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The Shadowboxer

By Bahman Towfighi
November 25, 1998
The Iranian

I'm sprawled across the ring flat on my back. There is a faceless man standing over me. His arms raised to the heavens in a gesture of glory and victory. As he is being pushed aside by the referee to a neutral corner I sense they are both screaming at each other then at me. The canvas is tumbling with vibrations of powerful waves. I hear nothing. Tonight, I'm in the center of the most boisterous arena on earth but can't even phantom a vile sound of silence. As I try to gather my senses I notice the referee has moved directly over me. He appears to have his fingers moving in a wanton slow motion while looking down at me with a gaze that's piercing deep through my eyes. I tell myself, he must be counting over me!

What got me down on the canvas? The last thing I remembered was fighting in the trenches. I figured that the best way to fight my opponent was to meet him in the center of the ring. To move forward with every punch. To bend at the waist and roll with every retaliatory punch. No more dancing, feigning and circling around the ring. No more retreats into the ropes where my foe delivered his most deadly combinations. No, I was going to fight on my terms. I was not going to hold anything back. Remarkably I no longer felt pain or fatigue. The burning in my longs from exhaustion and heat subsided and nearly disappeared. My legs felt fresh and nimble. My arms feeling heavy and weary with pain earlier now struck honest and true. Swift and with precision. I was forcing my opponent back with every strike in midst of my second wind. Then ...

I'm glancing at the referee again. I don't remember going down, only being down. He appears to be counting much faster now. I'm not sure what the count is but I'm determined to get up on my feet. I roll across my stomach bend at my knees and pull myself up with all the strength left in me. The referee is rushing to grab my gloves. He starts wiping it on his shirt while asking questions. The loud noise is coming in clear now but from far away, it seems. I try to smile to reduce the rage in his eyes. I hear him say something like "Do you want to continue?" I scream back into his eyes with fire in my veins - yes, yes, of course I want to continue. He motions to the faceless foe to resume fighting. In a jest he is coming directly at me with his punches cocked from every direction.

As he gets closer I clinch my eyes. He lounges another devastating blow. On impact I realize that he is the only opponent I have never been able to defeat. I ask myself why has it been so hard to fight him? How can he counter my every move with a more brilliant, powerful blow of his own? As I absorb another blow, I become more determined than ever to fight back: I'm not going down ever again. I glance at the reflection in the mirror and draw a new battle plan.


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