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When others would have stayed down, Burnett stood up

Apollo Creed collapsing to the canvas while Rocky Balboa beats the count is one of the all-time great scenes in a sports movie.

Kevin Burnett making it to his feet on Friday night without the retakes, makeup artists or slow-motion film of "Friday Night Fights" was even better.

"Great job, Kevin. Congrats," I said to the humble heavyweight as I left the Thomas & Mack Center for a red-eye flight out of Las Vegas.

"Yeah, but people are going to be talking about what happened," he said as he hung his head.

This 6-foot-6 athlete was drooping to about 5-foot-10. He was disappointed in himself for nearly being knocked out while handily in control of his fight with Horace Grant.

The last time Horace Grant showed up in a "SportsCenter" play of the day, it was the taller, more athletically gifted version who won NBA titles with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. This Horace Grant was a shorter, tough brute who got a very late start to boxing. Yet his play of the day was nearly a slam dunk. At 34, he had never been past six rounds -- and it showed. He was losing on the ringside scorecards and losing steam in the ring battle.

Grant was in survivor mode, just looking to go the distance, holding on to Burnett when he could and taking big gulps of air.

Then it happened. With the clap of the timekeeper's board, the fighters knew there were just 10 seconds left before the final bell. They were paired in a slow waltz to the finish.

As time was running out, Grant squared up his shoulders on the inside, then uncorked a powerfully violent right hook.

"Thud! Ding Ding Ding!"

Or perhaps it was "Ding Ding Ding! Thud!"

Burnett's face was crushed on impact and his body fell limp to the canvas.

Did that punch land before the bell? On the bell? Or after?

Veteran Referee Joe Cortez paused for a moment. He looked to the alternate ref at ringside. He was counting for a knockdown. And all of sudden, so was Cortez.

An entire Hollywood production staff would struggle to recreate the scene outside of an edit room. For all those sitting ringside, you realized in an instant what was happening. These would be the longest 10 seconds in sports.

If Burnett could rise to his feet, he holds on for the win. If not, Grant pulls off the most improbable victory you would ever see.

Burnett was hurt badly. He was a jellyfish. How could he get up, let alone have his feet securely under him?

He barely did. Awkwardly pushing his body up like his knees were shackled to barbells, Burnett stumbled and swayed. He looked like he wasn't going to make it.

Kevin Burnett may never be a heavyweight title holder. Odds are, he won't come close. But at this very moment, he became a proven fighter.

Fighters make tough decisions. Fighters push themselves in ways many would never attempt. Fighters may not get the result they want, but they act like fighters.

Burnett made a decision to rise to his feet with all his might. Nearly knocked out, now somehow standing. He beat the 10 count by a breath.

Sylvester Stallone couldn't have done it better. Sylvester Stallone has never had a 250-pound man knocking his block off for real.

My walk to catch the red-eye had to wait for just one moment.

"Yeah, but people are going to be talking about what happened," Burnett said.

The young man with his head down didn't realize he might have just defined himself for life.

"You have more heart than most athletes I have ever covered," I told him. "Kevin, do you realize how many supposed pros would be laying on the canvas unable to move? You were extraordinary tonight. Don't ever forget that."

Earlier in his life, Kevin Burnett had to rise up off the canvas. He quit high school. He had to make a tough decision. His single-parent mother was trying hard to raise two sets of twins. Kevin took on two jobs to help pay the bills.

He went back to school when he could. He pursued his dream of becoming a professional boxer. And on Friday night on national television, all he did was what he had already done in life. He made a tough choice to stand up when others would likely stay down.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."