Steelâ€ Kelly and his partner, mechanic Pole, travel from Philly and arrive in the town of Maynard, Kansas, hauling a mysterious man-shaped object. They haul it down the street and no one notices anything unusual. The two men stop in a bar and discuss the object, Battling Maxo. Pole warns that Maxo is all but shot and he wonâ€™t be able to find partners. Kelly insists that Maxo will be okay. All they need is the money from the upcoming prizefight and theyâ€™ll have enough to get Maxo fully repaired.
The problem is, itâ€™s 1974 and human boxing has been outlawed since 1968. Now only androids are allowed to box. Kelly and Pole go to the ring and wait to talk to the manager, Nolan. As they wait, Kelly tries to make small talk with Nolanâ€™s accountant, Maxwell. Kelly talks about how he used to be a fighter before the sport was outlawed to humans, and how he got the nickname â€œSteelâ€ because he was never knocked down. He starts to ramble about Maxoâ€™s victories but Maxwell ignores him. Nolan comes in and Kelly assures him that Maxo will go the six rounds against the hometown champ, the Maynard Flash. As long as the obsolete Maxo fights, Nolan doesnâ€™t care. As he leaves, Kelly tries to get an advance but Nolan turns him down cold.
In the ready room, Kelly and Pole test Maxo. He moves slowly and one of his arms breaks. When Pole opens up the android, he discovers that a vital spring has broken and thereâ€™s no way to replace it in Maynard. Refusing to give in, Kelly comes up with a new plan: heâ€™ll go into the ring disguised as an android and fight long enough to earn the money. Nolan and Maxwell are the only ones who have met him, and they donâ€™t watch the fights. Pole warns that itâ€™s suicide but a fatalistic Kelly doesnâ€™t care. The mechanic insists he can get money from his sister so they can go back to Philly but Kelly refuses to accept charity. He promised Nolan a fight, and thatâ€™s what heâ€™s gong to give him. When Pole threatens to tell Nolan, Kelly threatens to beat him bloody if he tries.
That night, Kelly takes Maxoâ€™s place and Pole leads him into the ring. The hometown crowd cheers on the Maynard Flash. The match begins and Kelly faces off against the implacable android. Even his best blow has no effect and the android soon beats him bloody. The match ends before the first round is over. Pole manages to get Kelly back to the ready room. The manager insists that Pole get their money rather than tend to his wounds. As Pole leaves, Kelly looks up at Maxo, unmoving.
A few minutes later, Pole returns and tells Kelly that theyâ€™re only getting half the promised money, because Kelly failed to go the full six rounds. Kelly takes it and, still ignoring his wounds, starts to figure out how theyâ€™ll get back to Philly, get Maxo repaired, and be a hot ticketâ€¦ someday.