I can’t figure out. I’m not talking about someone who switches from orthodox to southpaw throughout the fight. I’m talking about a pure southpaw. The way they bob their heads and move forward gets me every time.
That night, Rodriguez had punished my face with jabs as long as a Texas mile. He was connecting from another zip code. As a result, my left eye nearly closed up early in the second round. The referee brought in the cage-side doc. He asked me if I was OK. I lied and said I could still see.
After the fight restarted I’d started circling right, away from the jab. I’d shot for take-downs in the last 2 minutes of second round but only managed to push Rodriguez against the fence for some clinch-work. I was bigger so I should have been able to keep him there and score.
He’d gotten underhooks and start jabbing again. Long, quick jabs. Working me from the outside and throwing in an occasional kick or two. Most of his combinations were unsuccessful but the jab always got me. Like I said, kryptonite.
At the start of the third round I ate a knee attempting another takedown. That broke my nose. Now I could only see out of one eye and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Then things took a turn for the worse.
Those jabs were coming long and fast. Freaky fast. I knew the referee would stop the fight because my eye was cut and swollen shut. Rodriguez switched stances, I circled left and the next thing I knew I heard bone breaking.
His axe-kick connected hard on my collarbone. My left arm went slack and I dropped to the mat. I even blacked out for a second or two. When I opened my eyes, the referee was standing over me calling for the doctor.
After a minute or two I took the walk of shame back to the post-fight medical area. A doctor stabilized my shoulder and performed a few other checks before the EMTs loaded me into an ambulance and took me to St. Peter’s.
A few hours and 15 x-rays later I was sitting in the ER waiting to be seen. I’d already updated all the socials expressing my disappointment at the loss and gratitude to my fans and followers supporting me when a doctor walked in and greeted me.
He had a puzzled look on his face. That’s never a good sign. Then again, this was the first time I’d been injured in a fight. I’d hadn’t even been injured once in my career. Not in the cage or the gym.
He held up a mirror, “What do you see?”
“I see my face, doc. I’m not a vampire, y’know?”
“Look again,” he said. “What do you see?”
“I see a great looking guy! Not a mark on me!”
“Right,” he replied. “When you came in here your left eye was swollen shut. You had a 4-inch laceration over that eye and multiple contusions. You nose and left orbital bone were broken and your left clavicle was shattered.”
The doctor logged into a nearby computer and pulled up a series of x-rays.
“Here are the x-rays we’ve taken over that last two hours of your head and shoulder. Over the course of your visit all evidence of your injuries have disappeared.”
“So I’m a fast healer,” I quipped.
“No. If your injuries had healed normally there would be evidence of the breaks.”
I scratched my head and smiled. Looking at the x-rays I could see what he meant. I remember seeing an x-ray of my sister’s arm a few years ago when she thought she’d broken it. Then, the doctor pointed out an old break. You couldn’t see that on my x-rays.
“We have no reason to keep you here,” he continued, “I’ll ask the nurse to start the discharged orders. We can’t keep you here just because you miraculously self-healed.”
The doctor looked at my chart. “Hey, you’re Eddie ‘The Doc’ Abrams!”
“That’s me!” I flashed my pearly whites. “Want an autograph?” My mother said I was last in line when God was giving out humility.
“No,” he said, “We went to medical school together. I’m Fred Austen.”
“Oh, yeah! I thought I recognized you,” I lied, ” So you ended up as an ER doc, huh?”
“And you’re getting punched in the face for a living,” he retorted. “What happened to you after med school? Why are you breaking bones instead of healing them?”
I ran my hand over my face, “Well, I used to train while in school. I even fought in a few amateur bouts. I couldn’t get it out of my system.”
“Wait a minute,” Dr. Austen held up his hands, “You trained while in medical school? When did you sleep?”
“Oh, I hardly slept. Never could sleep more than 2 hours a night since I was about 5 years old,” I said. “My parents had a sleep study done when I was about 7 and the results indicated that I was effectively getting 8 hours of sleep in about 90 minutes.”
Dr. Austen rubbed his hand over his chin and looked at me quizzically. “Have you ever been knocked out in a fight or been seriously injured?”
I thought for a moment and replied, “Come to think of it, no. I always come away without a scratch. This was my first loss by KO. All my other losses went the distance and my opponents were a bloody mess. I didn’t have a mark on me but the judges always seemed to think they out-pointed me. All of them were southpaws too. Southpaws are my kryptonite.”
