He had no sooner entered the arena, when he caught sight of Smart smiling at him from the VIP section above the roaring crowd. Everything had been perfect since he woke up that morning. But not anymore, as everything seem to feel wrong. The quirky smile that gave away at the edge of Smart's lips was something he had seen before, and it definitely wasn't something good.
The last time Cosmos saw that smile, he lost his best friend to the cold hands of death, and he can sense that ambience hovering over him again.
As he walked towards the ring, his heart sank with fear and anxiety. He made his way up the short stairs and got into the ring from between the ropes.
His intro music Thunder, by imagine dragons was cut short by the sinister tone of the Zombie dance thriller by Michael Jackson, and the crowd erupted with cheers and excitement. The lights went out, and a moving spotlight travelled west from the north wing of the arena, where it stopped to illuminate a hooded boxer with heads bowed.
Cosmos' fear and anxiety rose a notch higher. Before his very eyes, was the entrance of his opponent, Fijabi, who boasts a record of forty knockouts from forty one fights. He watched Fijabi, as he confidently made his way up into the ring, and he wondered what his chances of winning would be against this ruthless boxer. Say maybe one tenth or probably one twelfth.
"...fair and clean fight, okay", the referees voice snapped him out of his thoughts.
"Yeah", the two fighters chorused.
The referee signalled the start of the first round, and the sound of the bell echoed to the joy of the eighty two thousand spectators present at the arena.
Cosmos drew extra determination from the sound of the bell, as he knew how high the stakes are if he loses this fight. He started out strongly, dishing out hard punches, and landing some to the face of Fijabi. He followed up with two double jabs, which caused no trouble for the knockout maestro, who was basically soaking up the mounting pressure.
Two punches... Three punches... Two punches... Three punches... Cosmos was on the front foot, and the arena was quiet. Everyone was expecting a Fijabi masterclass, but what was unfolding before their eyes was far different from what they envisaged.
Two punches... Two punches... Three punches... Three punches... and Cosmos has had Fijabi pinned to one angle of the boxing ring. Fijabi's two hands were firmly fixed to his face in a defensive position.
And out of nowhere, a heavy right landed on Cosmos' face which sent him staggering backwards. Two follow up punches landed easily on his defenseless face. Then he felt his brain go numb, from a painful sensation coming from his jaw.
Fijabi had just shocked him with a one - one - two - uppercut combo, and he realized this, only after he found himself sprawling on the ground.
"...five ...six ...seven...", the referee's voice pierced his eardrums and he sprang quickly to his feet.
He could not afford to lose this bout.
[[His brain flashed back to minutes just before the bout.]]
Cosmos, who was all fired up to make an impression in this boxing match against the World Champion, was called aside by his coach.
"There is a problem son".
"Your Mother has just been taken hostage", he said pitifully.
The shock that swept through Cosmos' body almost made him lose his balance.
"There's been a demand from the kidnappers".
"What do they want?"
"They demand that you defeat Fijabi tonight".
"Is that a joke? What sort of demand is that?", he shouted, sounding very close to tears. "And what if I couldn't?" he asked subtly.
"I don't know. All they said was that you win tonight, you save your Mother."
Cosmos had his face in his hands, and he wished they had taken him, instead of his Mother. With tears flowing freely from his eyes, "No matter what happens, please don't throw in the towel", he urged his Coach, who in turn nodded slowly in agreement.
His journey back to awareness was truncated by series of punches from Fijabi who was looking to earn a first round knockout. Cosmos was in pain, as he felt the impact of every blow to his face and ribs. He was slowly fizzling out and attempted a hold on Fijabi to buy himself some time. The knockout specialist had anticipated that move, so he sidestepped to evade Cosmos' hold before landing a hard right punch directly on his nose, which sent him falling like a meteor from the sky.
The blood over his face stained the floor, as his nose bled incessantly after taking too many hits.
Meanwhile, Cosmos' mother was at home, surrounded by four hefty looking men. She was in tears as she watched her son receive a heavy beating from a man by far the best boxer alive. She had never supported his venture into boxing. She had always told him that nothing good ever comes out of a fight, but he was adamant.
Now, he had put them both in a very critical situation. Her heart began to pray for her only son. She needed him to win, for she desperately wanted to live.
Back at the arena, the noise was deafening, and Fijabi felt he had dealth Cosmos the knockout punch.
The referee began the count again.
One... two... three... four... five... six... seven... eight... nine... and Cosmos managed to get back on his feet again.
An impatient Fijabi attacked again, but Cosmos was on the defensive. The echo of the bell signalled the end of the first round and Cosmos was able to heave a sigh of relief.
The second round began very much like the first. Cosmos was all out, throwing more punches, but landing only few. Whereas, Fijabi was landing almost every punch he throws. His movement was sleek and much more calculative than Cosmos'. He had thought that this bout would be an easy ride, but he was in for a very big surprise.
Halfway through the second round, Cosmos was already running out of breath. Fijabi decided to capitulate on this factor, and he became much more aggressive with his attacks.
One - two - block... One - two - block... and soon a double left punch made a meal out of Cosmos' feeble legs, and he was on the floor yet again.
"...six ...seven...", and his consciousness returned.
"I would not give in. I will go the twelve rounds. I will win", he said.
He felt a new force sweep across his body, like he was being possessed by a demon of endurance. He could feel less pain as his fear and anxiety suddenly vanished.
"...eight ...nine...?", and he was back up on his feet.
He wiped off the blood that rolled down into his eyeballs from the cut on his forehead, took a sharp glance at Smart in the VIP box and smiled.
He was a different being and he was ready for it all.
To him, the real game was just beginning.