Lamont Peterson smiles and makes a sound that nobody wants to hear.
It’s the kind of high-pitched noise that causes dogs to paw at their ears and humans to discover what it is that an otolaryngologist does, exactly.
Today, it’s largely drowned out by the clattering of dishes and the sizzle of a nearby griddle, but still, even in muted form, the sound is agitating—right up there with the toe-curling scrape of metal on metal and/or Fran Drescher’s laugh.
“For two days that’s all I heard,” Lamont Peterson says upon recreating said noise over breakfast. “It was like a school bell ringing.”
In a roundabout way, that’s what we’re talking about: getting one’s bell rung inside the ring.
It’s a sensation that few among us will ever experience, which makes it all the more intriguing to attempt to understand.
Peterson’s explaining just what it feels like on a recent Wednesday morning at Steak in a Sack, a small, time-worn diner tucked into a strip mall in his native Washington, D.C.
It’s the kind of homey, well-worn place where the waitress calls you “baby,” the vinyl seating is as cracked as all the eggshells piling up in the kitchen and the wood-paneled walls are checkered with family photos from decades past, the images as faded as the fluorescent lighting is bright.
An older gent notices Peterson and shuffles over to tell him he watched his most recent fight with Danny Garcia.
“You got him,” the man says, raising his fists.
“Thank you,” Peterson replies with a nod and a smile.
Then, he returns to the conversation at hand and his grin fades behind a wall of whiskers thick as a juniper bush.
Peterson’s diagnosing the most common symptoms of a hard, cleanly landed shot, the kind of blow that can end a fight in an instant.
The buzzing sensation we’ve heard of, same for the suddenly weakened legs no sturdier than the goo from a lava lamp.
Other lingering effects, though, are less discussed.
“The most common one a lot of times is déjà vu, like, ‘I’ve been here before,’” Peterson says. “You feel like you’ve dreamed about this. You quickly try to find out what happened.”
And then there’s the gnarly feeling of something oozing out of your cranium.
“When you get hit on this side of the head,” he says, pointing to his left temple, “it feels like something crawling out of your ear on this side of your head,” he explains, motioning towards his right temple, “something that’s way too big to be coming down your shoulder."
He laughs heartily.
“It’s always the opposite side. It’s weird.”
Eventually, talking about getting buzzed in the ring leads to a discussion about being in the opposite position, having a guy clearly hurt, maybe even dangerously so, and still having to press on until the fight ends or is stopped.
“You’re trained to finish the job, but you’re human, you’ve got feelings,” Peterson acknowledges, his voice trailing off.
But he quickly steels himself.
“No surrender,” he says. “That’s the type attitude that you have to have in there. That’s why you have to surround yourself with people who care about you.”
In short, there’s no quitting.
“If you quit, to me, I don’t feel like you did your duty as a fighter,” he continues. “The trainer, the referee, the doctor—that’s their job. Not the fighter.”
Soon thereafter, Peterson pays the check and we leave.
Fifteen minutes later, he’s back in the gym, training—always training, every day—working to ensure that the next bell that gets rung won’t be his.