A Touch of Sleep

Fighting family man DaVarryl Williamson takes his last shot at greatness.
February 2006
"It's 6:24," yells a friend. Six minutes until ring time. Everyone in the locker room is clapping, yelling, "Touch of Sleep. Touch of SLEEP. TOUCH OF SLEEP." DaVarryl, his entourage sur- rounding him, walks slowly out of his dressing room and into the arena. He pauses before the black curtain, the arena lights flaming above. The announcer calls his name, and he pushes through the curtain, a camera in his face. It's a long, slow walk to the ring, and even with his friends at his back it's lonely soaking up the cheers and boos of the crowd. A black robe is draped over him, and although it's a few sizes too large it bears his name. DaVarryl climbs into the ring and does a circuit, looking out at the crowd, before finally settling into the blue corner.

The announcer calls Byrd's name, and he's greeted with a chorus of cheers. A man holds the championship belt over Byrd's head like a halo as he walks into the ring, setting up shop in the red corner.

The referee calls DaVarryl and Byrd to the center of the ring, and he imparts a last few rules. The boxers touch gloves and back up, waiting for the bell.

First rounds, by their nature, tend to be slow, as the boxers feel each other out. This round crawls. They've sparred over 200 rounds in the past, but they act like they've never seen one another before.

DaVarryl keeps his distance from the shorter Byrd, backing up and snaking out his left hand in between Byrd's gloves. He's not throwing combinations, just that singular left jab. His right stays cocked by his head.

Byrd looks confused. He's a counterpuncher, used to defending against an aggressor, but tonight DaVarryl's forcing Byrd to come to him. The tables turned, Byrd doesn't know what to do, and the two keep their distance.

The heckling begins.

"Come on, knock him out!" "You're putting me to sleep!"

At the bell, a cheer goes up, half the crowd cheering for the end of the round and the other half for the ring girl prancing around the canvas.

The two retreat to the corners. Coach George opens a water bottle and pours a little into DaVarryl's mouth. "Don't wait so long. You understand? When he blocks your jab with his right, come up and hook him with the right hand. Put some things together, you gotta go take this thing."