That this day was to come, sooner rather than later, was something the world had known for a while. It had seen, the once invincible, become progressively human. The victories had become increasingly interspersed with tired defeats. Of late, even the victories, once walks in the park, owed their being to a curious mix of resilience and desperation. Power had had to be replaced by valor; reflexes replaced by resolve.
The Legend, too, had seen the day coming. He had felt the body groan every time he fought. A little louder, each time. He knew he couldn’t go on much longer. But he couldn’t let go either. Not in some inconsequential little bout with precious few to watch him go. His vanity wouldn’t allow it. His rise had been colossal; he would settle for no less an exit. And so through the pain and the humiliation, he had fought on.
Through the misery, there was one thing that had not been taken away. Yet. The World Heavyweight title. The Legend had earned it seventeen years ago. He had never relinquished it since.
For his final bout, seventeen years were on the line.
When the proposition of the title bout against a promising young boxer had first been presented to him, the Legend had seen his opportunity. He could not expect a grander stage to sign off. He had agreed.
That had been almost a year ago.
News of his impending last performance had grabbed all the attention he had wished it to. Every mass-transmittable form of media had latched onto the event and proceeded to submerge the general populace with any and every bit of information that had ever been made available on the Legend’s life. With all the attention, had come the pressure.
Not that the Legend had not seen pressure before. Over the years, he had learnt to ignore it sufficiently to not weigh him down. But this time, he had felt it creep into his head with a strange paranoiac power.
I must not lose. I cannot lose.
The pressure had gradually turned to fear.
I am going to lose! God, I am going to lose! But I can’t! I can’t!
The fear of failure, of the ultimate humiliation on a stage he had himself chosen so foolishly, had been too much for him to handle.
I cannot win! I must not lose!
He knew the way out. It was the only one his vanity could allow him to take.
The performance enhancement drug had restored the wavering self-belief quite effectively.
The bout lasted nine rounds. The young challenger was emphatically knocked out. The Legend had delivered a near flawless performance.
The teary-eyed audience cheered as the referee raised the Legend’s arm. The young challenger, sufficiently recovered from the beating he had received, came up and shook hands with the Legend. The audience cheered again.
The Legend looked around, lowered his head and raised his arms in acknowledgement.