Ricky gingerly stretched his left shoulder as the bell rang, signaling the start of the third round. He wobbled back to the center of the ring and stared into the Sledgehammer's black shark eyes. Ricky glanced nervously at his opponent's gloves and bit down on his mouth guard. The tension in the crowd was palpable—it's not often that an amateur fights a pro.
Ricky knew the Sledgehammer was weak on his right side, but there was no way he could throw a decent punch with a bum shoulder. Coach had warned him not to over-train, but he didn't listen. Had to work on his left jab. Had to get stronger, but where did it get him? In a ring with the Sledgehammer and a torn rotator cuff, that's where.
The punch landed on Ricky's ear, and he was back on the ground. His vision swirled in a miasma of blue ropes and blurred faces. The blow muffled the sounds of the shouting crowd, but Ricky wasn't down. Not yet. He slumped in his corner, holding his head between his gloves. Just as the world started to right itself again, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Your coach sent me," said the voice that belonged to the hand. "Try to relax."
Fingers pressed into Ricky's shoulder, and pangs of discomfort melted seamlessly into utter relief. He groaned as his arms slackened and the pain ebbed away. "This won't be a permanent fix, but it might get you though the round," the voice said. "Be careful, though, or you could make it worse."
Before Ricky could express his gratitude—or even see the man's face—the bell had rung again. His legs shook as he rose and approached the center of the ring, gloves poised for attack.
The Sledgehammer took a swing, but Ricky ducked and aimed a left jab at his opponent's head. His legs drove the punch; momentum surged through his core. As his glove made contact, beads of sweat ricocheted off the Sledgehammer's face. His features went slack as he fell to the ground.
The ref tapped the ground three times. As the crowd spasmed and roared with satisfaction, the ref stood, grabbed Ricky's left arm, and held it high. The amateur had won.