Emma Gets a Shot: The Replacement
Anita Martin liked being a boxing promoter. It was a job that never seemed to get boring. There was always something that threatened to go wrong, someone’s ego to massage, or someone to put in their place.
It was also a job where you needed to be available to take a call anytime, just in case someone was offering one of your clients something that they wanted. And that was what Anita prided herself on. She was one of the ‘good’ ones in the boxing industry. She was not in it for the money (though the money was good), not in it to rub shoulders with celebrities (though that was a nice perk) she did it because she loved it. And working with Virani was great too, because Virani knew to trust her and gave a wide leeway how to run the company.
It was a bit of a quiet Tuesday, while Anita was picking up her afternoon coffee from her local shop that her phone rang. Anita glanced at the number for a second and when she recognized it, she smirked. This could be quite interesting.
“Hello Spencer. I was wondering if you still had my number,” she said playfully.
“You wound me, madam,” sighed Spencer Grandin.
“Yes, that is the price for speaking with me. I take my pound of flesh.”
“And then you wonder why no one calls you,” Spencer observed dryly.
Anita laughed. Spencer had worked his way up in the boxing world from the very bottom to now being close to the very top. Good connections, hard work and personal charm had given him great successes over the years, and now he was heading up the new streaming service DAZN’s boxing programming..if Anita’s sources were correct (and they usually were.) DAZN seemed pretty intent on being the next big thing, and was spending big on boxing as part of that. The media landscape is ever evolving, Anita reminded herself.
“What can I do for you, Spencer? It wouldn’t have anything to do with your show in Montreal that is coming up, is it?”
Anita could almost hear Spencer wince over the phone, “Straight to the point, as always aren’t you Anita. Yes, I’m actually in need of a bit of help…and I have an offer to make. I just had a fighter drop out of our card due to injury and was wondering if one of your fighters could step up.”
Anita’s mind raced quickly. Virani was not ready for a fight, and it was unlikely that Virani would be interested in fighting on short notice. That left the lesser fighters in Anita’s stable that Spencer was potentially referring to, some of whom would be fine fighting at short notice…if the situation was right. “Okay Spencer, let’s not play coy. Who are you looking at?
“Emma McGale, actually. We’re bringing over ‘The Swedish Sweetheart’ Astrid Olsson to fight on our card in Montreal, and her opponent pulled out. I need a credible opponent for her at Super Featherweight, one that is actually licensed to fight in Canada.”
Anita had a vague recollection of who Astrid Olsson was, which didn’t mean much in and of itself as she wasn’t an encyclopedia of boxers. “Are you looking for just an opponent? We are building Emma up, and not looking to throw her to the wolves,” she said.
“No, I want a competitive fight,” said Spencer. “Look, DAZN is serious about it’s boxing programming. I know we are just a streaming service, but we want to be THE streaming service for sports. I want female boxing to be a strong part of our boxing portfolio, and most of the executives are onboard with that. I just need to convince the last executives by putting on some women’s fights and then show that people don’t tune out when two women are boxing. So I want to put on a fight not just some hopeless mismatch. People are bored of those.”
“And you sure that you aren’t just buttering me up to feel Emma to this Swedish lady?” Anita asked.
“Look, I don’t care who wins,” said Spencer. “I just have a mandate for this one female fight, so I want it to be a good one. From what I’ve seen of Emma, she’s a nice, exciting type of fighter, the type I’d like to showcase.”
“Not bad on the eyes either,” Anita suggested.
Spencer sighed, “Yes, you know that’s part of it too.”
Anita smiled, Spencer was nothing if not honest. He had his own agenda, she was sure, but he didn’t get to where he was today by burning bridges. “Okay, send over the contract and I’ll discuss it with Emma.”
“I need a response quickly.”
“I’ll have one in a few hours, Spencer. Thank you for the call.”
“No problem. Next time I’m in the city we should have dinner, okay?” said Spencer.
“I’m always interested when you are paying,” laughed Anita.
“Talk to you soon,” said Spencer.
Anita took an Uber to MacVicar’s gym, and while en route she texted Emma, Virani and Thomas that they needed to have an impromptu meeting when she arrived. Upon Anita’s arrival at the gym, both Emma and Thomas were already there, Emma was doing a little jump rope to keep herself occupied, while Thomas was observing some of the younger boxers that were doing various drills. Anita smiled to herself. She now had clients across the city, but this gym was special without a doubt, and it was the level of camaraderie that set it apart.
Thomas took note of her arrival and gave her a little nod. Emma smiled when she saw her arrive and immediately stopped her session. Anita walked over and held out a finger, “We’ll talk, but you need to towel off first.”
Emma laughed, “Yes, MUM. Can you at least let me know if its good news or bad news?”
“It’s news,” Anita said simply. “See you in the office.” Anita gave Emma a friendly smile before moving past her and into the small office within the gym. Technically, this was Thomas’ office, but effectively…it was all of their offices.
Emma was first to enter, having toweled off and dressed in a long sleeve grey t-shirt and trackpants. Thomas followed, wearing his usual collared shirt and pants.
“Virani is on her way,” said Thomas. “She says to start without her.”
Anita nodded, after all, she was the CEO of Cobra promotions after all, not Virani. “I just got a call from Spencer Grandin, who is heading up DAZN’s boxing programming. They need a fighter as an injury replacement for their upcoming card in Montreal in 5 weeks. I just looked at the financial terms…and they are generous.”
Emma’s eyes twinkled for a moment, “I like the sound of that.”
Thomas held a hand up, “Money is fine, but there’s more details missing, like, for example, the opponent.”
“The opponent is Astrid Olsson, also known as the Swedish Sweetheart at Super Featherweight. The 6 round fight would be the first main card fight on the DAZN TV broadcast.”
