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Location: Sarawak, Malaysia

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another KO by Mark Burnett

I caught the finale of The Contender last night. It's the much hyped Mark Burnett produced reality show where boxers from around America are brought together and given the chance to compete at Ceasers's Palace for a one million dollar prize fight and help them make a name for themselves in the industry. But the series wasn't all about a bunch of contenders working hard to survive and make it to the finals, but also about the lives behind their chosen career paths, the reason they fight if you will.
Last night's finals came down to two truly deserving fighters: Peter Manfredo Jr., The Pride of Providence, who was also undefeated and ranked 3rd in the world. However, he suffered a crushing defeat in the VERY FIRST FIGHT of the show and was eliminated by Alphonzo Gomez, who was one of the biggest underdogs on the show as he went in with the worst fight record of all the fighters. More on him later. Anyway, Manfredo came back into the game when one of the other fighters couldn't continue and the rest of the fighters had to vote on one of the three fighters already eliminated at the time to come back and replace him, which was a real lucky break for the guy as he fought back and made it all the way to the finals, even avenging his loss to Gomez in the semi-finals in an incredible battle where the two just unloaded like crazy on each other during the finals seconds of their fight.
The other finalist was The Latin Snake, Sergio Mora. A young smart kid who survived all the challenges and fights in the contest to reach the finals. Sergio advanced to the finals beating Jesse Brinkley, the only fighter to score a KO in the entire season. Sergio was also the man who eliminated Najai Turpin in the first round, the controversial fighter who would commit suicide days after his elimination.
But like I mentioned before, these two were not just fighting for the million dollar prize and the Contender championship belt, but for their families as well. Peter is fighting so that he can provide a better life for his family, and Sergio wants to win so that his mother who took care of him all his life wouldn't have to work anymore and he would then be the one to support her.
When the fight eventually started, the two tore into each other and unloaded bombs, but as the fight progressed into the later rounds, it was obvious that Sergio was in much better shape as he withstood Manfredo's offence and unloaded quick combo shots to his opponent's body every now and then. Sergio even got overconfident at one point and taunted Manfredo's corner during the fight which almost cost him as he was left open to some big head shots by Manfredo, but Sergio took it and still held on like a champion. I noticed one vital point where Sergio was wide open towards the end of the 7th round and when Manfredo threw a big punch there just wasn't any power behind it to do any damage as he was already exhausted. The fight went the 7-round distance and Sergio came out the winner by a unanimous judges decision. In addition to the cash and the belt, Sergio also won a pickup truck and will be on the cover of the next edition of Ring magazine. It will definitely be interesting to see if this kid can actually become a contender on a national level down the line.

In addition to the finals, there was also a third place bronze fight on the card between Alphonzo Gomez and Jesse Brinkley. Like I said before, Alphonzo was the biggest underdog of the contest as he came in with the worst fight record of the lot, but shocked everyone when he beat Peter Manfredo Jr., who had the best record of all the fighters and even ranked 3rd in the world, as well as being UNDEFEATED up until that point. Needless to say he turned a few heads and raised a few eyebrows with his performance. And his semi-final fight, which was also a rematch against the Manfredo, was an incredible battle of two young lions with no quit in them.
Jesse Brinkley was the joker of the bunch, he had a great personality and was easy to get along with. But he also had big fighting spirit in him. Proven when he had to lose 10lbs in ONE DAY, and then while obviously fatigued and dehydrated, had to take on probably the most dangerous fighter in the contest that very same evening! Anthony Bonsante could easily be considered the heel of the season as he was the only fighter to take the cheap way out by fighting a far inferior fighter to advance in the contest. Whether he was doing it to for his kids or not, Anthony was the only fighter in the contest to challenge and beat a fighter that was below him and he knew it. Even the other fighters acknowledged the move as a cheap way to advance. Bonsante is also a very rough and hard hitter, and during his fight with Brinkley he totally dominated the young farm boy until one opening in the final round ended with Brinkley scoring the first and only KO win of the season!
The bronze fight was also pretty good, and looked almost even for the most part, until Gomez upped his game by scoring more shots and working it. And the judges agreed after 5 rounds awarding Gomez the 3rd place prize of $250,000. Gomez even stuck around to do guest commentary for the finals and everyone agreed a fight between him and winner Mora or a tie-breaker with Manfredo would make for good booking.

All in all, while I didn’t catch every episode of the show due to conflicting TV time schedules, I really enjoyed what I saw and the fights at the end of each episode seemed to be more interesting and entertaining than the big fights they normally air on PPV, and the finals had it's fair share of celebrities in the audience such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and I even spotted Hulk Hogan behind the ring announcer! Whether the editing and punch effects had anything to do with making the fights more interesting, I’m not too sure, but I’ll definitely be interested to check out the next season of the show should it come around.


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