Jimmy “Kid” Taylor

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Jimmy has just lost only the second fight of his professional career. He sits alone in his dressing room contemplating his future. His Manager walks in…

 

“Look Tommy, I could have gone another two rounds. The ref stepped in too early. I…”

He was interrupted by his Manager, Tommy Seabrook. A tough east Londoner who didn’t mince his words.

“Fuck off. Don’t kid yourself Jim. He beat you. He was all over you in the ninth. The ref had to stop it. It’s over. Time to call it a day.”

The words hit him like a sledgehammer. Retirement had never been mentioned before. He came back the only way he knew. Fighting. He lunged at Tommy Seabrook and grabbed him tight by his collar and tie.

“What the fuck do you mean by that? I’m twenty nine for fucks sake. I’m in my prime. I’m three fights away from a title fight and you’ve got the balls to tell me to call it a day? Fuck off Tommy. Just fuck off!”

He let him go, moved away and sat down on an old wooden stool in the corner of the dressing room. Annoyed with himself for losing his temper.

Tommy straightened his tie. Took a deep breath. Realising that his words may have been a bit harsh. He waited for a few seconds before he spoke again. This time his voice was quiet and slow.

“Look Jim. Gonzalez beat you fair and square tonight. The ref stepped in because he was worried you were taking too many punches. No way will we get a rematch. He’s moving on. Already lined up a bout with Romero. That’s a title eliminator. He wins that and he gets his shot at Suarez for the title.”

Jimmy’s head dropped into his chest.

“Okay, okay, just line me up a couple of easy fights and I’ll bide my time till I get another chance.”

Tommy shook his head.

“Jim, listen to me. You know the rules of this game, whether it’s inside or outside the ring you never, ever, take a step backwards, you’ve always got to keep going forward. You start fighting nobodies and you become a fucking nobody.”

Jim heard Tommy’s words but was lost in his own thoughts. British Lightweight Champion at just twenty three. European Champion at twenty six. Jimmy “Kid” Taylor was the golden boy of British Boxing. Unbeaten in all amateur and professional fights. No one went more than eight rounds with Jimmy the Kid. Then he fought the world number four, a Mexican called Garcia. This guy was different to anyone he’d ever fought. His punches were accurate, crisp, sharp and everyone of them felt as though he was being pummelled with a ball hammer. He won on points, but his body was never quite the same. He pissed blood for two weeks after. The spiteful punches to the kidneys had taken their toll. The vision in his right eye was permanently blurred, something he’d never told Tommy, and he was now partially deaf in his right ear. But he won and that was all that mattered. He took ten months off hoping to fight Suarez for the World title. But Suarez was busy fighting the world ranked number two. So Tommy decided the big money fight would be a re-match with Garcia. Big mistake. This time Garcia destroyed him in three rounds. He couldn’t see Garcia’s left hand punches until it was too late because of the poor vision in his right eye. He was on the canvas six times in three rounds. He was in hospital for five days after the fight. But was training again within three months. Then tonight he’d fought Gonzalez and the ref stopped it in the ninth. He’d taken another beating and lost.

He cleared his head and looked up at Tommy. They’d been together for thirteen years. He knew exactly what buttons to press to get what he wanted.

“Yeh, I know the rules Tom and I agree. Lightweight is no good for me. But think about this just for a second. What if I put on five pounds and move up to Welterweight. THAT Division is wide open. AND there’s that new kid from Lewisham who’s knocking everyone out. How about lining up a fight for me and him. Would be a great British fight. You’d sell out Wembley for that one. Maybe even get the TV guys interested?”

He could hear the wheels going round in Tommy Seabrooks head. He’d just suggested something that could make Tommy a lot of money. He knew what the answer would be. He watched as Tommy nodded his head.

“Well, as long as you’re sure Jim. This Lewisham kid is good, hits hard, great left hand, quick, fast, accurate and agile. But he’s never fought anyone of your class before. Okay let me see what I can do.”

Tommy walked over to Jimmy and patted him on the back. He said something to Jim as he left. But Jimmy Kid Taylor never heard him. He was now completely deaf in his right ear.

 

The Sherbet Lemon Conversation.

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I’m on a flight from London Gatwick to Faro Portugal. Easyjet. No frills, no time. Just two and a half hours of boredom. I’m sipping a vodka and tonic and reading the in flight magazine. Apparently there’s a big discount on L’Oreal Mascara this week.

The middle aged woman sitting next to me smells. Not great. A mixture of cheap perfume, garlic and sweat. I’m guessing her dinner last night was chicken Kiev and because this was the first flight out this morning she didn’t have time for a shower, so just sprayed herself with the female equivalent of Lynx.

Me? I was in bed by nine and up at four. Showered and dressed by five and at the airport by six. I smelt good, Bulgari was my choice this morning and I’d eaten nothing for twenty four hours. The risk of having to take a crap in the toilet on the plane was just to gross to imagine. Once I was in my seat I wouldn’t move until we landed.

I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a new band called New Street Adventures. They’re good, soulful, a bit like Weller when he became The Style Council. I’m aware of the smelly woman nudging me. I take off my headphones and look at her. She’s offering me a sweet.

“We’ll be landing soon. Would you like a sucky sweet?”

I smile back and take something from the bag. It’s a sherbet lemon.

“Thank you. That’s very kind.”

I open the wrapper and put the sweet in my mouth hoping that the smelly woman doesn’t want to talk. I’m wrong.

“Are you going on holiday or do you have a place in Portugal?”

I decide not to be rude so I answer her question truthfully.

“I’m here on business. So only staying for a few days.”

As soon as I say the words I know it’s a mistake. This woman will want to know more.

