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11/07/2004 6:31 PM

Warm blood trickled down his cheek. His right eye was swelled shut. Through blurred vision he could see two men before his stool, working at his face with a clear paste and a wet towel. Through the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the crowd and the throbbing of a pulse in his ear, Jake Barbosa AKA Jaguar, Amateur Class BII Lightweight champion, heard the muffled words of his coach.

"Jag...watch the hook...get him with it...give him Hell." The words were sounded out by the ringing of the 10th round bell. Go time.

Jake pushed himself up from the stool, which was quickly removed from the ring. Through his left eye he saw his towering Russian opponent. Everyone in the low class NYC boxing joint was on their feet and shouting cheers or jeers at the two boxers. Championship fight, and Jake needed the money to pay off his rent. In his mind he pictured his 6 year old daughter at home with his landlord, eating the scraps from an empty box of Ritz crackers. He had the motivation he needed.

Stepping forward, Jake threw a quick jab with his right hand. It landed directly on the Russian's nose. His head snapped back momentarily, blood trickling from his red nostrils. A flury of punches stung Jake's face, his vision not able to keep up with the man's speedy jabs. The sound of the crowds rising cheer foreshadowed the hard landing of the near lethal right hook of the Russian. Jake spun out and landed face down on the mat. His coach shouted furiously at the pathetic display of protecting himself. This fight was over to everyone but the Jaguar.

Something happened after that near knockout. Something happened that would change Jake Barbosa's life as he knew it. It started as a soft purr from the depths of Jake's chest. Out of his gaping jaws came a roar through sharp fangs that grew from some unknown place. With powerful legs and outstretched arms, Jake pounced off the ground and tackled his opponent. Screeching like a wild cat, Jake pounded at the Russian's face. Screams were heard from the audience. They saw something Jake had not. On all fours, Jake looked around in confusion. This was what the people wanted, was it not? An unpredicted comeback? His limbs entered spasms. The muscle beneath his skin was growing by the second, and this was apparant to the panicing viewers.

Now in a fearful state, Jake looked for a way out. His coach ran to him and grasped him around the shoulders. With a strong, fur covered arm, Jake thrust his coach across the mat violently. Pouncing over the ropes and sprinting towards the dark exit doors on all fours, leaving the Russian out cold in a pool of his own blood.

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