By Amine Hadji
Six Weeks ago, Floyd Mayweather and Conor Mcgregor, the two world champions in their categories decided to meet under the public eye to a boxing match. History was written on August 27, 2017, as Floyd knocked out Conor Mcgregor. This combat was the most mediatized yet and before the fight both the boxer and the kick-boxer were making a lot of noise. In the case of Mayweather, since he won this fight he is more present than ever on social media, but that’s not the case of the Irish fighter who was pretty silent the days after the fight. In ‘‘You’ll Apologize if You Have To’’ Ben Fowlkes, a specialist in combat sport and a writer for USA Today, shows us how some professional fighters might react to an important loss by using the Wallace. Fowlkes show especially how a knockout can affect all your behaviors in the following days.
Four days after losing a fight by knock out against a Brazilian fighter named Thiago, Wallace was feeling down and decided to roll a joint and smoke some pot. As he was walking in his neighborhood a neighbor stopped him to talk about the smell of the weed and how it disturbed him. During the confrontation between the two, the author was describing Wallace like if he was actually in a fight. ‘‘He could hear his own pulse in his ears. Now, now, now, went his heartbeat’’ (86). This whole scene was made up to look like a fight between Wallace and the stranger and Wallace wanted the win this time. As you know, Wallace could’ve severely harm this man due to all his knowledge in fighting, but he didn’t. The intensity of the now, now, now was I think an allusion of an actual box fight where the fighter is trying to hit the opponent at every moment. The fact that the author has placed this quote during the conversation made me think that maybe Wallace was trying to not lose this conversation. For the moment he was winning it because he was still in control of himself. At a moment he was about throw everything away when: ‘‘Wallace clapped his hand on man’s shoulder, grabbing a handful of his green jacket. The man didn’t move except turn his head and look at Wallace’s hand’’ (86). While I was reading this exact sentence I believed that our main protagonist would lose control and beat this guy. It was actually the only physical contact that they had and it surprised me because usually professional fighters tend to lose control faster and let their anger out through violence. This happened in the past where someone really qualified in a martial art makes use of it outside of the ring. It is, in fact, immoral and very recurrent as you can see it on YouTube. The green jacket guy was also really trying to have the superiority of the social class over Wallace by comparing where they live. The man was living in a big yellow house while Wallace in apartments. This could also explain why Wallace grabbed him and was about to commit something bad. As I said before the conversation made me think of a fight between the two and Wallace clearly won it because he contained himself enough to not do something stupid that he was going to regret. As he was leaving, and lighting his joint back the author mentions that: ‘‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck had settled in’’ (87). By this quote, the author shows us that Wallace wasn’t giving a damn about anything now and that’s sad and it shows that the loss really affected him professionally and even personally.
Later in the story, Wallace decided to go see his Coach, who tried to contact him in the days after the fight. Usually, sports coaches are way more than instructors. They are part of your success and evolution I see them like a pillar for the athlete. Coach Vee is playing the role of the mentor in this scene because he is giving precious advice and motivation to his athlete. When Wallace came to the gym, he wanted to talk with his Coach first. While they both have a conversation Vee told Wallace that: ‘‘you were too busy feeling sorry for yourself. Like you’re the first fighter whoever got knocked out in a fight he never should have taken’’ (94). Vee knew that Wallace was having a bad time since he got destroyed in the fight, but he also knew that it was absolutely normal to feel this way because even the greatest fighters in the world had already experienced loss many examples come to my head like Mike Tyson who lost by TKO to Holyfield and even Conor Mcgregor who also lost by TKO to Mayweather. This leads me to a very inspirational quote I found on the internet:
‘‘if you get knocked down: get up, fight back and come back stronger than before’’.
This quote resumes perfectly the role of Vee who is trying to motivate back his fighter. It also applies to Mcgregor who got knocked out many time but is still the number one in his category. That fact that Wallace has a bit of each great fighter in the history made me realize that the author did that on purpose so he represents as many fighters as possible with his story. Later during the conversation, they started to talk about another fighter called Zinoviev and Coach Vee said: ‘‘Guy changes continents and still ends up with the same friends’’ (95). This is the most important quote I believe because saying that you will always have the same friends means that you will never change. Someone who stays the same will, in the majority of the cases belong to people like him.
The story ends when Wallace goes to the big yellow house of the green jacket man to apologize. Already the fact that he was going to apologize shows that Wallace took conscience that he had a hard time and that it was now time for him to get up stronger. The man was not home so Wallace decided to take a couple of drinks and talk with the old lady. The man’s wife asked Wallace how he found his job and he replied: ‘‘It’s awful,’ he said, and then stopped. That wasn’t what he meant. What he meant was that it was the best thing he’d ever done with his life, the only thing he could do well, and what was awful was how it made everything else seem boring and fake’’ (99). For him, boxing was like a dream where everything goes well the day he got knocked out he woke up from the dream and realized that life is way more complex.
What is great about this story is that the moral could be applied to anyone that is getting over a problem, even though the end leaves us too many questions about what happened to Wallace and his life. One thing that is for sure: he totally changed by this knockout which was in fact, powerful.
Fowlkes, Ben. “You’ll Apologize If You Have To”. Best American Short Stories, edited by T.C. Boyle, Mariner Books, 2015, pp. 84-99