Interlude – London Calling

A few days after I beat Rachel, I marched into Thomas’ office and took a seat across from him. Thomas, looking wary, shut down his laptop and looked at me, “You look pissed,” he observed. “You just went to 3-0. Maybe celebrate for a little while? I think I told you to take a week off. Maybe eat some cake and let that cut heal?”

“No. I refuse to celebrate that win. Rachel was not a challenging opponent. I’ve had harder sparring sessions. What was the point of that fight, Thomas?” I’d watched the replay of the fight with Rachel on Youtube a couple of times now. The first time I had watched it, I was pleased by my performance, and I rewound my KO combination a few times because it was so satisfying to watch. The next time I watched it, I became annoyed at the many flaws in Rachel’s skill. The time after that, it was just embarrassing to watch.  It was a total mismatch.

“Experience,” he said calmly. “Yes, Rachel turned out to be worse than I expected her to be, but she was undefeated…I couldn’t have expected that a 3-0 fighter would be that poor. But there’s still a point of facing an opponent like her that I thought would be obvious to you.”

“Enlighten me.”

Thomas frowned, “Virani…I saw the way you reacted when you fought Riya. When you hurt her, you had no killer instinct…”

“I finished her off, didn’t I?” I interrupted.

“Yes. But you hesitated. I’m glad that we got the chance to prove that you had the ability to take out a hurt without hesitation. You did. You passed that test. ”

“So the point of that fight was to have Rachel get badly hurt so I could learn something? That’s…unspeakably cruel.”

Thomas met my increasing anger with a steady, calm, tone, “Look Virani, I don’t control how good your opponents are. I try to, but its an imperfect science at best.  Who knows, maybe Rachel is really good and just had a bad day.  Anyways, I didn’t think you would knock her out cold like that. And you have to remember, she wasn’t that hurt. She was up and smiling after the fight. And most importantly that’s BOXING Virani. Fighters like her are fed to fighters like you. You’re going somewhere. Rachel is going to be a fifty-fifty fighter at best. Yes, you disposed of her, but that looks great on your record, on your Youtube channel. Knockouts sell tickets Virani. They’ll be playing that knockout of Rachel on your highlight reel until you retire! This is how the game is played Virani. You move up the ranks, fighting people like Rachel.”

“Record padders. Cans.”

Thomas shrugged, “Again, I didn’t know she was that bad, she was 3-0…against less than stellar competition, admittedly. I was 90% sure you were better than her…Virani I’m being strategic with who you are fighting. Cynthia was a novice, but not as skilled as you. But she taught you how to fight someone with a reach advantage. Riya was similarly inexperienced, but she taught you how to face a pure pressure, high power fighter. Rachel, well, she was supposed to be tougher than that, but I knew that she didn’t really deserve her 3-0 record. She tested your killer instinct, and you passed the test.”

“And how many more fighters do I have to beat before I face someone that is a real challenge?” I said acidly.

Thomas’ face was starting to get a little flushed, maybe indicating that he was losing his cool a little, “Those WERE real challenges, Virani. Those were real fighters! Cynthia had you hurt for a moment or two. Riya could have knocked you out cold if she landed a big punch. Rachel could have won via that cut. Just because you won, it doesn’t mean those fights were foregone conclusions.”

“I don’t want to face fighters like them anymore,” I said.

Thomas sighed, “Virani. You’re improving at a rapid pace. I thought at one point that you’d only be a mediocre fighter, a gatekeeper. Now I think you’re a potential top 10 fighter. It’s possible you could be more than that. Maybe winning a world title isn’t out of reach. Not right now. But a few years down the line? I think it could happen.”

For a moment, I’m taken aback at even the thought of a world title. I know these days there are about 4 titles per weightclass, so that isn’t as big a deal as it seems. Still though. Virani MacVicar, world champion boxer. It did have a nice ring to it. And at the end of the day, it was the goal.

“I understand that you are doing things a certain way, Thomas,” she said, much more calm than she had been previously, “But I’m not interested in fighting someone like Rachel again. I don’t think I learned anything. We both know I need bigger challenges”

“Even if that’s true, and I don’t accept that for a second, that fight helped you gain confidence and it helped you get noticed. Now that you are 3-0 and establishing yourself as a legitimate prospect, things are going to change. You don’t have a contract with a promoter, but I’d bet they’ll be coming out of the woodwork to sign you. Be ready for that. They’ll promise you the world.”