“Business? What sort of business are you in?”

Again I’m polite and answer as best I can.

“I’m a negotiator. I’m here to negotiate a settlement for my client.”

I crunch the sherbet lemon in my mouth and taste the sharpness on my tongue. I turn away from smelly woman and attempt to put my headphones back on. But she’s having none of it. She nudges me again.

“Sounds exciting. What line of business did you say you were in?”

She’s fishing. So I give her a bite.

“Recovery.”

Now she’s intrigued. Smelly woman starts to think.

“What sort of recovery? “

Before I can answer, the pilot makes an announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly begin our descent into Faro airport and should be on the ground in around fifteen minutes. Please take your seats and fasten your belts.”

The announcement doesn’t phase her. She asks again.

“What sort of recovery?”

I make an assessment in my mind. In less than thirty minutes I’ll be off this plane and never see this woman again. If I make something up smelly woman will keep on with the questions and I’ll run out of answers. I might as well tell her the truth.

“Money. A man in Portugal owes my client a large sum of money. I’m here to negotiate a settlement.”

Smelly woman seems excited at this news.

“Sounds very important. I suppose there will be lawyers involved, a court case maybe?”

I smile at her.

“No. The man in question doesn’t know I’m coming.”

She seems confused at my answer.

“But won’t he need time to put his affairs in order?”

I shake my head.

“The man owns two bars and a nightclub. I’m here to take possession of those assets on behalf of my client. The man only has to sign the papers that I have in my briefcase and then I can return home.”

I can hear the wheels going round in smelly womans head.

“But what if he decides not to sign? Surely the lawyers will get involved then?”

I turn to face her. I stare into her eyes and at the same time I very slowly make a cutting motion with my hand along my throat.

“He’ll sign!”

I’m aware of the sound of a bag of sweets hitting the floor…

Infinite Sky.

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The sun was shining. Not scorching, but one of those glorious hazy early summer days. Stevie picked up a patio chair and carried it to the bottom of the garden. His dad’s perfectly manicured lawn was like a cushion under his bare feet. He sat himself down under the big old chestnut tree. This was his spot, his favourite part of the garden. Far away from the house, no distractions, the perfect place to think. He craned his neck back and looked up at the blue sky. He was always overwhelmed by the vastness of it all.
He remembered back to when he was five years of age. His grandad had taken him by the hand and led him to this very spot. He could still hear the words in his head.
“Whenever you need to work things out little Stevie, this is where you should come. Just lay back, look up at that sky and think. Soon everything will fall into place.”
He didn’t understand back then what old grandad was talking about, but as he got older he realised just how wise those words were. This place inspired him and today he would need all the inspiration he could get. Today would be a turning point in his life. Today a decision had to be made.
His exam results had come through that morning and he’d got exactly what he’d expected. A 2 – 1 in Biomedical Science. He now had his degree. Not only that but he’d received the phone call he’d been waiting for. He’d just been offered a dream of a job in the laboratories at the new private hospital in East London.
All great news. But then there was the band.
The band was important. Possibly the most important thing in his life. He played lead guitar and sang lead vocals. He also wrote their songs. They were good, very good. At University they’d become quite an attraction and gained a big following. They played twice a week on campus and had a regular midweek slot in one of the nearby pubs. He was sure one day they would make it. Make it big.
But he couldn’t do both. Not a full time job and the band. One had to go. The other three band members were unanimous. They’d decided to put their careers on hold for a few years and concentrate full time on the band. Only Stevie had yet to decide.
They’d already been offered two regular gigs. Friday afternoon and Sunday evening at the Crown in Lewisham. Another pub was interested in having them on Saturday nights and there was also a chance of a Wednesday evening slot at the Lamb and Flag in Shoreditch.
No way could he work all week at the Lab and then evenings and weekends with the band. Impossible.
So the decision had to be made. Career or the band. His heart said Band but his head said Career. Jobs were scarce and he knew he’d beaten hundreds of other applicants to get the job. Starting salary was nearly thirty grand, five weeks paid holiday and private healthcare. Job of a lifetime. He’d be mad to decline it. Plus, what would Mum and Dad say?
Well, he knew what they’d say. They’d go mad. They’d supported him financially through three years at University. He couldn’t let them down, could he?
He kept staring upwards, waiting for something, anything, any kind of sign. But nothing, just lots of empty blue sky. There wasn’t even a cloud to focus on. He closed his eyes and thought of his dearly departed grandad. “Come on grandad, tell me what to do. I’m in your favourite spot at the bottom of the garden. You told me that if I looked up to the sky everything would fall into place. Please grandad, tell me what to do!”
He was brought back to reality by the sound of his mobile ringing. It was Robbie, the drummer in the band. He answered.
“Hello mate what’s happening.”
“Everything’s bloody happening that’s what. You’ve only gone and bloody done it with that song of yours.”
“Whoa, slow down Robbie, what you on about?”
“You know that song you wrote and then last week we filmed ourselves playing it and stuck it on YouTube?”
“Yeh?”
“It’s only had nearly a bloody million hits in the last forty eight hours.”
“You better not be winding me up Rob.”
“Serious man, some bloke from Gamma records has been on and wants us to meet him tomorrow. They fucking love the song Stevie, your bloody song.”
“Shit!”
“Get your skates on mate we’re all meeting in the pub in an hour, this is it Stevie. This is it.”
He hung up. He remembered writing the song in exactly the place where he was now sitting just two weeks ago. Yep “Infinite Sky” was a good tune. He smiled and shouted aloud up at the sky.
“Thank you grandad. I’m gonna be a rock star!”