Horsepower

19 Nov

Brad Coney was a seni-amateur welterweight till he made Pete Pendo his manager. The energy-filled boxer, only nineteen years old, had a lot to learn about the craft of pugilism, and the sickly veteran of the ring proved to be the man to do it. Pete pulled his fighter up to the status of a qualified, universally recognized contender in his category.

Although he had fought as a featherweight, the manager had expert knowledge of the principles that governed all levels and sectors of the profession. He took the trouble to teach Brad the fine points of defense in the ring, training in Jocko’s Gym with volunteer sparing partners how to survive and continue a conscious battler against an aggressive opponent.

“You have to automatically carry out all the bobbing, slipping, countering, and angling I have showed you,” said Pete many times. “The secret of a good defense for any boxer is knowing how to protect himself and hit the other guy, all at the very same time. You have to shift your body around and up and down with slit-second accuracy. It is like being a kind of dancer up on a stage, I’ve always believed.”

The manager led his fighter into complicated, evermore advanced techniques he had mastered in his own past career in professional boxing. Brad practiced for hours to master the art of parrying and counterpunching. “Keep your balance, you can never afford to sacrifice the control that comes out of good balancing,” Pete insisted.

“You have to know how to use your head like a weapon,” advised the older man. “As much as possible, aim your head at the opponent’s weakest spots.”

Hours passed in following instructions on how best to jab and throw hooks. Brad learned the special tactics that Pete had picked up from painful experience in the merciless boxing ring: how to drop and feint, how to turn a long, swinging uppercut into the secret, rare bolo-punch.

“I am going to make you a fighter who, when the opportunity comes up and the situation is right, can throw a gazelle punch. It is not easy to do and few out there ever have the chance or the ability. You have to learn how to roll, bob, and weave with the correct rhythm and make yourself almost into a moving figure-eight. I want you to know how to do it, if you ever have to do anything that hard and complicated.”

Both fighter and manager grew elated and encouraged at Brad’s series of victories at the bottom of the card of matches. He suffered loses only two times, but was never knocked out on the floor. His face showed the scars of his technical losses when the decision went against him.

Gradually Brad became a popular favorite among sporting audiences in the great metropolis where he lived and boxed.

“We are going across the Continent,” Pete informed the young man one morning at the practice gym. “The Sports Syndicate has offered you a six months contract for fights in over a dozen towns and cities. It will be a big step forward and upward for you, Brad. You can continue your winning streak and face a lot of different fighters from the various regions.

“This your will establish you as a serious contender with a reputation that is recognized all over in the fight business. We are going to be traveling, my boy.”

Three days later, the pair boarded a long-distance passenger train taking them on a journey of exploration and exhibition before new, unfamiliar audiences.

A tall, heavy figure with bushy eyebrows appeared in Brad’s dressing room after a victorious match in a dusty town on the Grand Prairie.

“I am Dr. Albert Dort and I have a veterinarian practice in a rural community not too far from here,” he said with a shining smile on his handsome face. “It was a great pleasure for me to watch how you defeated that local fellow out in the ring tonight. Congratulations on your victory. You really know how to knock out a palooka with that wonderful haymaker that you smacked your opponent with.

“I looked up your record and was much impressed by it. That’s why I had to come back here and talk with you and your manager.

“There is something that I can offer you, if we make a kind of partnership between us.” The vet, wearing a colorful sporting suit, gave Brad and Pete a sober, serious look. “My plan is now to talk practical business with you two.”

Both Pete and Brad looked at the big stranger with curiosity and a bit of suspicion.

“Let me explain,” muttered the animal doctor. “My practice is not too large or time-consuming, giving the opportunity to carry out a lot of private research on equine physiology and bio-chemistry. For several years now, my main interest has been on the endocrine system and neural hormones of the horse.

“I have come across something that I have attempted to test upon myself and several human volunteers. The results have been surprises of a spectacular nature. There is no question in my mind that if utilized by a professional boxer, it would make that individual invincible in the prize ring.”

The veterinarian paused a moment. “It would make that fighter into a planetary champion. I have no doubt whatsoever of such a prediction, my friends.”