“Why would they be interested in me now? I basically had to beg to get on my first fight card.”

“You might be surprised to hear this but the boxing world is kind of short of exotic beauties with undefeated records and knockout power. There’s unlimited demand for someone like you.”

“Exotic beauty? Come on. I’m not that good looking.”

“Now who’s fishing for compliments,” Thomas teased. “I’ll bring Jessica in here if you need a second opinion.”

I smiled at the mention of Thomas’ firebrand of a girlfriend, “Don’t distract me, Thomas,” I said lightly. “I do want to know where I’m going. What’s my goal, and how do I get there?”

“I don’t know for sure,” he admitted. “I think we let this latest victory sink in for a bit and go from there. I’ll see about bringing in a couple of experienced sparring partners so you don’t get bored.”

I clamped down on my frustration, “That’s a non-answer, Thomas.”

“If I had a concrete answer to give you, I’d do it. If you want a goal to strive for – I think the Canadian title at your weight will be available soon, I don’t think the current champ can make that weight any longer. I’ve been chatting with Phoenix Promotions, they’ve got a similar prospect to you named Terrie Stone. She’s a future rival for you for sure, but we agreed that if we were to match you up together, we should do it for the belt.”

“This Terrie Stone…she any good?”

“Yup. She’s good. A powerful puncher with some good skill. It’s a great fight. Marketable. Two young up and coming fighters. One a true born Canadian girl, the other the child of immigrants. Both pursuing the same dream. Yeah, I think it might sell a few tickets,” Thomas said drolly.

“But what do you want me to do next?”

“Keep training, and we’ll see about getting you a fight in a few months time.”

I accepted that answer, but as it turned out finding another opponent for me was easier said than done.

I was willing to be patient, but…how could it be this hard to make a fight? The first potential fighter that we were in negotiation to fight balked at the amount of traveling fees that we were paying. When I offered to make up the difference between what her camp wanted and what was offered, she still didn’t want to fight. Just an excuse, I guess. Just a waste of time.

The next opponent seemed promising and a fight was even scheduled between myself and a 4-2 fighter named Gertrude Weaver. The contract was signed and everything looked good….until a routine medical determined that Gertrude was pregnant. Congratulations and all that but…that meant the fight was off. More weeks wasted.

I was getting frustrated, but that was the way I am.  Yet even Thomas, who was cool-headed by nature, was getting frustrated as well. That was a bad sign. Finally, we decided to sit down with my former promoter, Ken Georgia and see if he could help us out. Even though we had fulfilled the initial terms of my contract with him, we were still on good terms. Ken Georgia was always putting on shows and it was nice to have the option of being on one of his fight cards.

Meeting at one of my favorite restaurants, Thomas and I expressed our frustration at not being able to find an opponent for me.

Ken laughed, “You’ve got a classic problem right there,” he said.

“Problem?” I asked.

“Yeah, the power puncher dilemma.”

My eyes darted back and forth between Ken and Thomas, “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

Thomas sighed, “Basically, no one wants to fight you because you might knock them out. Getting knocked out tends to have a poor effect on your marketability.”

“I don’t get it. This is boxing. People win by knockout all the time.”

“Right, but your problem is this,” said Ken. “No serious promoter wants to put their prospect against you, because even if their fighter is better, you have the chance winning by knockout – thus you are too big a risk. Veteran fighters don’t see the reward in fighting an untested fighter such as yourself. You can always try to find a journeywoman to take a fight, but its even hard for me to find one, because no journeywoman wants to get knocked out. And even if you do find a mediocre fighter to fight you, they’ll probably want more purse money than usual, because they are taking on more risk of injury.”

I was legitimately flummoxed, “All this because I have two knockout wins?”

Ken held his hands up, “I’m not saying it makes sense. I’m just saying how it is. You are at a strange spot in your career”

“What if I sign another contract with you?”

