Based on a poem by Joseph Moncure March, an aging boxer has a manager who takes money on a set-up. His wife wants him to quit, but Stoker wants to win.
At 9:05 p.m. Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) tells Danny (Edwin Max) that Stoker will lose the fight, and Danny gives him $30. Red (Percy Helton) wants Tiny to tell Stoker, but Tiny says he is sure to lose. Bill "Stoker" Thompson (Robert Ryan) wakes up from a nap and tells his wife Julie (Audrey Totter) that he is going to win. She says she doesn't want to watch the beating and implies he is fooling himself.
Stoker walks across the street and sees the fans in the arena. He tells Tiny and Red that he is going to take him. In the locker-room Gunboat Johnson (David Clarke) talks of women with Gus (Wallace Ford), and Stoker tells them to stop it. Stoker sees Julie coming and is glad, but she turns and walks away.
Young Shanley (Darryl Hickman) won his first fight. Julie hears on the radio that Gunboat was knocked out. Gunboat tells a doctor he is someone else. Julie walks alone to a bridge and tears up her ticket. A black boxer won and wishes Stoker good luck. Stoker goes into the ring and sees that Julie's seat is empty.
Young Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor) is confident. He pummels Stoker, who fights back and loses his balance. Stoker does well at the end of the first round, and Tiny says so. In the second round Stoker is pounded but lands some punches. Red says that Tiny should have told him. Tiny tells Stoker to stay away from him in order to go the distance.
In the third round Stoker is winning, and the gamblers Danny and Little Boy (Alan Baxter) look worried. Stoker is knocked down, but he gets up. Tiny tells Stoker to lay down because he took money on it. The referee looks at Stoker's eye, but he says he can see. In the fourth round Stoker is knocked down again but struggles up. Stoker is hitting Tiger Nelson hard and then knocks him down for the count. Tiny leaves quickly.
In the locker-room Gus treats Stoker, who asks where Tiny and Red are. Danny and Little Boy talk to Stoker alone. Little Boy tells him to get dressed. Julie buys some food. Stoker dresses quickly and sees them waiting. He finds another exit, but the four men see him on the street. Tiger Nelson and the others beat him up. Stoker hits Little Boy, who says Stoker will never hit anyone with that hand again.
Stoker staggers out of the alley, calling "Julie." She sees him and runs to him. She sends for an ambulance. Stoker says he can't fight anymore. When Stoker says he won, she says they both won.
This realistic drama in real time exposes the futile
brutality of desperate boxers hoping against long odds and sadistic
fans who get pleasure out of watching two men beat each other.
Even worse are the gamblers who use cruelty to try to enforce
their greedy will.