Saunders stays outside the velvet rope

Saunders is still unbeaten. Murray is still 38 years old. The sense of frustration stole the breath from the arena. Belief ebbed. Dwindled. The tiredness of the narrative slowed the clock, clouded to a fog the air beneath the lights. A spectacle without spectators. A fight without a fight. A world title in name alone. No more than a hollow promise. A ticket-stub for a gala ball you can’t attend.

Thirty six minutes were inked into the book. Bells were rung. Spit buckets passed. Chief seconds offered their silent charade. Urged. Dipped heads cracked, professional rules creaked, fighter’s codes were bent, heals of gloves pushed flattened noses and bruised cheeks. A proud challenger maneuvered the champion, found the angles of old but guile remained where once reflex bristled.

Friendship earned. Quo kept. Murray left proud. His destination reached. Again. A gentleman fighter of rare resilience in a sport distinguished by it. Saunders, the empty jet told to circle one more time, fuel below half, major runways occupied, closing, what of him?

He may crash in the desert of his own distraction. He may, finally, be allowed inside the velvet rope, to land his undoubted talent in that elusive defining fight. Who knows? Will an audience still care?

It is a song too often sung. And it seems, even Billy Joe is tired of the lyrics.

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