by Rowland van der Westhuizen
(Johannesburg, South Africa)
Blood dripping from my nose. I faintly hear the voice of my screaming coach, "Come on Johny, you gotta keep 'em hands up! You gotta keep 'em up! And watch his left hook!" I hear the bell, round 6.
I'm in. Right hook to the face. Jab. Jab. Left hook to the body. Bob and weave and right hook to the...I see only white.
I remember before the fight I promised my sweetheart that this will be the last time. My last fight. The last chance to prove my worth. After the car crash last year the doctors warned me not to fight. They said I could really hurt myself. But I insisted on stepping out of the ring a proud man. I needed this!
"Five!" I snap back to consciousness and realise I went down. "Eight!" I get up. "Are you ready?" The referee asks. I nod my head. I go in. Jab. Jab. Left hook to the body. Clinch. Break and Right hook to the...
I wake up in a cold hospital room. The hospital stench reaches far into my nostrils. I can't feel my legs. What happened? I see a note next to my bed:
I'm sorry, but I'm leaving you. I told you not to fight. I told you. I can't handle this. I love you, but I can't do this.
Doctor's words, "I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you Mr. West, but that last fight was too much for your body to handle. You received a massive blow to the head and your neck was not strong enough to handle this kind of punishment after the accident. You are paralyzed from the neck down. I'm sorry. If there's anything we can do to make things easier for you..." I stopped him there.
I never stepped out of the ring a proud man but I needed this.