In a New York City tenement, over-the-hill boxer Bolie Jackson is preparing for his comeback fight against Joey Consiglio. His admirer and biggest fan, a young boy named Henry, is watching him. Henry assures Bolie that he’ll be watching him tonight on TV, and Bolie looks in the mirror and fingers all the scars on his face. He admits to himself that he’s an old man, and Henry promises that he’ll make a big tall wish so that Bolie won’t get hurt.
As Bolie goes out, he runs into Henry’s mother, Frances. She thanks him for all the things that Bolie has done for Henry, and tells the fighter to take care of himself. Henry comes down and again promises Bolie that he’s going to make a wish that nothing will happen to him. Frances sends him to bed and explains that he needed $15 for the rent. Henry made one of his big tall wishes and one of her customers sent her exactly $15. Bolie doesn’t believe it, and figures that one day Henry will have his belief in magic crushed as well. Frances wishes him luck as he leaves. The people in the street all wish Bolie luck as Henry watches from his window. The boy waves and Bolie waves back.
In the locker room, Bolie’s manager Joe wraps his hands. Bolie’s hired agent, Thomas, lights up a cigar and Bolie tells him to put it out. Thomas reluctantly does so and then calls Bolie an old man, just like the other has-beens that he promotes. Bolie knows what he is, and that he has a stable of other boxers only there to fight a couple of preliminary rounds. Thomas figures that Bolie will come to him soon enough for the same work, but Bolie tells him to forget it. He then asks what Thomas can tell him about Consiglio’s fighting style. When Thomas claims he hasn’t seen Consiglio fight, Bolie realizes that Thomas is betting on the opposing fighter. He grabs Thomas and shoves him up against the wall. When he throws a punch, Thomas manages to get out and Bolie hits the wall with his hand. Joe confirms that he’s broken four of his knuckles. It’s time to enter the ring and Bolie has Joe put on his gloves. As Joe does, Bolie says that Henry is going to be disappointed, and there’s no such thing as magic.
In the ring, the audience watches as Bolie takes hit after hit. Henry and Frances watch at home as Bolie goes down. The boy runs to the screen and repeats his wish. Suddenly time stops for a few seconds. When it starts up again, it is Joey unconscious in the ring and a surprised Bolie announced as the winner.
In the locker room, Bolie checks his hand and says that it doesn’t hurt. He reminds Joe of what he said earlier, but Joe doesn’t remember Bolie’s earlier injury, or Consiglio knocking Bolie down. Bolie doesn’t remember getting up or taking down Consiglio, and Joe tells him that he was never off his feet.
As Bolie returns to his apartment, he’s hailed as the conquering hero. Smiling, he goes up to the roof to see Henry. Bolie says that he doesn’t remember winning, and all he remembers is going down. He dismisses it as a dream, and Henry quietly walks away. Bolie asks the boy if he ever went down, and the boy finally admits that the fighter went down. He made the big tall wish that Bolie never went down, but Bolie tells him that the boy is too old for fairy tales. Bolie tells Henry that there’s no such thing as magic and he can’t hang around a dopey kid. Henry begs him to believe, warning that if he doesn’t then the wish won’t stay true. The fighter says that he did it all himself and that he’s too old to believe in magic. Henry begs him to believe…
…and Bolie finds himself in the arena, flat on the mat. Consiglio is declared the winner.
Later, Bolie walks back as his neighbors stare at him silently. One of them condemns him for not using his right. He goes to see Henry, and Frances says that she’s sorry. In the boy’s bedroom, Bolie admits that he busted his knuckles before the fight, but Henry tells him he still looked like a tiger and he was proud of him. Bolie promises that they’ll go to a hockey game the next day, and Henry says that he won’t be making any more wishes.