Virani MacVicar put the finishing touches on her dinner, enjoying the last savory flavour of the last piece of ravioli in her bowl. Around her in the private room of Maison Selby which she had rented for this company dinner, Emma, Anita and Thomas were close to finishing their own meals as well.
Virani looked ruefully at her plate. With it very likely that she was going to have to get ready for another training camp for a fight, she wouldn’t be able to eat as good as this, or at least with portions as generous as these had been. It was part of boxing that most people didn’t get to see and Virani still wasn’t used to it.
When the server came by to remove all of their dishes, it was then time to discuss the business of pugilism, and their early plans for 2020.
Anita Martin pulled out her laptop and placed it on the table, “Okay, so we are here to discuss the Canadian Title and how we keep our grubby little hands on it from this point onwards,” smiled the Cobra Promotions promoter. “First up, we have Virani. I’ve arranged with the Canadian Boxing Federation that your defence will be against Lexi Mills.”
“What a waste of time,” Virani groaned. “Lexi’s basically a bantamweight, she just wants this fight with me for the payday.” Virani knew that Lexi had taken two fights against poor competition at Featherweight just to show that she’d moved up in class. Everyone knew that she was doing it just to get this fight.
“The federation preferred her over options like Mechelle Gauthier, because she’s been active recently,” explained Anita. “Or would you have preferred an unknown but dangerous fighter?”
“Speaking of that,” said Thomas, “Emma, why don’t you provide our breakdown on Lexi?”
Emma McGale, recently returned from a holiday from the UK after her most recent fight, smiled slightly, “Lexi Mills. 8-3 with 3 knockouts. Best thing I can say about her is that she’s quick. Decent technique, good ring IQ, poor power and a reasonable chin. Every time she tried to fight someone half decent, she lost. She’s a domestic level fighter, much less dangerous than someone like…me, really.”
Thomas nodded, “She’s not much of a threat, but if we want to make a defence of the Canadian title, this is the option we have.”
Virani looked at the ceiling for a moment. She wanted to have a least one defence of her Canadian title, but wasn’t there someone a little better to actually fight? This was going to be a waste of time. A training camp and a fight where she’d be expected to win easily. It was not the most enjoyable prospect. “Okay, let’s get this over with as soon as possible.”
Anita nodded, “Right. So the easy part is with the Canadian Federation. They aren’t thrilled that you’ll drop the Canadian title when you win, but they are happy that you are at least defending it. They’ve given assurances that once you vacate the title, that Emma will be named as one of the top contenders for the newly vacant belt. They do want Emma to fight for this title fairly quickly, so your return fight might be a title fight, Emma.”
Emma frowned, “That’s not ideal. Why do they even care that this happens quickly?”
Anita laughed, “It’s all about getting the Federation sanctioning fees, and more importantly, getting them and their friends free VIP tickets to big fights. If there’s no title fights, there’s none of that. Canada’s not a huge boxing market, so they have to do what they can with what they have.”
Virani leaned forward, “Assuming all goes well and I beat Lexi, who is even left to fight Emma?”
“Mechelle Gauthier is the obvious one,” answered Anita. “She’s been back in action recently after getting knocked out by Heather Barker. Terrie Stone would have been another contender, but she’s been licking her wounds after getting kayoed in the US. There’s some…Petra Jopli girl that is like 4-2, but I don’t think she’s an option..”
Emma leaned back in her chair, “I can handle Mechelle any day of the week,” she said confidently.
Virani tended to agree. She had only seen Mechelle fight Heather Barker, but Mechelle hadn’t shown anything beyond average in that fight, and while it had taken Heather a while to get going, once Heather had, she had mowed down the Quebecois fighter and knocked her out decisively. She suspected Emma could do the same, maybe not a knockout, but a decisive win seemed likely.
“Again, I’m pretty sure it’ll be Mechelle. The people at the Federation like her, she’s already fought for the title once, and they do like to give Quebecois fighters a chance where possible,” Anita said. “Canadian politics, ya know.”
Everyone around the table chuckled.
“So that’s Emma’s future sorted,” said Anita. “If everything goes as plan, Emma will be Canadian champion in the summer.”
“And if Virani loses, I can avenge her loss,” laughed Emma. Anita and Thomas laughed, but Virani only smiled coolly. The idea of losing to Lexi Mills was not even one she wanted to entertain for a second.
Anita held her hands out to regain control over the conversation, “So we have two options with Virani’s fight. The first is the easy way – we stage a small show in Toronto which Virani headlines, we stock the undercard with other fighters from our company. We’d probably lose money, all things considered, but nothing too terrible.”
“I don’t love the idea of going into something knowing it will lose money,” said Virani.
“Then the second option may appeal more,” said Anita. “DAZN isn’t thrilled with the prospect of having to do a show in Canada against a rather poor opponent. But…they would be amendable to it if they can set up the fight they want for you next.”
