He was a last minute replacement. He needed the money so he accepted the fight on 3 days notice.
He was the underdog. He would have been the underdog if he’d had a full training camp. But he only had 3 days notice, so he had no chance of winning.
The fighters met in the middle of the ring. The heavy favorite put out his open hand for shake – the universal sign of sportsmanship.
The heavy underdog only slapped it.
The crowd hissed and heckled him with scorn.
He knew it was wrong. But he knew too, it was real. He knew he was on the verge of a humiliating defeat on a very large stage. He tried but couldn’t fool himself into believing he wasn’t.
The crowd jeered at this act of unsportsmanlike conduct. But the underdog understood he was a lamb facing its slaughter and he couldn’t be grateful to the butcher for his slice.
The underdog knew he was doomed. But he needed the money, low ranked fighters making nothing. There’d been an incentive to save the card – to take the fight on such short notice for double the regular pay.
The bell rang. The fighters circled. The favorite connected with an uppercut to the chin. The underdog crumpled, knocked completely unconscious. His head bounced off the hard ring as the referee leaped in to prevent any more carnage.
The crowd stood and roared at the underdog’s just desserts for being such a bad sport.
After the fight, the loser was interviewed. He was asked about what went wrong. Again, he was supposed to be a sportsman. He was supposed to accept his defeat with humility, not truth. He was supposed to congratulate his opponent for being the better fighter that night.
Instead of pretense, he told the truth. A truth that trumped the codes and customs of sportsmanship. He admitted his opponent was highly skilled. He said he might have put on a better performance had there been more than 3 days to prepare. He admitted he might have still lost, but he believed he might have performed better.
He knew he wasn’t supposed to say those things. He knew he wasn’t supposed to feel the way he did. But he did feel the way he did, so he said the things he said.
The reporter asked him, “Then why did you take the fight, knowing you were at such a disadvantage.”
The fighter shrugged.
“Because I need the money. Because I’m desperate.”
The reported grasped for another rote question.
“It’s not a glamorous thing to admit,” the fighter interjected. “I just got humiliated. I don’t have it in me to fake anything right now.”
In the days following the fight, the press attacked him for his performance and unsportsmanlike candor. They said that, in his candor, he was only looking for sympathy from a crowd that had turned on him.
He returned to the ring months later. Again, the crowd jeered, having branded him with his unsportsmanlike conduct. Having branded him a sore loser.
He lost that fight. And a few months later, he lost another. Since his return from the initial knockout, he was a much different fighter.
He never won another fight. The public had gotten too much into his head.
They say fighting is as much a physical as it is a mental contest. Of the latter, the public had soundly defeated him in a fight that had little room for truth.