Thursday, September 21, 2006
Anyone that has been following this season of The Contender knows that trainer Tommy Gallagher comes from a different era of boxing...
Tommy Gallagher’s connection to the past is an easy process. The veteran trainer just needs to close his eyes, and he sees ghosts. He can hear the sonic boom of Rocky Marciano’s fists slamming the elephant of a heavybag that used to shake the rafters of Stillman’s Gym in New York City. He can feel the silk lapels of one of Rocky Graziano’s suits, and smell the cigar smoke of all those Italian and Jewish wise guys that used to gather at Stillman’s.
A time when the fighters ruled the boxing landscape.
It’s that old-school feel that draws Gallagher to “The Contender.” He’s been associated with the successful boxing reality show as it concludes its second season, and the first on ESPN.
I hope I’m not the only one who has noticed that Gallagher is a pretty good trainer. Word on the street is that he is the head trainer for Steve Forbes going into the finals of the show - Excellent choice by Forbes.
Gallagher is a perfect example of those boxing people who are still around and are about the real things surrounding the sport. Many today are just in it for the money and the fame; Gallagher goes out of his way to work with the young kids, both in and outside of the ring.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The episode begins with a quick recap of what happened last week: Brewer and Bravo were victorious over Stewart and Balletto respectively. Steve Forbes makes a comment to Jeremy Williams about how much quieter the house is now that all of the other boxers are gone except for the remaining four. Sugar Ray then calls the other fighters into the living room.
He congratulates them on getting to this point in the competition. He then shows them video compilation of their victories over other fighters on the show and what they have had to do to make it to the final four. They then discuss what the experience has been like, how it has affected them, and how is has changed them as fighters.
Sugar Ray then tells the four that they will all be receiving plasma TV’s for their efforts so far. The fighters train in The Contender Gym for the final time. Jeremy and Tommy both work with the boxers and help them develop strategies against their opponents. The show then shifts to the arena where the semifinals are about to take place. All of the fighters who have been eliminated were given seats at ringside. There is also a bigger amount of celebrities in attendance than usual.
The first fight is Steve Forbes vs Corneilus Bundrage. The first rounds starts out slow, both fighters spend most of the team measuring each other and trying to find their range with both fighters picking their shots in a pretty uneventful round for the most part. The second rounds begins and it is immediately noticable that the pace has started to pick up.
Bundrage tries to back Forbes into the corner with quick flurries and then triest to tie him up and wear him down. Forbes is able to escape Bundrage’s tie-up attempts and lands quick counter shots, giving him the second round. The third round then goes to Bundrage as he is able to control the fight and dictate the pace with a mix of flurries and power shots that keep Forbes from getting inside and doing any damage.
Forbes turns things around in the fourth round however. Late in the round, he gets Bundrage up against the ropes and unleashes a flurry of numerous unanswered punches, dazing Bundrage and buckling his knees, causing him to fall into the ropes. Bundrage gets up and the fight is allowed to continue until the end of the round.
The final round has the fighters leaving it all in the ring. Both fighters are swinging for the fences, trying to keep the fight from going into the judges’ hands. Steve finishes the round strong, outlanding Bundrage by picking careful with his punches and not swining wildly and missing. They go to the scorecards and Forbes is announced as the winner by unanimous decsion.
The second fight of the night is Norberto Bravo and Grady Brewer. In the first round, Bravo comes out with guns blazing, swinging bolos as Brewer tries to move away from the punches. Bravo catches Brewer with a right hook and knocks him down. Brewer is able to get back up to his feet and tries not to get hit for the rest of the round.
Brewer changes things up in the second round, out-moving Bravo and throwing quicker combinations. Brewer ends the round on a strong note and almost pulls even on the scorecards. The third round is very similar, Brewer is able to outland Bravo and end the round on a high note despite Bravo putting in a great round as well.
The fourth and fifth rounds are extremely close - Both fighters land their fair share of good shots. However, Brewer looks to be the slightly better fighter as the fight progresses. Bravo just looks for the counterpunch and refuses to change up that strategy, allowing Brewer to land his jab and a few hooks from the side at will as Bravo is unable to cut the corner fast enough to block or move away from the punch. They add up the scorecards and Grady Brewer is the winner by majority decision.
The finals are set: Grady Brewer vs Steve Forbes…
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The show starts with Michael Stewart preparing for his fight with Grady Brewer. While on the phone with his wife, he seems to be extremely confident, saying that he is going to punish Brewer. Back at the gym, Tommy Gallagher helps Brewer with his workout. The rest of the fighters shoot over to Sugar Ray Leonard’s mansion for a tour and all are stunned at the size and beauty of the property.
Corneilus Bundrage and Gary Balletto talk about the rough times that they have had in the past. Bundrage says that he once had to borrow money so he could buy diapers for his child. Balletto says that he hasn’t boxed before this show in over two years because his wife wouldn’t let him. He then receives a letter from his wife letting him know that she is supporting him all the way.
