As remembered by Virani MacVicar (Ringside)
Virani MacVicar watched nervously as the coaches departed from the corners of the two fighters, leaving only the gladiators in the referee in the ring.
Tanille was outwardly confident, bouncing lightly on her toes, eager to continue from last round. Emma kept her arms low, staring warily at Tanille. Reading body language could be a bit of a fool’s errand, but given that was about all she could go on, she did it anyways. In short, she didn’t like the body language from Emma and she didn’t like the seemingly deserved confidence from Tanille.
Once the bell rang, Emma put her gloves up and came forward as usual, but Virani could tell that she wasn’t at 100%. It wasn’t obvious, but given that Virani had boxed hundreds of rounds against Emma in sparring and, she knew her body language pretty well.
“Come on Emma!” she yelled, hoping that her voice could carry from her seats into the ring. It was so bloody futile, being in the stands and away from the action. Yelling encouragement was all she could do and it didn’t feel like nearly enough.
Tanille, playing the predator in the 3rd round, came out throwing bombs. Emma covered up, preventing the punches from landing. Not fooled by this basic defence tactic, Tanille changed levels and through a savage punch right into Emma’s midsection that resonated through the arena. Virani winced…that one had to have stung. Emma broke out of her shell trying to land a pair of jabs, but Tanille’s head movement prevented them from landing.
And then the American took the opening created from Emma’s jab having missed, launching from her crouch and blasting Emma with a powerful right hand that twisted Emma’s head around.
Having just absorbed a wicked right hand, Emma took an uncertain half-step back, her arms starting drop to her sides. Given another moment to just let gravity take over, Emma might have collapsed to the canvas, but Tanille was already pivoting her body and launching a left hook. A lesser fighter might have missed with the follow up, but Tanille was on point with her punch. Emma took the full force of the left hook on the chin, her head swiveling in the opposite direction it had just gone.
Virani, as a fighter, generally knew when punches were hurting. Any idiot with a brain and functioning eyes could have seen how big those punches from Tanille were. Virani’s stomach had already been tight, just from watching the fight, but somehow it tightened even further. It felt like her stomach had been replaced by a giant boulder.
After the left hook, Emma fell hard to the canvas, her right leg almost folding underneath her as she fell. The crowd roared as they celebrated the first knockdown of the fight. Virani and Anita watched on, stunned. It was hard to tell from our vantage point how bad Emma was hurt, but Tanile’s combination had been wicked. Virani was torn between wanting shout at Emma to get up, and the impulse for Emma to stay down.
A flurry of things happened all at once. The crowd around her all bounced to their feet and cheered loudly at the big knockdown. Tanille took one good look at Emma’s prone body and then quickly scampered to a neutral corner, one arm held aloft. The referee needlessly pointed Tanille to the neutral corner, but the flame haired American was already well on her way. As for Emma…from a distance it was hard to tell what was happening, but Emma didn’t appear to be moving, seconds after having been dropped.
“No..nononnononono.” Virani heard herself say out loud. Beside me, Anita was tense, looking on towards the ring with her eyes wide.
With Tanille in the neutral corner, the referee turned her attention to Emma and began to count. Virani’s heart lifted for a moment, if the referee was counting that meant that Emma must be okay, that the referee was seeing something that she couldn’t from hervantage point. Virani told herself that Emma must have been taking her time to start getting up, she was just biding her time.
It was one of those times when Virani’s brain was telling her one thing ‘If Emma has gone down and hasn’t moved in several seconds, it probably means she’s out cold’ and Virani’s heart was telling her another ‘The referee is counting, so Emma’s just taking her time before getting up, like the smart fighter that she is.’ It was logic vs. emotion and the two competing aspects were battling in Virani’s head for supremacy.
With Emma not showing the slightest inclination that she was going to get up (or was even conscious), the referee, a few seconds later than she should have, waved off the fight. The crowd’s noise level reached an even louder pitch as the fight officially concluded. The referee then bent down to remove Emma’s mouthpiece before waving the fight doctor into the ring. Thomas rushed in as well, kneeling at Emma’s side as the Englishwoman continued to lay prone on the ground.
Virani stood there too stunned to even move. What the hell had just happened? Had Tanille just blown Emma away like that? Emma had been down before and hurt in fights, but she always came back, always! That must have meant things were bad in that ring….
“She’s not moving,” Virani said, mostly to herself.
The crowd picked up on the fact there was a fighter in distress quickly enough, and the celebrations became more muted. The sound of the arena quieting and her friend not moving on the canvas in the ring was almost too much for Virani to bear.
“I’ve got to go down there.”
Anita gripped her arm tightly. “And do what, Virani? You aren’t a doctor, all you’ll do is get in their way.”
Anita’s logic penetrated Virani’s mind and she sat back down in her seat. It was so hard to see if Emma was moving yet as there were three people around her, Thomas, the ring doctor and the referee, so it was impossible to see clearly what exactly was going on.