Dr. Austen rubbed his chin again, “Hmmm. Listen, Eddie, would you mind coming back in a day or two? I’d like to run some more tests. You’re a unique individual and I think the other researchers here would like to take a look at you too.”
“I don’t know,” I said, “I need to get back to the gym and start training again. The promotion won’t cover the hotel costs and…”
“I’ll cover it,” Austen interrupted, “I’m actually a research doctor here. One night a week I take a shift in the ER to help out the doctors on staff. My colleagues and I have been looking into ways to speed up the body’s healing process. It looks like you may hold the answer inside you.”
“Well,” I was hesitant. “I guess so. As long as I can order room service.”
“Order anything you like,” Dr. Austen replied. “Here’s my card. Call me tomorrow and we’ll setup and appointment for Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll get the nurse to start your discharge.” He shook my hand. “Thanks, Eddie. I appreciate this.”
“No problem. Maybe I can put that medical degree to good use now,” I took the card and his hand. We shook and rushed off to another patient.
About 25 minutes later a nurse showed up and had me sign the discharge papers, a poster, and her bra. She ran me through all the required post-care procedures and even called me cab. If it wasn’t 3 a.m. I might have invited her over to my hotel room for the rest of the night. The ride to the hotel only took about 20 minutes. I went up to my room, showered, and went to sleep.
I woke up a little after 6 a.m. famished. I ordered breakfast: 5 scrambled eggs, a quart of orange juice, 3 bran muffins, strawberries, a bowl of oatmeal, and a pint of skim milk (I have to watch my weight).
After scarfing down the breakfast I headed to the hotel gym. I saw a few other guys there from the event last night but they didn’t see me. It’s a good thing. They might have asked me a lot of questions since 14,000 people in the stadium and about 500,000 people on PPV had seen my face practically turned to hamburger.
I hopped on the treadmill and ran 5 miles, working up a good sweat, then did 100 burpees and ran another 5 miles. After my work out I headed back up to my room and showered, dressed for the day, and decided to call my manager.
Jimmy, sorry, James is a good guy. He’s always managed to get me big fights for big money and some great endorsements from major sports apparel companies. It was strange that he wasn’t at the hospital with me, though. I dialed up his cell phone number and immediately got voice mail.
“Jimmy!” He hates it when I call him Jimmy. “I’m staying in town for a few more days. I met a friend from medical school at the hospital. We’re going to hang out. I’ll see you back in San Diego. Later.”
Strange. Jimmy always answered my calls on the second or third ring and his phone never went to voice mail. He always had time for me. I was his top client. Oh well, the commission was probably riding him about something.
Come to think of it, nobody from the athletic commission was at the hospital either. In fact, I didn’t see anybody from the promotion or other fights in the ER that night. Normally they transport us all at the same time (except in the case of an emergency) to a nearby hospital.
We hangout out on gurneys laughing and taking selfies while the doctors check us out before releasing us. There’s always someone from the commission and the promotion on hand to find out how the fighter fared. Nobody else was there last night.
I recall seeing at least 2 guys get knocked out. They would have been kept for observation to make sure they didn’t have severe concussions. I didn’t see anybody I knew. Not a soul.
I picked up my cell and called Ricky Foreman, the promoter. Again, right to voice mail. This was getting weird. Remembering the card, I called Dr. Austen. He picked up on the first ring.
“Hey champ! I can send a car right over!” Boy, he was enthusiastic. “We’re all excited to get started.”
“Yeah. Hold on. Last night, why weren’t there any other fighters or staff from the promotion at the hospital?” I asked.
“Oh, well,” he was hesitating, “Everyone else went to East Side Hospital. For some reason you were sent to us a St. Peter’s.”
“Uh, huh.” Now I was getting a little more suspicious. “And why would they send me to your hospital instead of the one designated by the athletic commission?”
“I don’t know Eddie. Maybe the ambulance driver took a wrong turn. Listen, let’s get you in here as soon as possible. There’s a car on the way now. It should be waiting for you outside the lobby in about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can find out what’s going on. Okay?”
I still didn’t like what I was hearing but I also didn’t think a few doctors could keep a trained fighter like me against his will. “Okay. See you in a little while.” That was my first mistake that day. The next one would nearly kill me.
Featured image credit: Ryan McGuire