"The world couldn't see it because the camera wasn't close enough to my face, but as soon as I broke my hand – that was the second punch I landed that knocked him down – as soon as it happened, my lip was starting to tremble, and for two reasons. One, it hurt terribly. And two, I honestly thought that was going to be the end of my career. I never would have guessed that it was only one broken bone. I felt like all the bones in my hand were, like, entirely disintegrated."
The injured hand was a problem, Barry knew, but it wasn't the end of the world. He'd come into the fight with a game plan that hinged on two main weapons: his right hand and his right foot. At least he still had one. At least he could still kick his way to a victory even if his hand was shattered.
You know how this story goes. It's like that scene in a comedy movie where a beleaguered character remarks to himself that hey, at least it's not raining. Cue the thunder and lightning, the sudden angry downpour. Or, in Barry's case, the fractured foot.
"After the hand broke I panicked for a little bit, then I pulled myself together, thinking, it's just a hand, you've got other weapons," Barry said. "Then I threw a kick and broke my foot, and then I panicked. Complete, oh-sh*t-I-don't-know-what-to-do panic. I don't know how I got through the next two rounds. Honestly, it was like I could hear the clock slow down. Those rounds went from five minutes to about a half-hour each."
Part of how he got through, he said, was by putting his sense of humor to work for him. After the first, when he came back to his corner and told his coach that his two main weapons were now non-operational, the only advice he got was to get on his bicycle and try to score some points and survive for the next two rounds.
"I said, 'Excuse me? Did you not hear what I said? I got nothing.' So we started laughing about it, and that's what sort of enabled me to get back up for round two."
Barry managed to get off the stool for the second frame, but he was a fraction of the fighter he'd been in the first. He tried to talk himself into throwing the right hand. He kept seeing the openings for it, and it was tough to resist. He told himself to stop being a baby. How horribly could it hurt, anyway?
So he threw it. Bad idea.
"I almost screamed," Barry said. "I'm not manly enough to say that didn't hurt. It hurt a lot. I mean, a lot."
It didn't take "Cro Cop" long to notice the change that had come over his opponent. One minute he'd been knocked flat on his backside by a right hand from Barry, then it was as if Barry had decided to completely abandon the weapon that had been working so well, and Filipovic didn't know why. Rather than guess at the reason, he went straight to the source.
"We were on the ground in the second and he was on top of me punching me and he asked me what was wrong," said Barry. "He said, 'What's wrong with you? Why'd you stop fighting?' I told him, 'I broke my hand,' and he was like, 'Bullsh*t.' I said, 'No sir. My hand is broken. That hand is gone.'"
The way Barry saw it, there wasn't any point in lying to his opponent about it. Even if Filipovic knew that the right hand was no longer a factor, he'd still have to worry about the left. And besides, what were the chances that he'd really take Barry's word for it? He might as well tell the guy the truth, he reasoned.
Barry made it to the third round that night before finally being overwhelmed by a late surge from "Cro Cop." A sharp punch combo in the final minute dropped him, and a few seconds later Filipovic slapped on a rear naked choke that Barry, with his broken claw of a right hand, was unable to defend.
After the fight Barry took all sorts of criticism for letting his hero off the hook. People said he was too pleased with his own performance too early. They said he should have been trying to finish "Cro Cop" instead of high-fiving him. Some even said he didn't really want to beat his idol.
"Of course you always hear different questions and assumptions. Some people are like, 'I hope you got paid a lot to throw the fight,' which is just absurd. Then there's others saying, 'You were scared of beating your idol,' or the one that bugs me the most, 'You were showing him too much respect.' What does that mean? Does it mean, I got in the ring and respected his abilities in the fight? I don't know. How can you have too much respect for 'Cro Cop'? He's 'Cro Cop'!"
Now Barry's right hand is out of the cast six weeks early, thanks to what he sees as his Wolverine-like mutant healing ability. He still doesn't use the hand, though. Not even to brush his teeth or start his car.
To help the healing process along, he sings to his injured hand. "Rosanna" by the band Toto works best, he said, although "Africa" will do in a pinch.
It's hard for him not to feel frustrated by being so close to putting away his idol only to get injured and see the chance of a lifetime slip away, but he's trying to stay positive. It helps to remember the moment he would later be criticized for, when both he and "Cro Cop" paused to high-five one another and smile in appreciation of each other. That's something you don't forget, he said, even if you didn't come out on the winning end that particular night.
"How cool is it that 'Cro Cop' gave me a high-five twice in the first round? To me, that was an acknowledgement of my presence, an acknowledgement from him that, hey, you did show up to fight and you deserve to be in this cage. That's what I took from it. That means a lot."
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