Broken Lion(127)By: Devon Hartford
Bennett was still groggy, but he hugged me back. “I can’t believe you knocked me out.”
“Me neither, brother. Me neither.”
“Nobody has ever knocked me out.”
“You’re still a total badass in my book. You had me on points and would’ve won if I hadn’t.”
“Lucky you knocked me out, Maxwell,” he chuckled and slapped my back with his gloves. “You owe me a rematch.”
“Name the time and place. But give me at least six months to recover.”
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Me too.”
Cameras were flashing and the ring filled up with people. The ref stood between me and Bennett and held our wrists at our sides as the announcer read the official decision over the PA.
“Winner by knockout, the undefeated and undisputed reigning WMAA cruiserweight champion of the woooorld, the King of the Ring, Lion Maaaaaaaax-weeeeeellllll!”
The ref threw my arm in the air and the crowd went nuts, filling the arena with a collective roar as loud as a thousand lions. A chant started up, everyone joining in. “LI-ON! LI-ON! LI-ON!”
It was overwhelming. I almost cried. Almost.
It was damn good to be back.
I waved at them for two minutes straight while the chanting continued.
“LI-ON! LI-ON! LI-ON!”
Okay, I did cry. But only a little.
When the chanting faded to a dull roar, the guy from ESPN held a mic in front of my mouth and his cameraman pointed a lens at my face. I was still hot from the fight and pouring sweat.
“Lion, how does it feel to be back on top?” His amplified words echoed around the arena on the PA system while the crowd continued cheering.
I leaned down to the mic. “Like I never left.” Which was true. People had talked smack about me being washed up for the past year. I was plenty sick of it.
The ESPN guy chuckled at that. “Everyone wants to know, how is your knee?”
“Solid. Didn’t give me any trouble.”
He asked me more questions and I answered everything, giving the fans what they wanted. When he was finishing up, I grabbed the mic. “Hey! Everybody! I want you all to know that I couldn’t have done any of this without my family. Brigid? Daniel? Where are you guys? Come on up here!” I searched for them in the crowd.
Brigid waved back and made her way to the ring with Daniel. He was starry eyed being inside the cage for the first time. In the past year, he and I had watched a lot of MMA fights on TV, YouTube, and even live. Now that Brigid and I were officially married, I saw him all the time. She had sold the condo and moved in with me not long after the wedding. We did get hitched at city hall the day of the investigation hearing, but we also had a fancy ceremony a few months later. Brigid said we didn’t have to, but I’d never been married and she deserved some pampering after all the bullshit she’d been through.
To my surprise, Donald Wright had learned to like me. I didn’t care if he was the one who told the hospital about me and Brigid. In the end, I got what I wanted and he did too. I think the only thing he was worried about was losing his son. Daniel still spent every other week with his dad. I wasn’t going to take Daniel away from him. He loved him, and I respected that.
When Brigid stepped into the cage, she was as beautiful as ever. She looked slightly unsure of herself as she carried our son Panther over to me. She didn’t want to bring him to the fight, but I insisted. I think she was afraid I might get killed out here tonight, but I knew that wouldn’t happen. I wasn’t about to let my family down, especially not while they were watching. They gave me strength.
“Come here, guys.” I put my arms around Daniel and Brigid. “Say hi to the world.” Daniel waved shyly at the camera. Brigid lifted Panther’s arm and waved for him. “Would you look at this kid of mine? Show him to the camera, Brigid.”
She bounced little Panther in her arms. He wore a plush black panther jumpsuit. It had a little hood with ears and a panther face with whiskers on top. Even had a long tail. Brigid said it was ridiculous, I said that was why he had to wear it.
I was so proud of my son and my family.
They meant the world to me. Having them with me for this victory made everything perfect.