“Sweety…” I glared daggers through Ken and he changed his tune quickly, “Virani. You’re bigger than my little local promotion. I could probably find you some hopeless boxer willing to take the cash to fight you, and probably get knocked out, but I don’t think you are interested in that. As a promoter, I’m limited, you don’t want me to be your promoter anymore. You’ve outgrown me.”

“Well…What would you recommend?”

“Talk to some more established promoters. Take meetings. You have growing name in boxing. People have seen you knock out Rachel on Youtube. That kind of popularity matters.” He paused, “You might even consider traveling. Quebec’s a boxing hot spot, they might have more competition out there.”

“Thanks, Ken. I guess I’ll have to figure something out.”


If you’ve never spoken to a fight promoter, your life is probably richer for it. It’s a collection of sleezebags that will offer you both the moon and the stars, but when it comes down to a contract, its like they forgot all the things they promised you just moments before. I can’t be both ‘potentially the next big thing’ and only worth 7k per fight. It’s either one or the other.

After a couple of meetings, I had become pretty disillusioned with the whole thing. I had one last meeting scheduled, so I figured that I might as well take Thomas along with me to this one. At least he might get a free lunch out of it. This meeting was scheduled at the Shangri-La in downtown Toronto, which was the kind of place that you went if you were an important celebrity or a lawyer. Naturally, I had been there on more than a few occasions. I was dressed up nicely in one of my more traditional Indian dresses, whereas Thomas…Thomas wouldn’t know style if it hit him in the face. He’s a good enough looking guy that most clothes look good on him, but he had no style, not that it was my place to comment on it.

We were there to meet with Suzy Bennett, who I knew had some connection to England or Britain or…somewhere over there. When I spoke to her earlier, I noticed that she had some sort of accent, but I was no good at telling exactly where it was from. Maybe I would find out soon.

As I walked into the restaurant at the Shangri-La, a woman in a red suit approached us, “Ms. MacVicar?”

I nodded, “That’s me. This is my coach, Thomas. You must be Ms. Bennett.”

“Call me Suzy, please.” Suzy waved towards the interior of the restaurant, “Shall we take our table?”

As we walked to what appeared to be a private room in the back, I took stock of Suzy. She did appear to be English, if I guessed her accent correctly. She was about my size and seemed to be in her late thirties, if I had to guess.

We took our seats at the table and shared some small pleasantries before we got down to business.

London Calling 1

“So,” said Suzy, “I suppose you are wondering why I approached you.”

“We’ve been taking meetings with other promoters over the past few weeks,” Thomas observed neutrally.

“And yet you remain a free agent, so to speak,” said Suzy.

“I’ve yet to have an offer that I have been convinced by,” I admitted.

“All that ends today, I hope,” said Suzy.

A waiter came around and took our orders, which interrupted the flow of the conversation. I was still trying to take stock of the Englishwoman. She seemed a bit more refined than the usual boxing promoter type. Maybe that was just the English accent. I knew that boxing was popular in Britain and that female boxing was on the rise too, with fighters such as Katie Taylor, Chantelle Cameron and Nicola Adams.

“We are listening,” said Thomas. “We’re looking for a promoter to take Virani to the next level.”

“I believe that I can help you. I have today an offer for you to join my promotional company, and I have a fight to offer you.”

I felt my heart beating a little faster, but I kept my voice calm, “Let’s hear your offer.”

London Calling 2

“Well, perhaps I should explain. The EBC has seen the popularity of boxing explode and they are starting their own programming.”

“The English Broadcasting Corporation is going to show boxing?” I asked, stunned. The EBC was the state owned public service broadcaster that had been around since…forever. Though it had shown boxing in the past, it had generally left it to its competitors, Sky Sports and ITV. Still the EBC was the biggest broadcaster in Britain. You could even get their shows here in Canada, thanks to the colonial connection.

Suzy nodded, “They are. And since it is a public broadcaster, the Ministry of sport has decided two things. One, that all boxers that appear on its shows get a ‘fair’ purse and two, that there should be more representation of female fighters on its cards. They’ve tossed around adding a quota, but they have not gone so far, yet. For now though, they are trying to get as many women boxers on the program as feasibly possible.”

“And here’s where you offer me a spot on one of these cards, I imagine,” I said, trying and failing to keep excitement out of my voice.

