“The Boxer” by Fred Bailón


What I found most striking about Fred Bailón’s “The Boxer” is it so clearly, completely and simply creates a character and through that character drama. The story takes place in only a few minutes but the tension arises through the juxtaposition of past and present. The Boxer is unable to reconcile the present emotion of fear with the scars of his past, a quintessential human experience. And the glimmer of hope at the end is either naive (after everything) or creature perseverance. A well-wrought story.

Get your characters on the page. Where have they been? Where are they now? How can these two things ever be resolved? [email protected].

—Lyle Rosdahl

“The Boxer” by Fred Bailón 

Fear is not something the Boxer should know anymore. Not after all he’s been through to stand where he is now, in this corner of the ring awaiting the bell to sound to go pummel his way to a win and the $500 that in his country is equivalent to a small fortune—enough to feed his ‘ama and little brothers and sisters for a whole month, maybe even longer. He is nervous, yes, but scared, he couldn’t be, not after the desert. The long stretch of the Sonoran desert with no more than a satchel at his back and two large canteens slung from his shoulders. When he asked the coyote if the water would be enough, his answer had been, “Muchacho, no te preocupes, el agua es lo de menos. Mejor ponte listo con la migra.”  But the coyote couldn’t have been more wrong. Water would not be the least of his worries, and la migra, he wishes they would have seen one. Maybe it could have saved his brother’s life. Trusting the coyote’s words, his brother had gone through his ration of water and dried carne desebrada as if the States were only a stone’s throw away. But it wasn’t. Under the scorching heat of the Arizona sun, it might as well have been immeasurable.

Now there’s more water than he will need for this fight. Several plastic bottles filled with it.


His trainer, Refugio, is going over their strategy. Reminding him. Stay away from his right—he’s got a strong right. Stay in close, don’t give him space to use that right of his. His stamina isn’t that great. That’s where you got him, just make him work, tire him out.

The Boxer punches the air, simulating an attack, a quick succession of punches intended to keep his opponent wary of him. He has no idea who the other boxer is, and looking at him, it seems he could be one of the others who had survived the desert also—one of the six who had made it. But it doesn’t make a difference now. He can only think of what he must do, survive the early rounds, stay away from his right, wear him down. The bell is just about to ring, and if everything goes well, his family back home might have a small fortune as soon as tomorrow morning; maybe enough to think it could turn out okay for them in the end, even without his brother to help him look after them from this side of the desert.

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