Boxing and reality television have always made an interesting marriage. 2013 brings us a new installment on the interesting network choice of the Discovery Channel. The show follows the Boston area amateur boxing scene with a focus on trainer Peter Welch and his dream to revive the Boston boxing scene which he feels is dying. According to Welch, as the boxing dies so does the youth and young men whose avenues are left to drugs and reckless behavior. For anyone who has seen the Mark Wahlberg film The Fighter or ESPN’s Unguarded about Chris Herren this is not new territory. So Peter Welch wants to revive boxing in Boston, his dream is being put into real action by an arrangement of gym versus gym fight cards hoping to draw crowds and spark up interest. The first episode fell a little flat but the show appears to have momentum going into episode two.
Uniquely the show focuses on the amateurs which is different from the familiar past experiments with The Contender and The Next Great Champ trying to produce a marketable professional fighter who could be maneuvered to a world title (The Contender succeeded with Sergio Mora). This show is more interested in saving the sport in a region of the country with some rich boxing history while saving some of these fighters along the way. So it’s a different potentially more heartfelt series because these fighters are not in position to win titles or make millions but might get off and away from the drugs or may have a roof to put above their head. When the introduction sequence faded out the show began and introduced the trainers and gyms to be featured in the show. The trainers got together and in a typical reality television scene a fight just happened to break out in the room where they discussed the matchups.
The first fight of the show was between Peter Welch’s fighter Matt Phinney and Joe Ricciardi’s Anthony McKenna. Matt Phinney is a twenty eight year old amateur fighter who cannot stay focused enough to go professional and lives in his car. The training session he was in with Welch were underwhelming as he went through the motions and continued to let his trainer down leading into what Welch believed was his last shot as a boxer. Anthony McKenna is twenty five years old and has not fought in roughly two years and that is because of his drug problems. When Joe Ricciardi went to meet McKenna for the first time he was with his friends who were all drinking early in the day and later in the show were drinking and possibly high later. His problem is that he is in the wrong crowd but he is getting better and staying clean. Ricciardi was pleased with McKenna in the gym, liked his jab and ability to fight at range but he felt he had problems inside and he tended to fall in with his punches. Going into the fight at the finale of the opening episode there was a feeling that it the battle of the unwilling and that the trainers wanted it more than the two men in the ring.
Early on in the fight it appeared that way. Outside a late first round knockdown on a solid left hook it was a very sloppy fight with lots of missed punches and no real sustained action. The struggles of Phinney in training and McKenna’s lay off could be seen in full view. However, the big fight of the maiden episode was saved by a very good third round. Both corners told their fighters that they absolutely needed the last round and both fought like they needed it. McKenna, whose punches lacked snap, came alive and began to throw with some enforcement. Mckenna connected hard on a right hand down the middle and the two traded in a very good fight. This finish to the fight kept enough interest to gain return viewership as long as the fights look more like the third round and less like the first two. In the end Phinney won the decision on the cards and both men showed great sportsmanship in the end.
While the fight and the two fighters did not look great they only had four weeks to train. So by the time they got back in the groove in the ring the fight got better. So with that said Phinney and McKenna’s next fights should be better as they will be better prepared and maybe more motivated now that they are back in the swing of things. The monkey wrench here is did these guys really only train for four weeks or did they train longer? It’s a TV show, they need fighters and they would not have put on a production without knowing a fighter and getting a fighter to agree to be on TV so they probably knew they had a fight coming up with more than four weeks to prepare. Either way the show had an interesting start and is worth a watch for the second episode. With any luck this experiment will result in some more kids getting in the gym and lacing up the gloves and maybe we will get a new Tony DeMarco, Rocky Marciano, or Marvin Hagler.