The soreness is starting to set in, but I don’t want the Russians to see that I’m in pain when the promoter summons me.

“somebody wants to meet you, come, come”

The short, rounded black man at the table eagerly awaits our attention. He and Luke, my cornerman, are as far as I can tell, the only black men in Moscow. I figure he must be a promoter. Perhaps he wants to give us his contact details, and send some fighters from our gym.

No such luck, the buffoon wishes to critique my performance. He’s animated in that uniquely African way. He offers me some hilarious advice, full of cliches and contradictions. “You must keep them far, far away….” he gestures away with his hand as he gazes dramatically into the distance, then the tempo of his speech suddenly and violently leaps a gear as he grabs my arm and puts his face too close to mine, too rapidly – “butyoumustbeclose! Close!”

I realise I’m the butt of a joke. The Russians have palmed off this idiot on the English. Helpfully,  he tells me I ought to have kicked him harder. “yes” I say “that would’ve helped wouldn’t it”. Apparently he has some special method for teaching powerful kicking. “All my fightas have the fire kicks!” Fiyaa Keeks! It comes out in the heavy Nigerian twang. He tells me how he was a fighter too, and shows me a photograph of himself- in his Taekwondo gi.

I can’t tolerate the fucking idiot any more, even though I realise how desperately amused I’ll be by him retrospectively. I make my excuses and disappear to have my photograph taken with my magnanimous Moscovite opponent and his fans. Having lost in a suitably gallant fashion only seems to have heightened the approbation of the Russians –

“Strong fighter!, I like your beard- look like Russian man!”

A tall, dark, elegantly beautiful Russian woman approaches us. In perfect English-
“have you had some champagne? No? I insist you come with me”

Things are finally looking up. We follow her to the table and she gestures to two empty seats, as she turns her back to us and sits at the next table over. I take the seat I was offered, right next to our friend Mr. Firekicks.