“Yes,” said Suzy. “You’d be fighting Kayleigh ‘The Fluke’ Parsons in her pro debut. It would be the first televised match of the card.”

Thomas shook his head, “Wait, Kayleigh Parsons? The fighter who gave up her chance at attending the 2012 Olympics because she got pregnant? Isn’t she married to one of Britain’s best boxers?”

“Correct on both counts,” said Suzy. “Ms. Parsons qualified for the London games, but backed out after it was revealed that she was pregnant. As you may know, Ms. Parsons was considered to be infertile, so the whole thing was quite a ‘fluke’ as they say.” Suzy paused, “And Ms. Parsons is married to ‘Fireball’ Jim Traynor, who is one of Britain’s rising stars in boxing. It makes them one of the preeminent couples of British boxing.”

London Calling 3

“I know Jim Traynor. I fought against him,” remarked Thomas, his mood suddenly turning sour.

“I’m aware,” said Suzy with a glimmer of amusement in her eyes. “He handed you your only knockout loss, I believe.”

“Thank you for reminding me,” said Thomas.

“When did you fight Jim Traynor?” I asked Thomas.

“Commonwealth Games 2010,” sighed Thomas. “My first and only international competition. I was winning the fight into the fourth round, until he nailed me with a big combination, which knocked me out cold.  It was not pleasant.”

“It happens,” said Suzy apologetically, “And you would not be the last to be knocked out by ‘Fireball’ Traynor, either.”

That seemed to be cold comfort to Thomas, who I noticed was clenching his fists underneath the table. Though an (unrelated) injury had robbed him of his boxing career, it seemed to her that Thomas sometimes missed being in the ring.

“Back to me,” I said. “I don’t know who Kayleigh Parsons is.”

Suzy nodded, “London born, outsized personality, good looking, and blonde. She was quite a good amateur boxer, though shy of top fighters like Nicola Adams or Katie Taylor. It was something of a shock when she managed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. She got quite a bit of publicity for giving up her spot, so combined with the fact that her other half is Jim Traynor, she’s a bit of a celebrity. Her choice to become a mother over an Olympian was applauded by many, and she shows up on talk shows every now and then.”

I started to have a sinking feeling about this. Suzy didn’t want to actually promote me, she just wanted me as someone that would lose to this popular fighter in her debut. “So why do you want me to fight her?” I asked.

Suzy smiled, “Here is where we get to the interesting part. The EBC wanted her on the fight card, so they put her on. They contracted me to find an opponent. Which is why I’m here talking to you. I’d sign you to a promotional deal. Three fights. I have good contact with the British broadcasters and a small stable of fighters, I’m not the biggest name in boxing, but I do not want to be. I think you would be a great addition to my little stable.”

“But you’re setting me up against a former Olympic quality boxer,” I said. “That doesn’t seem like a great opportunity for me, no offence intended.”

“You don’t understand,” Suzy said, a bit annoyed now. “Kayleigh hasn’t fought in any official match since 2012. She’s had two children since then and only started training again late last year. She’s trained by her husband in a gym in London and no one is quite sure if she’s actually serious about having a pro boxing career or she’s just doing this because she’s bored. No one knows if she’s that good anymore. I actually think there is a good chance that you could beat her. Which would be an excellent way to jump start your career.”

“And if Virani loses?” asked Thomas

Suzy hesitated for a moment, “Assuming that Virani shows herself to be a competent boxer, as long as she does not get knocked out in the early rounds, I suspect that this will raise her profile in the UK. Remember, I’m signing you to a three fight deal. I wouldn’t be doing that if I just wanted you to show up and lose. I believe I can promote you well, win or lose.”

“So why me?” I asked.

Suzy considered for a moment, “I can’t and won’t speak to your qualities as a fighter, because I have no idea how to judge how good a fighter is outside of wins and losses. But there is star potential in you, Virani. That I know how to judge. Your fights get good numbers on Youtube, despite you having no promotion. You have reasonable followings in social media, especially on Instagram.”

“Any pretty girl can get a good following on Instagram,” I replied.

