‘I hit Jerry Flannery in Club 92 once and his knees genuinely buckled’
T’D BE FAIR to say that Sorcha isn’t a hundred per cent gone on the idea of me agreeing to fight Gary, our neighbour, in one of these white-collar boxing matches that are suddenly popular. She keeps going, “Ross, you could get hurt – as in, like, seriously hurt? Why don’t you just tell him that it was just the drink talking and you don’t actually want to fight him?” You can imagine me, I’m sure. I actually laugh? I’m like, “You’re suggesting I wuss out? What would that do to my rep?”
She goes – believe it or not – “What rep?” I hate having to remind her, but I do anyway. “A lot of people in this town still remember what I did on the rugby field, Sorcha. I’m still a role model to a lot of young players. Brendan Macken and Jordan Coghlan, to name just two. One of the main reasons being that I never backed away from a challenge.”
“That’s the reason you want to fight him?” “Well, and because I want to rearrange his big smug features. He’s been sniffing around you like a lurcher in a slaughterhouse. It’s time I put him in his basic place.” “He’s bigger than you.” “Father Fehily used to tell us never to be put off by an opponent’s size. ‘A three-pound cat will eat a four-pound fish!’ I have to say, that’s one of my favourite of all the sayings that he left us.”
“Gary’s been boxing all his life, Ross. You’ve seen his medals. And his belts.” I’m there, “Oh, yeah, that was a nice touch of his, calling in with them the other night. That was a definite attempt at gamesmanship.” She goes, “Ross, you could get hurt. He’s had proper actual training.”
I end up having to laugh. “You don’t think I’m proposing to step into that ring without an actual game plan? Sorcha, I’m going to train for this like I used to train for the S back in the day. And the first thing on my list is a good coach. By the way, you know your friend Claire from Bray?”
“What about her?” “Is she any relation to Katie Taylor?” Sorcha just stares at me for, like, 10 seconds without saying anything, then goes, “Oh! My God! Do you think everyone from Bray is related?” Then it’s my turn not to say anything.“Oh my God,” she goes, “you actually do!” That’s when the doorbell suddenly rings. I tip out, open the door and who’s standing there, roysh, only Ronan.
I’m there, “Alright, Ro?” And he’s just like, “I’m arthur being thinking about your predicament, Rosser.” “What predicament would that be?” “The fact that the fedda next door is about to knock the bollocks out of you in public.” “Oh – that one.” He goes, “You need a trainer, Rosser,” like he’s just read my mind. “And I’m arthur finding the man for you.”
“Who?” “Buckets of Blood.” “Buckets of Blood? I thought he was . . .”
“He was. He’s out on TR, but.” I look over Ronan’s shoulder and it’s the man himself, walking up the path, all six foot five of him, his big paranoid eyes rolling from side to side, looking for something to take offence at, flexing his neck like he’s being choked by a collar, even though he’s wearing a round necked sweatshirt.
“Awreet, Rosser?” he goes. I’m there, “Alright, Buckets?” I probably should explain that Buckets of Blood is, like, an ironic nickname? He worked for years as a debt collector – on his business cord, he called himself “The Attitude Adjuster” – but he was famously bad at it and the big joke was that it was buckets of his own blood that was usually spilt.
He goes, “Where’s this sham you want me to batter?” That’s when Ronan cuts in. “No, you’re arthur miswonderstanding me, Buckets. I want you to teach Rosser how to box.”
That’s when I cut in? “Okay, I don’t mean any disrespect here, but aren’t you famous for being, like, a bad fighter? I saw you on TV3 that time. Ireland’s Stupidest Criminals. You were hospitalised by a 60-year-old woman.”
Ronan goes, “He knows how to box, but. He was an Irish intermediate champion back in the day. And he did a fair bit of training when he was inside.” “That’s reet,” Buckets goes.
So I invite them in, thinking, ‘What have I got to lose?’ We go into the living room.
“Foorst things foorst,” Buckets goes, straight down to business. “Make a fist for me.” I do what I’m told. He takes it in his big bear paws and sort of, like, examines it – like he’s about to take a bite out of it? “That’s a good fist,” he goes.
I’m there, “Thanks. I hit Jerry Flannery in Club 92 once and his knees genuinely buckled.” “Okay,” Buckets goes, “I want you to hit me. Hard as you can.”
I hesitate. “In the actual face?”
“In the actual face.” So I do what I’m told. I try to hit him with a jab, but he steps to the side. So I try to tag him again, except he dodges that one as well with just a simple flick of his head, then he storts dancing and I end up chasing him around Sorcha’s Daisy console table in natural walnut, trying to land a punch on him – except I can’t?
Then he goes, “Okay, Rosser, Ine gonna hit you now. Get ready – alreet?” I’m there, “Kool and the . . .”
And that’s when I feel the floor suddenly rear up and hit me in the back of the head. I don’t even see the punch. Don’t even feel it.
I’m suddenly just lying on the maplewood floor, hearing birdsong, then Ronan going, “You’re a fooken embarrassment, Rosser.”
Buckets is more encouraging, though. “No,” he goes, helping me up, “I saw one or two moves there that we can build on. When’s this fight?” I’m there, “A week before Christmas.” He goes, “Alreet, I’ll make shewer you’re ready.”
The two of them head off then. I fall back onto the sofa, my head pretty much swimming? Out in the hall, I hear Sorcha go, “Hi, Ronan! Hi, Buckets!”
Buckets goes, “Howyia, love,” and then, in a lower voice, “What blood group is that fedda in there?” Sorcha’s there, “Oh my God, I’m pretty sure O?”
And Buckets goes, “We’d better make shewer thee have three or four pints of it handy at ringside.”