October 16th, 2005 – By Frank Gonzalez Jr. The boxing ‘reality TV show,’ “The Contender,” which became a hit last season, inspiring a funny episode on Comedy Central’s “South Park” and some new fans towards the sport of boxing, even after being dropped by NBC and later finding themselves picked up for another season by ESPN, committed suicide at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Saturday night. The show had mixed reviews from hard core boxing fans. Some who didn’t like it complained that it was more about crying losers and their girlfriends, conflicting personalities and sit com quality drama than about boxing. What I think they disliked most was that the fights were built up during the first half of the show and only shown in snippets at the end, denying fans the option of deciding for themselves who actually won a given bout.
Those who liked the show enjoyed the dynamic of the relationships forged by the contestants. Personalities like Jesse Brinkley made you laugh, while sneaky guys like Anthony Bonsante made you squirm. There was the manipulative Joey Gilbert, Sergio Mora’s cock sure self-esteem and the humble sincerity of Alfonso Gomez and Peter Manfredo Jr. After writing a piece about the last fight last season, I got more email from women than men about the show, asking where the show was going and how much they loved or hated it.
To the credit of the NBC’s version of “The Contender,” I can’t remember a single controversial decision during the season. With the move to ESPN, that has changed dramatically.
There were three televised fights Saturday, featuring the show’s most popular contestants in rematches of bouts that closed out the show’s season. On the menu were Alfonso Gomez vs. Luciano Perez, Jesse Brinkley vs. Anthony Bonsante and the Main Event that featured “The Contender” Champion, Sergio Mora vs. Peter Manfredo Jr.
Alfonso Gomez (13-3-1-4 KO’s) was originally scheduled to fight former Contender contestant, Jeff Fraza (who left the show early due to a case of the Chicken Pox). Fraza was replaced with unknown and smaller, Luciano Perez (12-2-1-11 KO’s), who proved to be in over his head against the noticeably improved, more efficient Gomez, who jabbed and landed combinations
consistently throughout the fight.
Perez showed a big heart and chin but had no jab and fought in wild, winging spurts. Gomez landed flush shots at will. Perez slipped in the third round but it was ruled a knockdown. In the fourth round, Gomez landed a few unanswered shots and the referee, Pat Russell, prematurely halted the contest, leaving Gomez the winner by TKO 4.
Perez appeared capable of continuing and protested the stoppage. Who knows what might have happened? We’ve all seen it before. A guy is losing and suddenly lands a shot that turns the tide. There’d be no chances for turning tides for Perez, compliments of the ref. Okay, just a small controversy.
In the second fight, Anthony Bonsante (26-6-3-15 KO’s), did most of the fighting as Jesse Brinkley (25-3-17 KO’s) fought in spurts that were never enough to win a single round. It was not an entertaining fight either, because Bonsante fought scared, avoiding Brinkley’s power punches on the inside and scoring points boxing from the outside. Brinkley didn’t look like he was in the kind of shape to do more than fight in the snippets that he did. I had Bonsante winning every round in a shutout victory. Brinkley looked disappointed after the final bell because he knew he lost the fight.
Bonsante, 141 landed, 409 thrown for 34%.
Brinkley, 58 landed, 310 thrown for 19%.
The Judges’ scores were:
Julie Lederman – 48-47 for Brinkley
Fritz Warner – 48-47 for Brinkley
Raul Caiz Sr. – 49-46 for Brinkley
The Judges sold out the fans and the future of the show with these fictitious scores. Hey, I liked Brinkley more than I liked Bonsante on the show—but in the ring, Bonsante clearly won the rematch. Boos sounded like a fire alarm in the Staples Center. It looks like Brinkley’s likable appeal got him a gift win that morphs his popularity into disdain. Bye-bye Jesse Brinkley.
Bonsante stormed out of the ring and up to the locker room. Brinkley, in disbelief himself, hurled his boxing gloves in the direction of the disgusted fans in the stands, then went ahead and accepted this bogus victory, making him an accomplice in ruining whatever credibility “The Contender” may have had. Bonsante made his way back to the venue and was cheered by the only credible Judges in the house—the fans in the stands.
After the angry crowd calmed a bit, Peter Manfredo Jr. (24-2-10 KO’s) and Sergio Mora (16-0-3 KO’s) made their way to the ring. There seemed to be some manufactured ‘bad blood’ between them, mostly coming from Mora’s direction.
In the first round, Manfredo was doubling up on short right hooks and opened a cut on Mora’s left eye, the same cut he suffered in their first fight. Mora was rattled at the sight of his blood and was less effective as a result.
The second round saw Mora step up his offense in what looked like desperation. The cut on his eye looked bad enough to stop the fight and since it was caused by a punch, Mora would’ve lost by TKO. Manfredo, who is now trained by the elite coach, Freddy Roach, was consistently scoring the harder punches and blocking most of Sergio’s shots. Mora worked hard and Manfredo kept up the pressure in the only tough round to score.
As the fight progressed, Mora was doing more feinting than fighting, while Manfredo put on an exhibition of newly refined boxing skills that won him most of the exchanges.
In the fifth round, Mora came on strong; giving everything he had in the first half of the round. Though he scored well and often, nothing Mora did ever hurt Manfredo, but it was the first round Mora actually outscored Manfredo.
From rounds six through eight, Peter Manfredo Jr. was the man in charge. He landed the cleaner shots as he outworked and outclassed Sergio Mora. In the final seconds of the eighth, Mora tried to steal the round and continued to throw punches after the bell. It was too little, too late.
Manfredo celebrated his perceived victory, jumping up on the corner posts with arms raised as the hometown fans jeered at him for beating their homeboy from East LA.
The Judges’ scores were:
Julie Lederman – 77-75 for Mora.
Marty Denkin – 77-75 for Manfredo.
Chuck Hassett – 77-75 for Mora.
(What fight were Hassett and Lederman watching?)
Sharkie’s Machine had it 78-74 for Manfredo.
Now “The Contender” really IS a ‘reality’ show. It’s just as corrupt as regular boxing, complete with bogus scores from the Judges that rendered two winners the losers. The unaccountable Judges worked the script (the fix) in spite of the reality that transpired in the ring. How stupid do they think we are? And where was the honor in Brinkley and Mora accepting these bogus results? If THIS last event is what “The Contender” is going to be like on ESPN, then they might as well just cancel the show now.
* * *
Agree or disagree? Comments can be emailed to email@example.com