Emma’s eyes lit up, “’The Swedish Sweetheart?’ Cool! I scouted her a few days ago.”
“You…scouted her?” said Thomas, dumbfounded.
It was at that moment when Virani walked it, wearing stylish jeans and a sweatshirt along with designer sunglasses. It was as if a fashion model had just wandered into this boxing gym. “What did I miss?” asked Virani.
“Jesus Virani, take off the sunglasses. We are indoors,” groused Thomas.
Virani complied, “I’m interrupting, I’ll shut up.”
Thomas held a hand up, “Emma, you said you scouted this Astrid woman? Can you tell me about her?”
Emma smiled winningly, “Yeah, she was one of the fighters I was going to propose for my next opponent. She’s 7-3, with a couple of of knockouts. She’s fought exclusively in Scandinavia and Germany. Astrid is…kind of a swarmer. She throws lots of punches, though she doesn’t have too much power..or defence. Her aggression and tenacity is enough to beat lower level fighters, but if you can clip her, she’s shown a relatively weak chin. I’m good enough to beat her…and stop her, I think.”
Thomas bit his lip, “You’ll have to show me some footage of her, but I’m inclined to agree with you, Emma. You’ve got a good eye for this sort of thing.”
“I’m a boxing nerd,” laughed the Englishwoman.
“No kidding,” remarked Virani. “When we were in London, it was a struggle to get her to put on an actual movie to watch. All she wanted to watch was potential opponent’s fights! This girl lives and breathes boxing.”
Anita had been busy on her phone, trying to find more details of Astrid’s record. She managed to find it on Boxrec.com and had a look. Like Emma had said, Astrid was 7 and 3. Three wins by way of knockout…and two defeats by way of knockout. The Swedish fighter appeared to stumble when placed up against opposition with better quality records, a trait that was pretty much indicative of a gatekeeper. She could beat lower quality fighters, but anyone actually good could beat her. That was the sort of fighter that she had planned to match Emma with.
“You’re not worried about it being at Super Featherweight?” asked Anita.
Emma shrugged, “It’s a 4 pound difference, shouldn’t be a big deal.”
“Okay then, you…boxing types can worry about the actual fight,” said Anita. “I want to tell you about the financial terms of the deal. Normally I wouldn’t bother…but, well DAZN, as a sort of new startup is being very generous with their fight purses.” Anita beckoned Emma over and showed her the terms of the contract on her phone.
Emma’s eyes opened almost comically wide, “Holy Jesus. That’s…generous.”
Anita shrugged, “Remember I get a cut of the profit.”
Emma punched the air, “Whatever, take your percentage! That’s a boatload of dollars. I’m taking this fight, I’m sure of it now.”
Anita smiled, “Hold your horses, young one. Talk it over with Thomas and Virani…but I’m going to text Spencer back, and tell him that we have preliminarily accepted the offer.”
Emma fistpumped, while Thomas rubbed his hands together in anticipation of another fight camp. Virani was impassive, only moving to Emma’s side offer some private words of wisdom.
Anita left the ‘boxing’ people to the actual details of plotting out if they were going to accept the fight and then all the little details from there. That was why she got paid, after all.
Emma McGale watched the climatic last few seconds of Astrid Olsson’s most recent defeat with rapt attention. She pictured herself making the same moves as Astrid’s opponent, slipping a wild left hook before landing a left hook from beneath that stunned Astrid. A vengeful overhand right to Astrid jaw followed, sending the Swede reeling. As Astrid stumbled into the ropes, Emma mimicked the uppercut that sent Astrid sprawling to the canvas. Try as she did, the Swedish Sweetheart could not beat the count.
In the seat beside her, Virani sipped at her hot chocolate, “That Swede’s got heart.”
Emma gestured to herself, “I’ve got heart.”
Virani hesitated. “Can I say something, as your friend?”
“We wouldn’t be friends if you couldn’t.”
Virani took another sip of her drink before talking, “You’re a good boxer Emma. I’m delighted to see you improve every day. But you haven’t proven that you have a heart like Astrid’s in that ring. Look at her,” Virani gestured at the paused screen, as Astrid pawed drunkenly at the ropes to try to get up, “She’s operating on only instinct and still she’s fighting to get up. In a fight where she is getting the heck beat out of her. That’s heart.”
“I can do the same,” said Emma uncertainly. Could she have done the same? Her mind flashed back to her fight against Kayleigh.
Certainly she had fought bravely, but could she have tried to get up when Kayleigh had knocked her down? It wouldn’t have changed the result of the fight, to be sure, but she remembered making a conscious decision to stay down.
Virani gave her a friendly look, “Look Emma, I know you can beat this chick. Astrid has a mediocre chin, not much defence and hits about as hard as a schoolgirl. But she gets everything from those meager talents. I want you to get everything from your talent.”
Emma looked down at her hands. She had worked so hard to rebuild her career, a career which she had thought was legitimately dead. This next fight…was make or break. Fate had been kind to her, dropping this seemingly winnable fight right into her hands. She wouldn’t let it slip away.
“Okay. My heart in the ring…is yet to be tested,” she admitted. “But I want this more than anything,” she said confidently. I’m going to work so hard in training that the fight is going to be easy.”
Virani punched her lightly on the shoulder, “That’s the spirit girl.”
Emma punched Virani back harder. Virani winced dramatically, “Ow. I liked you better before Thomas taught you how to punch harder.”
“You’re going to like me less, because who do you think is going to be my sparring partner for this match against Astrid?”
“Oh no,” said Virani. “I’m in trouble.”
“No…Astrid Olsson is in trouble,” declared Emma.