“They haven’t called for the stretcher or for the oxygen masks,” said Anita. “So it’s not that bad.”
“But I can’t see,” Virani complained, “So how do you know?”
“Read their body language, do they look worried?”
“Thomas does,” Virani responded.
“Thomas always looks worried,” Anita responded reasonably. “I’m sure they are just taking every precaution.”
Virani bit her lip. She knew that this was going to be a dangerous fight for Emma, but even in her wildest nightmares, she hadn’t imagined a situation like this. Emma hadn’t just been knocked out, she was out cold. She just hoped it was like 99.9% of these scenarios where Emma would be up in a moment and not that 0.01% chance where something terrible happened. If something terrible happened, she’d never forgive herself…
But by the time Virani was starting to think about how many ways she had failed her friend, Emma was being helped into a sitting position. The crowd and Tanille clapped along politely, glad in so many ways to see Emma make a recovery. Virani felt the boulder in her stomach grow a little smaller.
As the doctor continued to monitor Emma, Virani could tell that Emma was pretty out of it. Virani glanced over at Tanille, who was celebrating quietly with her corner. That had been the sort of victory that would propel her into ‘legitimate’ prospect conversation, and possible into the world rankings.
Virani shook her head. No time to think about that. This was about Emma.
“We need to go down there,” she said to Anita.
“Once they announce Tanille as a winner,” said Anita, picking up her purse and clearly getting ready to make an exit.
“Why not now?”
“Again, because you’ll get in the way,” Anita replied patiently. “And the last thing we need is an excuse for Tanille to call you out. We’ll stay out of sight for a moment and then we’ll make sure we get Emma any help she needs.”
“Anita…we shouldn’t have made this fight,” Virani said.
“This isn’t the time to discuss that, Virani.”
Virani bit her lip. She watched from a distance as Emma stood under her own power and walked gingerly to the corner where a stool was set up for her to sit on.
The Canadian champion closed her eyes. This sport was so hard to watch sometimes. The highs were high, but the lows were absolutely devastating.
Laila Ali: “Welcome back from commercial, I’m glad to report that Emma McGale is up and responding well to the ring doctor. She’ll be taken to Mount Sinai Hospital to be monitored, but is expected to be fine. But what a star making performance that was from Tanille Taylor. She got tagged a few times towards the end of the first round and evidently that was enough to make her step it up into 3rd gear, and once Taylor stepped it up, McGale had no answers.”
“Taylor had been criticized for being unable to finish off her overmatched opponents before, letting them hang around in the fight for too long, but Tanille said she worked hard in camp on how to finish off fights strong and goodness did she do so here tonight, leaving McGale flat on her back and unconscious. Taylor will still need a bit of seasoning, but it appears that the sky is the limit for this young American and of course, we will bring you all of Tanille’s fights here on DAZN!”
“Let’s send you over to the Ring Announcer for the official result”
Ring Announcer: “Ladies and Gentleman, this fight comes to a dramatic end at 27 seconds of the 3rd Round. Your winner, by way of a big knockout is ‘The Prodigy’ Tanille Taylor!”
Tanille’s arm was raised to the delight of the crowd as Emma sat in neutral corner, leaning heavily against the ringpad. The difference between them could not have been more stark. The up and coming prospect, beautiful, powerful, dominant being filmed by TV cameras to get the best angle for her on one side and on the other, out of the lense of the camera was used up Emma McGale, looking exhausted as she leaned against the ringpost and tried to figure out what had just happened.
Anita nudged her in the side and Virani clapped along with the crowd. Applauding the person that knocked her friend out seemed a bit macabre, but it was good sportsmanship, and the last thing she wanted was a story written about how she didn’t applaud Tanille’s win. But as soon as it was polite to do so, she and Anita slipped from their seats and towards the ring, keen to get an update on Emma’s status.
By the time that Virani arrived, the ring doctor was finishing up her examination. Emma stood from her stool, being watched closely by Thomas in case Emma’s legs couldn’t support her. With Thomas’s assistance, she slipped between the ropes and went down the stairs right into Virani’s waiting embrace.
Tears stung at Virani’s eyes as the embrace broke, “How are you feeling?”
“Like I just got knocked out,” said Emma, who tried for a smile but couldn’t manage to hold it. “She was a class apart, Virani.”
“We have to get her to the back, the docs back there want to check in on her,” said Thomas, controlling the situation as he usually did.
“Okay, we’ll go together,” said Virani.
Emma nodded and walked towards the ramp, where a few minutes earlier she had been introduced to the crowd. No one was focused on her now as the small group escaped back up the ramp. Everyone was focused on the new star in the middle of the ring as she was interviewed by Laila Ali.
That could have been Emma, Virani thought wistfully. Nothing would have made her happier to see her friend take a place in the sun. She just hoped that Emma wouldn’t be a footnote in Tanille’s career….