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Glory Days

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Ah, yes. Another Monday is here… Wait. It’s not Monday. It’s definitely Tuesday. The long weekend put us back a day, but we’re here with your look at Season 2 backstories.

This week it’s TJ Combo’s turn. Check out his full bio below:

Tyler-Johnson Garrett was born near Galveston Texas, the birthplace of the first African American Heavyweight Champion—the great Jack Johnson—whom TJ’s dad idolized. TJ’s family was poor and they worked hard, and TJ was taught to earn every penny that came into his pocket. His father was a dockworker and a former sergeant in the Army—the kind of man who flew the Stars and Stripes outside his house every day of the year. He trained TJ to fight using a stack of old tires as a heavy bag.

When TJ was twelve years old he got beaten badly in a city league bout. The other kid taunted him when he was down on the mat. TJ had never felt so ashamed. “Life isn’t about winning, son,” his dad told him. “It’s about losing and still keeping on. That’s called grit.”

But TJ wanted revenge. Before he and the other boy fought again, TJ removed some of the padding in his right hand glove and replaced it with a roll of quarters. He broke the other kid’s nose with one punch. The feeling of power was exhilarating. He started using different tricks to cheat, and won a lot of trophies until he finally got caught and was banned from the league. The one good thing in his life was gone.

TJ was in and out of trouble at school and with the law from that point on. He tried to join the military after dropping out of high school, but he coldcocked a drill sergeant in boot camp and was kicked out. He bought a one-way bus ticket to Chicago, carrying nothing more than a duffel bag full of workout clothes and a pair of boxing gloves. He found a job at a boxing gym on the South Side, doing menial tasks like sweeping the floors, taking care of the bathrooms, and cleaning up the cutman’s bloody rags…all to pay for his own training. He slept on a cot in the storage room.

Nobody knew him here. Nobody knew about his cheating. He was starting over doing the one thing that he loved. He turned his life around.

Over the next five years TJ grew tall and his body filled out. All during that time he studied the sweet science of boxing with the zeal of a scholar, analyzing the fighting techniques of his boxing idols like Ali and Tyson. And he worked his body until he was a rippling specimen of muscles and raw power. In his early twenties he started winning fights.

Journalists began calling him “Combo” for his devastating combination of jabs followed by a skull-hammering right hook. It took five more years of grinding it out on the boxing circuit, but eventually he got his shot and won the Heavyweight Championship. But he became the victim of every cliché: the over-the-top mansion; the grasping trophy wife; the collection of flashy cars; the entourage of worthless sycophants.

TJ got sloppy in his training and abused his body, partying like a rock star. He barely won the next two fights in defense of his title, and when he finally lost the belt three years after his first championship victory, he fell into a deep depression. Soon after he found out that his manager had fled the country, leaving him in debt and owing millions in back taxes. That’s when TJ’s wife left him. The boxer went crazy with rage and punched a brick wall, shattering his right forearm.

When he was in the hospital, drugged up on painkillers, a strange man approached him and told him about a special research program to rehabilitate athletes and make them superhuman. He was taken to an Ultratech lab and shown a production line creating cybernetic implants, and then given a demonstration of this tech’s miraculous powers. TJ was mesmerized and signed a contract on the spot, essentially handing over his life, career and potential earnings to the megacorporation.

Surgeons implanted titanium shafts into his forearms to add bone-crunching strength to his punches. At first TJ relished this newfound strength, and started training in earnest at an Ultratech facility. They put him through an array of tests, analyzing every aspect of his fighting style and even recording his brain waves when he fought. And they cut on him again and again.

Within six months he’d won back the title, pushing in his opponent’s face and putting the man in the hospital. Ultratech took the lion’s share of the purse and ordered him to live at their facility like a caged animal. He was watched day and night. TJ looked in the mirror one morning and saw a man wearing an iron slave collar staring back.

Ultratech forced TJ into fighting one of their Mark 01 Fulgore battle cyborgs in a highly publicized exhibition bout to show off their new military technology. ARIA—the artificial intelligence mind behind Ultratech—wanted to prove that her machine was better than a human. TJ was ordered to throw the fight just in case, but he went into the ring filled with a rage that made him mighty, and he pounded that metal man into the floor. To punish him ARIA leaked the information about TJ’s cybernetic implants to the press. “We made him a champion,” she announced. “He’s nothing more than an Ultratech product.” TJ was stripped of his title belt and banned from boxing for life.

That night TJ cut the cybernetic implants from his arms, screaming in agony as he pulled the metal from his flesh. He staggered to the local hospital and got them to stitch him up. His arms healed up fast. Too fast. He realized that Ultratech had done something more to him when they’d put him on the operating table and cut him open. They’d messed with his DNA.

His flesh healed fast, but his soul took longer. Using the little money that he had left to himself he leased his old gym on the South Side and slowly started to fix it up. He named it the “Combo Gym” and started training young fighters. He put up an American flag out front to remind him of his dad.

One day a man came around asking about him. A guy with a strange accent. He told TJ that people had been watching him—a group called the Disavowed. Their goal was to utterly destroy Ultratech and they wanted to enlist him. The foreigner showed TJ information linking his former manager to Ultratech. The megacorp had been playing the fighter for years. They’d bankrupted him so that they could get him in their clutches and study him like a lab rat. And now the Disavowed was offering to help TJ get even.

TJ told them everything that he knew about his procedures, and every detail about the Ultratech facilities and the cybernetic labs where he’d been operated on and trained. He even gave them his bloodstained implants.

The Disavowed started feeding TJ information, enabling him to track down Ultratech agents, like the assassin Sadira. After a while TJ and the spy Orchid became friends, and infiltrated Ultratech together. He joined her on another mission to South America and the headquarters of the Night Guard to meet its last surviving member—the monster hunter Maya—and the warrior-monk Jago. But then they were attacked by an Ultratech army of Fulgore and Riptor units. TJ was ready to go out swinging. And then, by some miracle, the army suddenly called off the attack and retreated.

The boxer had survived another round and will continue his training, hoping to live up to the nickname “Combo.”

That’ll do it for this week, and we certainly hope you enjoyed it. We’ll be back next week for more, but make sure to drop in to the forums and let us know your thoughts on TJ Combo’s story.