Suzy smirked, “Agreed. That wasn’t exactly the point. Look, the boxing market in the UK is overwhelmingly white and male. However, demographically speaking, that leaves a huge market untapped. You are Indian, by heritage and if we could get you to connect with that market in the UK and India, plus you have a natural following in Canada given that you are Canadian, that’s three good markets that we can sell you in. As your promoter, I can get you interviews and sponsorships. I saw that you wore Adidas gloves in your last fight. I can talk to the right people at Adidas and get you some sponsorship dollars for wearing their product.” Suzy leaned back in her chair, “There’s not many female Indian boxers with your level of looks, charm and intelligence. If we get you in front of the right people, there’s a good chance that you could be a star.”

“She would need to win fights, too,” said Thomas. “No one is falling for a Mia St. John type again. You want to be a female fighting star? You have to be legit.”

Suzy nodded easily, “I agree with that. Look, I know this fight with Kayleigh is a potential risk. You can’t buy that level of exposure though. It’s a fight, against an opponent that people will know, on a major domestic TV network. The potential reward though…is tantalizing.”

I needed a good, stiff, drink to think this through, and I wasn’t the drinking type. This felt like a watershed moment, do I take this risky fight and try to reap the potential rewards? Or do I try to find out what was behind door #2? The problem was, that I had no idea if I was ever going to get a better chance. This was going to be a televised fight on the EBC. That kind of exposure would be fantastic for my career, unless I got knocked out by the first punch that was thrown.

London Calling 4

“I’m not afraid of a challenge,” I said. “Thomas, ideas?”

“I’d want to see what I can find on Kayleigh, make sure you are being honest with us…no offence intended,” said Thomas.

“None taken. I would expect that a good trainer wouldn’t just take my word for it.” Suzy turned to me, “And I imagine you would like to look at the contract.”

“I would,” I replied.

Suzy nodded amiably, “I’ll forward you the contract after lunch.” She turned her head as she saw our food being delivered. “But for now, we should eat and enjoy.”

The rest of the lunch progressed well enough and by the end, I shook hands with Suzy, hopefully starting a long-running relationship.

London Calling 5


Thomas and I met again in his office around dinnertime to discuss the potential deal.

“What is the contract like?” Thomas asked.

I hesitated for a moment before answering, “It’s…surprisingly good for me. The dollars per fight is good, even without the fact I’d be paid in GBP and not CAD. There’s no easy way to break the contract, and even if she wants to, she’ll have to pay compensation. I even did a bit of research on Suzy. She’s legit. She worked under Eddie Hearn before striking out on her own. She seems well regarded as well.”

“So the contract is good?”

“It is. How about Kayleigh?”

Thomas leaned back in his seat, “It’s a tough one to figure out. She certainly was pretty good…five years ago. Good technique, and a nice aggressive style, are what I found from the few amateur fights I could find of hers. But she wasn’t overwhelmingly talented. Nor does she had that much amateur experience. She’s not a southpaw, she’s been beaten at the Amateur level, even knocked down. I do think that she’ll be a step up in terms of competition, but I think she might be beatable.” He paused, “The only question is if you want to take this risk. The money is nice, but you don’t need the money.”

I, honestly, had already made up my mind, “I want the fight. I want to be on network television, showing people everywhere that women can box. Even an Indian woman. I want to be a part of the generation that changes and legitimizes boxing, here in Canada and around the world. And I can’t do that if I play it safe, and take the easy fights.”

“I hate having to play devil’s advocate, but someone has to. If you lose, especially if you lose lopsidedly, you could really hurt your credibility. If you get knocked out on national television…that’s a hell of a first impression to make and its pretty hard to make up for one of those”

My stomach felt a little queasy at Thomas playing devil’s advocate. He was probably right though, if I got blown out in the fight, that would damage me, pretty severely.

“There’s always going to be risks in prizefighting,” I observed.  “I want it though.  I want the challenge, I want the opportunity.”

Thomas smiled thinly, “I don’t think we’ll find anything better.  Its a heck of an opportunity.  You willing to work for it?”

“Always. Okay, let’s do it!” I said enthusiastically.

London, England, here I come.

Virani MacVicar
Current Featherweight champion. A Canadian puncher known for her knockouts that has developed a more all-round style.
Virani MacVicar
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