Dr. Dort gave the pair a sly, knowing grin.

It was Pete Pendo who formulated a response.

“You must realize that what you claim sounds incredible. But it is never wise to reject anything pointblank, I have always believed.

“Brad and I will be here one more day, for another fight tomorrow night. Do you think that you could prove all that you say in the short time available? Can you convince us that you have something that we can use to win fights?”

Albert Dort nodded yes. “I have the proof back on my own farm,” he declared in a tone of perfect self-confidence. “Can I pick both of you up in my car early tomorrow morning and drive you out to my place?”

Pete and Brad accepted the proposal from the tall vet.

The three men sat around a circular table in the kitchen of the farm house. Dr. Dort gave each of them a bottle of locally brewed beer, then presented his idea of what he had developed to the two from the coastal metropolis.

“In past years, there was widespread use of anabolic steroids taken from horses to enhance sports performance, but the health risks were found to be too costly and it gradually grew uncommon.

“There were experiments with equine gonadotropin to try to stimulate testosterone in athletes, but this practice has been effectively banned from all sports, including boxing.

“In recent years, horse growth hormone entered the picture as a means of growing human growth hormone that would increase muscular strength, but this method did not prove out at all. It showed itself a failure because of deficiencies in methods of application.

“But I took a different road. I attacked the human hypothalamus itself, because that is where a body’s growth hormone is created. My focus has been on neural hormones right inside the human brain. That is where I discovered a solution based upon something that came out of a horse.

“I have used equine neural hormones, unlike anything found in our brains, to stimulate my own production of somatotropin, or human growth hormone.

“What I have named hypocretin can accomplish what the human body and brain are themselves incapable of doing. It can produce stronger muscle mass and even affect behavior, motivating greater aggressiveness in someone of our species.

“I have proven this on myself and farmers who acted as volunteers.

“Horse hypocretin can make a boxer a planetary champion in his class. I have no doubt whatsoever about that.”

Neither of the visitors to the farm could say anything.

“Are you willing to try an injection of the hormone?” asked Albert, staring directly at the young boxer.

Brad answered without conferring with his manager. “Yes, of course I am.”

Smiling triumphantly, the vet offered to drive the pair to their hotel back in town. “We shall give you a shot of the hormone tomorrow,” promised Albert Dort.

With the horse hormone inside him and flowing into his hypothalamus, Brad had an easy knockout victory the next night.

“I feel stronger and more agile already,” the fighter told Pete and the vet after the end of the bout.

“We leave for the next town on the tour tomorrow,” the manager reminded the other two. “What do we then as we travel further west, away from this town?”

Albert gave him a confident smile. “I plan to take myself a vacation, a very long one, going along with you guys. I can take along a number of containers of horse hypocretin with me. That would allow me to monitor and regulate the use of the hormone. I can collect a lot of useful scientific data about the effects of my discovery on an athlete’s performance. What do you think of my idea?”

Both Brad and Pete accepted the notion of an informal partnership with the doctor.

“Let’s go out and celebrate,” proposed the latter. “We have a fine steakhouse in town that stays open late.”

If anyone should ask, they were told that Albert was a special physical trainer in charge of Brad’s overall condition.

The end of the western tour saw the fighter with a victorious record that drew interest and positive reviews in the boxing industry.

In just a few more months of matches in the metropolis, Brad came to be the leading contender for the planetary welterweight crown.

The Sports Syndicate that dominated the sport like an official monopoly offered Pete a title fight with the champion they owned and controlled.

“We will train our man right here in the city,” decided Pete. “The ordinary, common boxing gym that Brad has used from the start of his career will be our headquarters. Anyone who wants to see our boy train can go and see him spar away there with all the palookas with dreams of success.”

Albert oversaw the development of the muscular configuration of his first and only athletic subject. Everything was progressing in the way and direction that he planned, for Brad seemed destined to becoming the new champion in his weight class.

The gate and the share going to their side was set, win or lose.

Boxing had never been so popular a sensation and the biggest exhibition hall in the metropolis was sold out.

