THE CHAMP      

 Wembley stadium:  It’s just gone 11pm and in front of 80,000 spectators, the English world heavyweight champion of the world, South London born, twenty-eight year old ‘Union’ Jackie Flagg. White, 6’4, brash, cocky and devilishly handsome. Flagg is battering into submission in the second round, his opponent, the great American prospect Jordan Deville. Said to be the best heavyweight to emerge from the states since Mike Tyson, Flagg is knocking him around like a spinning top.

 Finally the killer punch. A one-two then Flagg’s already legendary devastating right hook sends a flailing Deville crashing to the floor. The referee doesn’t even bother with a count. He raises high Flagg’s arm.

 Twenty-seven straight knockouts, Flagg has now cleaned up the division. There’s no one left to challenge his claim as the undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world.

 At ringside commentating for Sky Sports, legendary seventy-four year old Scottish, boxing journalist, Hugh Morley shakes his head in derision as the American challenger, so vaunted and hyped lies out cold on the canvas. Yet another false idol from across the ocean.

The knockout receives a mixed response from the crowd. There are cheers but mixed with boos. A chant of ‘we want our money back’ echoes loud across this vast arena. 

The animated sky commentator Mike Glenn turns to Morley.

‘Surely Hugh, in Flagg now we are talking about one of the all time greats?’

 Suddenly a spectator jumps in on the two of them.

 ‘What are you talking about? He’s fought nobody of note and is not in the same league of past champions. You tell them Hugh; you’ve seen the true greats. Go on tell them!’ Two burly security guards grab and take him away. Morley smiles.

  The ruffled ultra-professional Glenn swiftly recovers his decorum and speaks to the camera.

 ‘We are sorry about that, a spectator getting a little over heated there. Obviously the worse for drink.’ He turns again to Morley.

 ‘Now as I was saying before we were rudely interrupted Hugh, Union Jackie Flagg must now rank amongst the legends?’

 ‘Oh I wouldn’t be in a rush to make such grand statements Mike. As our over excited friend mentioned in passing, the vast majority of Flagg’s opponents could not have been more handpicked if his own mother had chosen them. You only have to listen to this crowd to know he has a long way to go before being regarded amongst the pugilistic gods.’

    In the ring Flagg is showing his world championship belts to a half interested emptying Wembley stadium.  The champ is trying to put on a brave face. Smiling wide but inside he’s desperate to be to be properly loved and respected by boxing fans, but knowing the reality is many feel his title is a crown hardly worthy of wearing, such is the lack of decent opponents to fight.

 But now is not the time for self-pity as Flagg reverts to type. Sky reporter Jamie Thornton thrusts a mic in front of him.

  ‘Well ‘Union’ Jack Flagg congratulations. Another spectacular knockout. Any message for your fans out there?’

‘Jamie, I told them, I told the whole world I’d finish this in two and ‘Union’ Jack Flagg always keeps his promises. Deville dared to think he could come over here and take my title and now he’s going home hearing bells. Man look at me, I didn’t even have to break sweat to beat this bum.’   

 Across the ring a groggy Deville is being led out of the ring. His manager, Brooklyn born, seventy-two year old wizened, new Yorker Al Nero. A man who’s been with and seen the best hears Flagg’s comment. It irks him.

Nero shouts across. ‘You’re a disgrace to that belt Flagg.’

Around ringside many start applauding and cheering Nero’s words.

  Listening on intently is Hugh Morley. He and Al Nero go back decades. Morley can’t help but admire his old friend. ‘Go on Al,’ he says quietly.

‘Give him both barrels.’

A furious Flagg grabs the mic from Thornton and faces Nero.

He’s laughing. ‘I kicked your boy’s butt Al. The best you had and I sparkled him. Me, ‘Union’ Jack Flagg. So go home and retire old man. Put on your slippers and write a book about the old days because it’s my time now.’

 Nero shakes his head. He smiles. ‘You know something Jackie boy. You’re so right; this is your time now. You’re the champ, you’re the man. But let me tell you something son. All the bums you knock down, all the cash and the fast cars and even faster women. There’s one thing that you’ll never have.

  And that’s class.’

