Chapter 18

Apollo and Mickey stood right next to Rocky once more. Rocky had been gripping the mattress portion of the ring, he looked as if he would tear it off. Apollo could not believe that his friend was that nervous and rightfully so. All of it was up to the girl trying to take down a man twice her weight and size.

Everything Rocky felt was unbearable. Trying to hold onto something that he can't have any control over. Rocky wished he could turn the tide of the fight to his favor. Apollo went up to Rocky with tears in his eyes as soon as his friend had calmed down. Despite him not being able to see or hear him, Rocky looked a bit calmer. Apollo then spoke.

"Stallion, you don't give up hope you hear? You don't give up hope…" Apollo looked back at Mickey for reassurance and all he did was give Apollo a simple nod.

"Otherwise she wouldn't have gotten this far. You hold on. Tell her she needs to hold on…" he insisted. "But first you need to concentrate and not lose your mind. If she sees you break, you break. It's all about that extra mile."

"I have to tell her…" Rocky muttered and went off as soon as the bell was over.

Apollo looked a bit surprised.

Pain was one thing. Suffering was another. Jackie was sick and tired of it. After seeing Apollo and some other guy in the stands, Jackie thought she might have been hallucinating. 'Maybe I've been hit too much.' Several bruises were shown on her face. Realization started to set in. 'That's the problem. I've been getting hit throughout all my life…' she thought. Jackie didn't know what to do and looked at Rocky, whom had given her a bottle of water to reload.

He began to talk fast before the bell sounded and the match continued. "There's still some hope left!"

An unresponsive Jackie looked at him trying to understand how. All she could do was pant, sweat and bleed.

"There's some hope left…" he repeated looking sympathetic.

She nodded with what Rocky said to her. It made sense. "I've come this far…I've come this far.' she repeated to herself in her mind. Remembering thinking she saw Apollo made her realize that hope in general, had not died. She looked at Tommy, who looked at her determined to pummel her to the ground. She saw that he was angry. Jackie now reached a new level of anger.

"I'm taking this guy down…" she stated.

Rocky nodded. "Do what you got to do."

The bell rung and the match resumed. The loud audience added more tension and excitement.

The final round was coming up but that didn't mean that Jackie was going down. She treated each round as if it were final round. In her mind, she was amazed how she lasted so long. 'Story of my life…' she thought. She barely blocked Tommy's brutal punch with both gloves raised.

"Incredible evasive technique by Jackie Rambolina!" the delirious announcer Harry exclaimed.

"This is close to the final round, Harry. The crowd graduated from going nuts to going crazy." Larry stated.

Tired was something she could not afford to be and that was what Jackie was close to being at the moment. Sweat poured down to her eyes making them sting. The stinging effect was uncalled for and to Jackie, it was a distraction. A few hits had been issued to her face and body. Her counter punches had been evaded and blocked. The crowd murmured their disappointment now. Jackie had run herself to exhaustion and soon everybody would notice it.

"It seems Jackie's power is winding down folks. This cannot be!" Harry stated to the microphone.

'I need a break!' she thought frantically. It seemed as if she lost all control now. She couldn't tell her body to do this. She couldn't tell her body to do that. Eventually she was knocked to the ground by a punch that was hard to put a dent on a car, knocking her out almost cold.

The crowd voiced their frustration and anger. Jackie could still hear it despite feeling down and out. The referee began counting until six now.

Duke was already jumping up and down with joy as was shown on his face. "Yes! Yes! Yes! that's what I'm talking about!" he then turned back at the booing spectators. "I told y'all I was gonna win!"

Tommy taunted Jackie and demanded she get up now.

Jackie used the ropes to try and pick herself up as fast as she could before the referee reached '10'. Getting up, she had wrapped her arms around the ropes aligning as the barrier of the ring and hoisted herself upward. The audience clapped at her incredible revival. The fight was about to continue.

"Oh come on!" a frustrated Duke responded amidst the crowd of cheering spectators. He was enraged that she had not been defeated.

"To say that Jackie Rambolina has more lives than a cat is an understatement, here. Larry!" the announcer spoke to the camera.

"Hey dingus! She's got more balls than you put together!" Paulie pointed out from ahead.

Her anger and concentration returned and now she was fighting ferociously. As if a cheetah attacked a gazelle, Jackie went at Tommy as fast as she could. Tommy eventually fought back with his hard-hitting punches which made her stagger back. She had an opening which was more of an opportunity, That opportunity lasted a second and she took it. Jackie had hit Tommy upward in the chin making fall back. He was rubbing his jaw and shook it. The referee came to his side and demanded what was wrong.

A jab was issued to her gut making her stumble and it was that very hit that caused her to lose focus at the right time. The bell had rung. Immediately she ran back to her corner where Rocky and Paulie were waiting to tend to her. Struggling in pain, Jackie told them what's happened.

