It’s a regular training session at Maxim’s gym in Berlin until a special visitor shows up some weeks before the match is even made. Leyla Abdul is on site, unannounced.
Leyla is well known in boxing circles in Berlin and the country. German-born from Lebanese parents, she’s a sponsors’ darling endorsed by sportswear companies. She’s the charismatic Muslim fighter who got the hijab ban overturned in boxing, before Anna adopted the faith.
Today, her record stands at 10-0 (3 KOs) after a successful amateur career, and she fights very regularly.
When Anna shows up, the visitor greets her with a smile.
Leyla: “Hi! I was wondering if you’d be here today. Nice to meet you.”
Anna: “Hi Leyla. Same. I hope you like our gym.”
Leyla: “I do. Hey, I’ll do a couple of rounds on the bag but I’d like to ask you something after that. Do you mind?”
Anna: “No problem.”
While the visitor works the bag, the Ice Queen goes to her coach with a question.
Anna: “The way Leyla looked at me. It’s odd. It’s like she has intentions.”
Maxim: “You bet she does.”
Anna: “I wonder.”
Maxim: “One of the coaches who works at her gym is a friend of mine. He told me how she operates. She’s here because she wants to set up a fight.”
Anna: “Really? That might be interesting.”
Maxim: “Yeah. You’ve got a recognisable name and you lost your last fight. That’s attractive.”
Anna: “Do you think I can beat her?”
Maxim: “She’s a good fighter who generates money. Decent technique and she likes to press. There’s nobody special in her record, though. She handpicks opponents personally by offering to spar. If she beats them, she is ready to offer a fight. You are at least equal, so nothing will happen.”
The blonde thinks and grins.
Anna: “Unless I sandbag her.”
Maxim: “You wanna throw a sparring session?”
Anna: “You think I can beat her in a fight and get a good payday, right?”
Anna: “Then it’s game on. She can have me today.”
The coach is astonished but it’s not the first time that he faces the opportunity to decoy someone. He and Alesia Schumann have done it at ringside before. He agrees.
When she’s done on the bag, Leyla comes to see Anna.
Leyla: “I fancy 4-5 rounds of sparring with you. Would you be game?”
Anna: “Great idea! Let’s gear up.”
Before the action starts, Maxim whispers some instructions to Anna.
Maxim: “She’ll take you to the ropes and corners. For this to work, she has to keep you in check in tight spaces.”
The coach resets the ring timer and the action starts. The blonde is a bit nervous, but she loosens up.
Anna thinks: “It’s your lucky day. I’m all yours.”
Anna’s attacks are a bit lazy from the beginning. This gives Leyla the chance to feel her out with the jab and counterattack to score. The Volcano can measure distance and timing to land her shots, such as this overhand right over a dropping jab.
The lazy right hand also makes an overhand left hook land on the side of the blonde’s headgear. Anna’s taking her leather without complaining.
Leyla takes her sparring partner to the ropes and corners. Anna backs up and stays there. The passivity allows the visitor to let her hands go, flood Anna with quick punches and create holes to overcome a shy defense.
A good right hook goes behind Anna’s right hand in Round 4. Leyla can do almost whatever she wants.
Late in Round 5, Anna is trapped in another corner. In full control, Leyla goes downstairs. She throws, and lands, pounding shots to the body.
That’s followed by a short left hand down the pipe.
Let’s do it
After the final buzzer, the girls have a quick hug. Maxim stays in the background to let them talk.
Leyla: “That was fun.”
The response is more enthusiastic than expected.
Anna: “I liked it! Well, I did my best but you’re better than me. Adversity in sparring helps to learn and improve, though. We should do this again soon.”
Leyla thinks: “If she’s that willing to walk into it…”
Leyla: “I’d love to work with you again. Sparring is great, but nothing compares to an official contest. We’re both marketable, friendly and tolerant Muslims. This would be an attractive event, don’t you think?”
Anna puts on her acting mode to simulate doubt through body language.
Leyla: “I know what you’re thinking. Fighting someone who’s 10-0 is a bit daunting, but I’d like to rope you in. My sponsors underwrite the fights, and the premium they add to the purse is an incentive to get in the ring with me.”
The Ice Queen perks up.
Anna: “A good payday, huh?”
Leyla: “Win or lose, we both bring the cash home.”
Anna: “I want it! Sold.”
Leyla: “Great. Let’s get our promoters to arrange it.”
They have a selfie before parting ways.
The visitor picks up her stuff, says goodbye and leaves the gym with a smile.
Leyla thinks: “Girl’s got a good chin, but the skills are lacking just as I thought. It will be fun to smack her around.”
Anna sits down in the ring, looking content and relaxed. Her coach sits next to her.
Maxim: “You look damn happy. I had to repress a laugh when you said that you liked the sparring session. Good acting skills.”
Anna: “I wasn’t acting.”
The coach gives her a puzzled look.
Anna: “I don’t know what this says about my mental health, but I actually enjoyed this session.”
Max is even more surprised now.
Anna: “I was nervous at first, but then realised that I had to give in. So, I accepted it and felt this rush of endorphins the first time she trapped me in the ropes. It carried through the five rounds. Powerful stuff.”
The coach is mystified.
Anna: “Haha. Don’t worry. I’m not planning on throwing the fight. I just had a super weird thrill today.”