His piece said, Nero steps out of the ring leaving Flagg for once speechless. His manager fifty-year old East-End, self-made millionaire Frankie Johnson. A man with more front than Brighton, puts an arm around Flagg’s shoulders. ‘C’mon Jackie, job done. Ignore the yank, he’s a bad loser. It’s time to party.’

 His trainer sixty-three year old Bobby Warner, a man who cannot stand Johnson, is also by Flagg’s side. Although at times Flagg’s behaviour turns Warner’s stomach, he can’t help but think deep down, there’s a decent human being in Flagg. It’s just nobody has managed to dig that far down yet.

‘Hey Jackie, why not take it easy tonight? Let’s do the press boys and maybe keep a clear head for tomorrow. Show the belts off to the kids at Great Ormond street hospital. Let’s strike whilst the irons hot. Get some good publicity and people to like you for a change. What do you say?’

Flagg appears to be contemplating this for a moment before Warner snaps him out of it. ‘I don’t think so Bobby, the champ is expected up west. We’re going to paint London town red and the ‘Union Jack Flagg will be flying high tonight! Ain't that right Jack?

 Flagg is grinning wide. You put it like that Frankie, how can I resist?’     


Manchester: Longsight. Thirty-seven year old, former professional boxer and now part time dorrman and debt collector, Bobby Reynolds. 5’11, Solid, well built, black hair, rugged handsome if battered features. Bobby is stood alone at the bar, nursing a pint in his local backstreet pub, The Meat Clever, watching the heavyweight champion of the world, ‘Union’ Jack Flagg, making short work of the much lauded American challenger, Jordan Deville.

   Around him in the thinly filled typical pub vault, the regulars scream abuse in Flagg’s direction at the television screen. Bobby can’t understand this, and its starting to get on his nerves. One man Pete Bailey, middle aged. Fat, balding and a problem with everything in life is loudest amongst Flagg’s decriers.

‘Flagg’s all mouth, he’s a fake. I’d give him more of a fight than this Yank’s doing.’

 Normally Bobby turns a deaf eye and smiles but now he’s annoyed.

‘C’mon Pete what are you saying. Show a little respect for Christ sake. He took his best shot and became champion of the world. What shot have you ever taken apart from those on the top shelf?’

Taken aback by Bobby’s unexpected retort and seeing the smirking faces around him he snaps back. ‘Hey Bobby you’re not happy with your life, fine. I’m really sorry about that, but me? I’ve got a good job, wife, kids and a lovely house. You want me to take a shot? Bailey picks up his whiskey chaser off the bar and raises it in front of Bobby‘s face.

  ‘Fine I’ll take a shot; here’s to your brief shot of glory fighting for the British title and getting knocked out in the first round. A collective gasp sweeps amongst the watching crowd and all eyes turn to Bobby waiting for an explosion. Instead he just stares at Bailey, this unnerving him.

   The landlord sixty-two year old Len Harris, ‘C’mon on now Bobby, Pete didn’t mean it did you eh?’

Knowing he could pay a painful price a suddenly worried looking Bailey tries to apologise. ‘No of course I didn’t Len. No offence Bobby lad. You know I’ve got a big and stupid mouth’

Bobby shakes his head and finishes the beer. He then pulls out a five pound note from his pocket and stuffs it into Bailey palm. ‘Here Pete, take another shot on me.’

  That done Bobby heads towards the door. Len shouts after him. ‘Bobby c’mon son, don’t go like this.’ But Bobby keeps on walking.

  An angry Len turns to Bailey. ’Next time you see Bobby in here, you buy him a drink big mouth. Okay?’

‘It’s not my fault he’s a touchy so and so Len. You know as well as I do he never trained proper before that title shot. He blew the chance of a lifetime and it was nobody’s fault but his own.’

 Len shakes his head at the memory. ‘Bobby was something special. From a young kid he was tipped for great things. All the boxing experts said he would have walked that British title shot against Hopkins and then even go all the way for a world title.

 But oh no, not our Bobby. Couldn’t resist the partying and it cost him everything. Absolutely crying shame, the damn idiot.‘

  Len looks over to Bailey and smiles sadly.

  ‘Buy him a drink anyway Pete.’   

 Will do’ says Bailey. Now feeling bad and wishing he’d kept his mouth shut…….

                                         DUE JUNE 2015





                                               JOHN LUDDEN

                                       RED STAR PUBLISHING



                                       ALL RIGHTS RESERVED