Virani groaned “A typical post-fight confrontation? So cliche.”
“It’s cliche, but it is a cliche because it works,” said Anita. “But do you know who DAZN wants to set up as your next opponent?”
Virani glanced around the table. Everyone was grinning. So, she was the last to know. Great. “I suppose you all know already.”
“’The Empress’, Hee Jung Park,” said Emma.
The Empress herself
“Holy shit,” said Virani, legitimately gobsmacked. “I heard she had come back from retirement, but I figured she’d still be a bantamweight. She’s moving up to Featherweight?”
Anita smiled, “She’s a featherweight now – women do tend to put on weight as they age, you know.”
“Holy shit,” Virani repeated. “The Empress was one of the fighters I started watching when I just started training with Thomas. She’s a legend. A two-weight world champion. She had those amazing battles with Miyo Takano. But she retired before I even started boxing, I never thought I’d get the chance to be in the same ring as her.”
“And you are okay with stepping into the ring with a former champion?” asked Thomas.
Virani turned her attention towards Emma. “I’m sure you’ve had some time to think about the matchup, tell me what you think.”
Emma clasped her hands together and leaned forward, placing her elbows on the table, “I think its a best case scenario. The Empress hasn’t fought since getting knocked out in her climactic battle against Miyo Takano in Seoul. ‘The slugfest in Seoul’ I think they call it now.”
Virani grimaced, “Hee Jung fought the wrong fight she should have won…”
Emma coughed. Virani gestured that she should continue.
“Hee Jung Park retired with a record of 27-7. She held world titles at Bamtamweight and Super Bantamweight. She’s fought in 10 World Championship fights….but that was years ago. In her prime she was a crafty boxer with good offensive skills including an uncanny ability to put together combinations. She’s not what I’d call slick, nor does she really have an iron chin, but she does use her jab well to control range. Her power was…average. 14 stoppages in 27 wins is a respectable percentage, but she never was a one punch knockout fighter.”
Emma took a sip of her drink before continuing, “If Virani was going to fight ‘The Empress’ in her prime, I’d be a bit fearful. But as she demonstrated against Miyo Takano, she struggles against punchers. Takano and Park fought 4 times, and while they both claimed two victories, Takano’s were both knockout victories, while Park’s were both by decision. And who does Miyo Takano fight like? Virani MacVicar.”
“Miyo Takano had a chin made of iron,” said Virani. “I mean like reinforced iron. She was never stopped in her 35 fight pro career.”
“Yes, that’s a big difference between you,” Emma admitted. “But I think you can follow her gameplan. ‘The Empress’ may have been a great boxer, but fighters coming back years after their last fight almost never works out well, especially coming off a knockout loss and moving up a weightclass. Those are huge red flags.”
“So why is she coming back?” Virani asked the table.
“It’s about ending things on her terms, apparently,” said Anita. “’The Empress’ never really got to fight outside of Korea or Japan, and now she finally has the chance. She’s also filming a documentary about her comeback. DAZN wanted her as a way to break into the South Korean market. If she beats you, she’s a big star again. If you beat her, she’ll get a nice retirement match back in Korea. DAZN can’t really lose either way.”
“Makes sense,” said Virani. “Opinions, everyone?”
“Take it,” said Emma. “It’s a perfect chance to get a big name on to your resume. All the fights against top contenders will be hard now, I like this one as a matchup.”
Thomas ran his hand through his hair, “I agree with Emma. There’s no easy matches when you are talking about fighters in the top 10 of the world rankings. ‘The Empress’ is a legend, but she’s had trouble against Bantamweight punchers, so your power should be able to undo her.”
“I’m for whatever makes more money,” laughed Anita. “But seriously. This is a great chance. A big name, a former champ. Someone who was dangerous, and maybe she still is. But even if you lose, you’ll have lost to Hee Jung Park. Not exactly a blemish.”
Virani nodded. In truth she would have taken the fight anyway. It felt good that everyone was on the same page though it prevented recriminations if things went wrong later.
“Park’s camp wants the fight to be in Las Vegas,” said Anita. “Do you want me to fight for Toronto?”
“Fight for it, but concede. Let’s get concessions on the ring size or something,” said Virani. “Fighting in Vegas sounds like fun.”
Thomas hit the table softly, “Can we focus on this Canadian title defence? The future is all well and good, but title defences aren’t easy. The opponent will always give her best, because she knows she might not get another shot. For Virani, it’s just another fight. For this Lexi girl, it might be the biggest fight of her career.”
“No one’s losing focus, Thomas. We’re just discussing logistics,” Virani said calmly. “I’m going to knock this challenger so hard she’s going to wake up in Kansas. Just tell me when to start camp.”
And when I beat both those girls, I should be so close to a world title fight.