Lee Marvin plays Steel Kelly a retired boxer who now owns a robot boxer named Battling Maxo. This is in the future (1974!) when boxing by men has been banned. Kelly and his mechanic named Pole have travelled by bus to a small city in Kansas to compete in a $500 bout. Battling Maxo is an old model, a B2. He’ll be facing much more capable models like a B7. But in addition to being antiquated, Maxo is woefully in need of repairs and replacement parts. Unfortunately, until Steel gets the $500 purse he has no way to pay for the repairs. Pole tells him it’s hopeless and they should give up on Maxo. Steel tells him to stop talking down Maxo. You get the distinct impression that Steel doesn’t want the robot to be insulted, as if it could understand.
Before the fight Steel and Pole test out Maxo. Steel spars around the root and checks his reactions. But suddenly Maxo malfunctions and stops. Pole tells Steel that Maxo is finished and won’t work again until replacement parts can be gotten.
Steel decides that he will disguise himself as Maxo and go in the ring against thee B7. Pole tells him he’s crazy and the B7 will maul him. When Steel refuses to give in Pole says he’ll tell the referee. Steel threatens to beat Pole to a pulp if he says a word. He relents and help0s Steel get ready.
In the next scene we see Pole pushing Steel along as if he is a real robot. When he gets to the ring Pole takes the bag off Steel’s head and we see that Steel has been made up to look like a mechanical man. For the first few minutes Steel is able to dance around the 7 and even trade punches with the robot but eventually the lows start taking a toll on the man and he spends most of his time in a crouch trying to cover up his head with his arms. Finally a flurry of blows to Steel’s head and body knocks him down and he can’t get back up.
After the fight Pole goes to get the purse. But because the bout didn’t go past the first round the payout is only $250. Steel puts a brave face on it and says that even subtracting bus fare it should be enough to repair Maxo and put them back on the winning path. For once Pole agrees with Steel but you can tell it’s just pity.
Marvin is good in this part (as he usually is). And the story is about courage. Admittedly it’s an odd story but I’m inclined to like this one. B.
Series note, the next episode is Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Prepare yourself to be Shatnered.