‘Sucker Punch’ is set in the 1980’s, when famous boxers such as Sugar Leonard, Frank Bruno and and Nigel Benn had risen to prominence in spite of the relentless racism that they faced every time they entered the ring. In the play, Leon is a black teenager being trained by a white boxing coach called Charlie. The following speech is Leon’s description of his first amateur fight…
The first fight I’m having is with some tall, skinny looking kid. From the minute I step into the ring, he’s staring me out, like I burgled his house. What am I doing here…? Oh! He lands one right on me. I’m going dizzy, I’m all numb. I wanna go home. I’ll keep out of his way.
Crowd seem to like it when I move around. I’ll go a bit faster then. They’re lapping it up. Let’s see if they like this. Bop my shoulders, spin my arm like Sugar Ray Leonard, now they’re cheering, can’t get enough. Skinny white boy don’t know what to do with me! I get in a jab, and it hurts him, my first punch as well. A bit of fancy footwork now, I think. Crowd are loving it. Another jab! Then a sweet uppercut! Skinny kid is down like a heap! I’m taking him out, me! My first ever fight, and I took him out. Fucking hell! Yes! What a feeling. Starting to like this. Next up is a fighter from Repton. Mark Saunders. Half-caste fighter from Brick Lane. Trying to find a way in here, but he’s not having any of it. It’s like he can see me coming. I go with the footwork. He can’t keep up with me. I’m tiring him out, he’s dazzled by my speed. That’s it, that’s it, keep him coming, keep him coming, now, have that!
He hits out with a flurry of punches.
Oh yes! I look to Charlie, he’s gotta love it.
He takes a hit.
Oh that was stupid. All I can see is gloves, fuck, get me out! My ears are ringing. I’ve got pins and needles all inside, gotta take it, gotta keep up, make it to the next round, come on!
Ref stops the fight. Bell rings.
What? What…what the…what you mean he’s won Ref? I didn’t go down, I was getting back up, I had him.