"I think he damaged something vital."

"You gonna be alright?" Paulie asked.

"I almost can't breathe." Jackie panted.

"If you did not tighten your core when he hit you, it would have been a lot worse." Drago stated.

"So does that mean she's lucky to be alive?" Paulie asked Drago.

Drago just looked at Paulie with an annoyed expression. Rocky nevertheless came up with one more piece of advice.

"Jackie…there's one more round left. I know you're hurt but I promise you and this is something I know firsthand…"

Jackie listened intently.

"When you're through that final round of pain, it stops. It stops." Rocky nodded at the last part.

Jackie nodded. She really believe that and yes, she took what she could get. Every time Rocky said something inspirational, it was like a burst of strength. Her adrenaline would spike up in a good way. She wished the broadcasters below the ring would be more encouraging. 'Thank you for that one.' she thought. Her pain in her core was an unbearable one but since this was the last one, Jackie was going to go at Tommy with everything she had left.

"Larry, this is it. This is the moment. The final round. The one everyone in the city of Philadelphia is waiting for…" the broadcaster Harry stated.

"Harry, the momentum is building up, it's skyrocketing. The whole stadium is in a delirium. The excitement is in the air like static electricity."

"This is what is coming down to. If Jackie wins, the city of Philadelphia will be left alone, if Tommy wins, Duke gets it."

"Oh man, Harry. My pulse is quickening over this."

One could tell that everyone in the stadium was holding their breaths in. They were waiting for the outcome with great anticipation. The bell was about to ring and thus, would begin the final round. Rocky crossed his arms and looked content all of a sudden as he saw Rocky with her hands, ready to fight Tommy for what could be the last time. Behind him, Rocky saw the audience chanting someone's name. Two syllables. Rocky assumed it was his own name. But as he listened carefully, he figured out it was someone else's name. Not his.

It was Jackie.

There was no one else in the arena that the audience was going for. It was all for Jackie.

"Jackie! Jackie! Jackie!" the crowd chanted as well as clapping.

George Washington Duke folded his arms to his chest and merely rolled his eyes at the crowd, trying hard not to pay any attention to them. 'I know I'm gonna win. The crowd ain't gonna do squat to help her...' he thought. The crowd would not stop saying Jackie's name and it was getting to him now. Finally he had enough, Duke turned to Tommy and yelled. "You better win this boy! Do you know what I would do to you, if you lose?"

A perplexed Tommy looked back at Duke and wondered why he had always been hard on him. Looking back at Jackie along with Rocky, Drago and Paulie at her side, he marveled as to how she had gotten this far. 'It was because of them...because of him.' he thought. Rocky never led him to rich and fame. It was the absence of wealth that made Tommy frustrated with Rocky. Now that he had such resources, Tommy felt it wasn't worth it anymore. Thinking back, he realized something Rocky had said when he had been his manager.

It had been before Tommy won the title. He and his girlfriend were in the car ready to head off to the stadium. Rocky had come up to talk to him before he left:

'Listen Tommy, we need to talk'.

'Later Rock.'

No, no. listen Tommy. It's about Duke.'

'I'm 22 and 0. Where's the money? The way I was going. I wasn't going to get a shot of the title for a long time. I'm signing papers with the man tomorrow!'

'This is what Mick told me about. About the business, the dirty part of the business. These managers, when they represent these fighters, they promise them the world, then they, they suck' em dry, leave them, leave them in the gutter, broke Tommy!'

'This is what I'm talkin' about? You know Tommy? Duke. Duke, he's, he's like a vampire Tommy. He's living off of your blood Tommy.'

'I ain't you and you ain't Mick. When are you gonna realize that this is a business? In a business you need...'

'What? Brains? you say that I don't have any brains Tommy?'

'No. you said that, not me. Look, Rock. You took me as far as you could, but Duke gave my title shot, you didn't. If you still want to train me do it, but if you don't, don't. But it's my or it's the highway!'

As soon as he stopped thinking about that incident, Tommy felt a wave of emotions weighing heavily on him. It had been sadness, regret, and sorrow. He began breathing heavily now. It was a revelation that was affecting him mentally and physically. He looked around at the arena where the audience continued to chant Jackie's name. No one had called out his name. Not one person.

But at the same time, Tommy refused to believe that Jackie would win. He tried shaking off whatever doubts he had. The last thing he wanted was to get beaten by a girl twice. 'She's gonna hit the mat right now!' he thought. Growling like an angry lion and ready to attack, Tommy hopped up and down to amp himself. 'This is it, man. No turning back now…' he told himself.

Jackie felt very encouraged when she heard her name being called out by the crowd. It made her feel special. The thought that people thought of her as a beacon of hope, a force for good and a wondrous soul. As was read by one of the posters, it said. 'Wondrous Soul'.