The night of the bout, Pete hired a limousine service to transport the three partners to the site of combat in luxurious style.

“We are going to live like kings after tonight, pals,” grinned the manager.

The assembled crowd waited with excited nerves for the first round to start.

Brad, accompanied by Pete and Albert, exited the dressing room assigned them and marched down the aisle to the elevated ring at the center.

The fighter raised his gloved hands above his head in acknowledgement of the affirmative cheering of the now frenzied boxing fans.

It took only a few seconds for the referee to use a remote microphone to announce the names of the evening’s two opponents and introduce them to the raving, hysterical public that anticipated the coming violent encounter.

Men holding tiny electronic cameras were already broadcasting the central scene over cable and aether wave to distant viewers in homes and bars.

The reigning champion and Brad walked back to their respective corners once the referee laid down the official rules and told the pair of pugilists to shake hands.

Roaring from the spectators reached the pitch of near-insanity.

Finally, the loud bell sounded and the battle was on.

The champ had decided to be an outside fighter and keep as much distance as possible. He was becoming more of a slow-footed plodder with age, whereas Brad was placing his hopes on fast, skillfully targeted infighting that would bring major injury to his foe.

Bobbing and weaving a lot, the title-holder allowed the younger, faster challenger to chase him about. He performed a lot of defensive covering to wear out Brad as much as was possible. The rounds began to pass by with unusual speed as each fighter applied an opposite strategy, It was the contender who took the initiative with aggressive hard punches. The champion danced and feinted as much as he could.

The referee made a warning gesture toward Brad after he threw a single liver shot, a left hook to the lower right side of the older, slower but heavier planetary champ. The round ended and both boxers returned to their corners with the tenth round shortly impending for them.

Brad appeared distant and distracted to his manager, panting for breath unceasingly. He was in an unusual state, seized by some vague idea of emotion in charge of his mind.

The bell rang for the tenth round, loudly and clearly.

Brad leaped to his feet and charged forward with extraordinary speed and impetus. A flood of red-hot fury was in control of him.

Punches hit the bewildered champion with unprecedented frequency and aggravated force. Blazing anger was in charge of the challenger. His punches arose out of an instinctive source deep within him. He was not at all thinking out his movements.

The spectators rose to their feet in awe, knowing they were witnesses of an event they would never in their lives see again.

Brad pounded and pounded his opponent without pause or mercy.

The champion stood in place, unable to fall in any direction, absorbing a torturous beating. His defenses crumbled and disappeared.

As if suffering an emotional convulsion, Brad continued striking the defeated foe like a punching bag.

The referee, at a loss as to what his duty was, suddenly shouted that the fight was over, ordering the two opponents to go to their corners.

Neither man obeyed him. The assault did not end, the blows went on and on.

Finally, the unconscious champion lost his equilibrium and fell forward onto the ring’s floor.

Thick foam poured out of Brad’s mouth like that of a madman who had lost all self-control.

His feet moving rapidly, the victorious fighter started to stump on the fallen torso of his beaten victim.

The handlers of the champion ran to the middle of the ring in hopes of protecting their boxer from being murdered in front of thousands of boxing fans.

Pandemonium raged in the sports hall. No one had ever seen such a scene od delirium.

It took five men to push and force Brad to his own corner. A riot of disorder erupted both within the ring and out in the crowd of crazed spectators.

Matters only began to settle down when Brad himself fell unconscious next to Pete and Albert. He lost all memory of what had just happened and what he had done in front of countless eyes.

“We have to get him to a hospital at once,” shouted the man who had provided hypocretin to the pituitary gland in the brain of the boxer who had turned into a human beast.

The boxing commission declared that the fight had been invalid and that there had been no winner at all. The entire event was expunged from all official records. That night was a scandal that the sport never lived down.

Within three days time, the champion was dead from his severe injuries given him by his crazed opponent.

Brad spent the next several years of his life in mental institutions. Even after his eventual release, he continued under medical and psychiatric observation and care.

Only Pete came to visit him at times. Neither of them saw Dr. Albert Dort again, or learned where he went or what became of him.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s