"Duke's not getting this city..." she whispered.

With no more time to waste, the bell sounded and Jackie prepared for the last round of her life.

No time to think anymore. The pair: Jackie and Tommy stared each other down. Both of them had waited a long time for the bell to ring an now both of them studied the other in an attempt at how he or she would pull off the first punch. It was nothing new. Jackie felt like another person. She fought a battle inside her at the same time she was fighting Tommy Gunn.

'I have to fight these fibers of doubt and despair. I have to hit them as hard as I can!' she thought.

Tommy came at her and sent out a punch to the side of her head, which she barely avoid. She hit back with a upper cut to Tommy's face.

'I have to fight to get rid of these past events that tried to hold me down...' she thought.

Jackie yelled and drove herself and Tommy to the nearest corner, where with all her might hit Tommy in his core again and again. She tried hard not to get tired and relied on whatever energy reserves she had available.

'I have to fight to save a city that doesn't deserve to be driven down to the ground like I have...' she thought.

Gunn got out of the corner he was in and now began to fight ferociously but recklessly. He took Jackie's throat and dragged her back to the corner and now she was the one once again being pummeled.

"Yes! Yes! Knock her down! Take her down!" Duke below bellowed out.

Tommy stopped when the referee came and gave him a warning. He raised his arms in triumph to the crowd. The crowd immediately booed. Jackie held her core to stop the throbbing pain but raised her head upward to look at Tommy Gunn, who continued to be amazed at Jackie's persistence.

"It ain't over until it's over..." she breathed out.

The fight continued and Jackie had been met with a hit to his face which made her bleed from nose. Paying it no mind, she launched devastating right punches to Tommy's face as well as a left one that had Tommy bewildered and not knowing where he was. Jackie paid no mind to the audience on their feet as they cheered so loud that the stadium would come down. She continued to hit Tommy with everything she had. She had hit him in his sides and in his face once more.

A now drained and bleeding Tommy attempted to hit Jackie but ducked underneath, stood up and launched another left hit to Tommy's face. Yelling now, she launched punishment after punishment. 'I want you to feel what I feel everyday, Gunn!' she thought.

"Don't you dare!" Duke pointed. "Don't you dare do this to me, boy!"

The crowd once again cheered Jackie's name.

"Jackie's ambushing Gunn like you wouldn't believe, Larry!" the broadcaster replied excitedly.

"I think that may very well be what might happen here, Harry." his partner responded.

The spirits of Apollo and Mickey now made themselves present beside Rocky and the rest and they looked on at Jackie's performance with promise. Apollo in particular, looked up at the dome where a ray of sunshine began to pour in. He looked back at Mickey, whom had placed his invisible hand on Rocky's shoulder, nodded back.

Rocky looked up at the circular hole in the ceiling where he saw a small yellow ball that indicated it was the sun. 'Yo, hey, it's beautiful alright...' Rocky thought.

"That's right kid…the dark is being kicked out on its ass." He told him.

It was the winning punch that Jackie gave to Tommy that knocked him down the ground. The crowd graduated from cheering to screaming with joy. The force of that very punch also sent Jackie to the ground. Both of them laid on the mat.

"Come on...Get up." Rocky whispered.

"She has to..." Drago whispered as well.

The referee counted as usual. Tommy sluggishly turned over but didn't find the strength to get up. Jackie on the ground breathed in and out and saw the sun. It was what put her in a kneeling position. She put her hands together and shook them. She then cried not in sadness but in happiness. The bell rung signaling that the fight was over.

"Holy crap!" Paulie shouted with glee.

Jackie had won.

Getting up had been the hardest and painful. Jackie shook with excitement and also due to the catharsis. She felt something big and terrible had been over. It was done. A weight was lifted off her shoulders. Immediately she was bombarded with people who lifted her up in the air. Jackie looked down at the crowd while she raised her hands in victory.

"What! No! This can't be! This can't be!" Duke repeated until he was met with a tomato thrown to his face. Laughter occurred all around. He was eventually knocked to the ground. Wiping the stains of tomato off his face, Duke eventually saw Gunn standing and looking down at him with no emotion. Duke raised a hand so that he could get up.

Tommy simply scoffed and walked away leaving a disgraced Duke alone.

In the ring, Rocky hugged a tearful Jackie who said to him. "You won!"

"You won, Jackie..." Rocky said.

"You won at being the best trainer I ever had." she said.

As he continued to embrace Jackie, Rocky thought he saw two other figures ahead. 'Could it be...' And yes, yes it was.

Author's Note: I'm extremely sorry that this took so long. I've just been busy working and working on other stories. There's one or two chapters after this. I'll try and update as soon as I can. I also want to thank several reviewers.(you know who you are) for keeping up with this story. You guys are champs! Like I said, it's not over yet!