The first of the two fights of the night is Michael Stewart and Grady Brewer going at it. Brewer looks like the more impressive fighter in the first round, outmoving and outlanding Stewart around the ring. Tommy tells Brewer that Stewart is loading up and trying to throw the one big punch so he must be watching for it. The second round is pretty similar with Brewer still out-punching Stewart except this time going about it a little bit more with a technical flare. Jeremy Williams screams at Stewart, trying to get him going.
The third round: much of the same. Brewer just tees off on Stewart, landing numerous shots while Stewart can’t seem to do anything at all. Williams tells Stewart that he must go for a knockout as it’s the only chance that he has to win the fight. Brewer takes the fourth round as well, outworking Stewart who looks physically and mentally drained. In the fifth and final round, Stewart looks as if he may be starting a comeback, setting up nice combinations but he is unable to land the one punch knockout.
He leaves himself open looking for the big punch at the end of the round, leaving an opening for Brewer to even up the score by the end of the fight. The judges go to the scorecards and it’s no surprise as Brewer is the winner by unanimous decision. After the fight, Stewart says that he didn’t have anything in the tank to be able to counter what Brewer was bringing. He also said that he was loading up too much, looking for the big punch which was obvious to everyone throughout the entire fight.
The second fight of the night is Norberto Bravo and Gary Balletto. The first round belongs to Balletto as he looks to be the busier fighter. Yet just like Stewart in the fight before this, he is loading up for the big punch. Apparently, it’s a common thing that Balletto has been doing throughout his career. Bravo evens it up in the second round, outlanding Balletto and keeping him against the ropes while Balletto swings away with wild bombs. Between rounds, Tommy tells Balletto to punch at Bravo’s shoulders and chest to slow him down.
Balletto pins Bravo against the ropes in the third round and lands a decent amount of shots. Bravo lands a few good shots of his own during the exchange giving both fighters a good case as to who should win the round. Back in Bravo’s corner, Williams tells him to stay to the outside and try and land from there. The fourth round consists of Bravo just beating Balletto to the punch. Balletto looks very fatigued out there.
In the final round, Balletto does nothing but look for the knockout. Bravo just waits patiently until Balletto misses and then lands a countershot - this basically happens 50 million times during the last round. The bell rings, the judges convene, and it’s Bravo by unanimous decision. After the fight, Balletto says that he will probably retire from boxing.
The final two fights are now set: Cornelius Bundrage will take on Steve Forbes; Grady Brewer will face Norberto Bravo…
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Jason Probst of MaxBoxing gives his view on why popular reality TV show The Contender is bad for the sport of boxing in a two-part piece…
And that brings us, however belatedly enough, to why I just can’t stomach “The Contender.” Boxing is quite dear to me and the show is an absurd-yet-disturbing warning shot across the bow of my sacred ship.
After watching the episode where Steve Forbes and Nick Acevedo fight, I’m feeling none the better. It’s a good concept with some heartfelt, if overly maudlin, family ties forever lingering in the foreground, between fighters, family, even friends. You get the good storylines that generate interest, and humanize the athletes, but then the bouts themselves are edited, heavily so, and it makes you wonder if this is the way of the future.
After seeing the first six minutes of action and realizing it seemed much less than that, I timed rounds 3, 4 and 5 of the Forbes-Acevedo fight, which clocked out at 2:02, 1:29 and 1:32. That translates into 56 percent of actual bout time shown for real-time competition (and it’s actually a lower percentage than that, given the handful of slow-motion sequences inserted into each round, providing shamefully repetitious, quasi-dramatic filler).
The Contender is, in my opinion, that hopped-up young dude hauling down the street, completely devoid of any rules of the road and making no effort to check for pedestrians. He is merely consumed with getting to where he thinks he needs to be, instead of taking the whole enchilada into account and proceeding accordingly from there (postscript: the driver of the vehicle was not nearly as fortunate as The Contender, as my irate coach and several assistants probably would’ve given him a frightful thumping if not for his fast-issued apologies…his car was not so lucky, as he started it off and departed toward another 10-kegger, mashed-up grill and all).
What is worrisome about The Contender is if it’s enough of a success to tip the scales to the acceptable. If you don’t think that’s possible, and that this show is merely an out-of-the-box approach that won’t change the sport, I suggest you check out a boxing match from the mid-1970s or earlier and check for ring ads. There are none.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The show starts off with the remaining boxers congratulating Steve Forbes for his victory over Nick Acevedo last week. Sugar Ray Leonard gives Forbes a portable DVD player and video of the two bouts that he has participated in so far in the competition for his efforts. Cornelius Bundrage and Walter Wright will be the next quarter-final matchup.
It seems that Corneilus is taunting Walter during a sparring session. The two then exchange words at different points during training and in the house. Corneilus states that he is trying to get under Walter’s skin as to create a psychological advantage before the fight. The two men are interviewed and it is shown that they have very similar childhoods and backgrounds as to where they grew up and things of that nature.
The two fighter’s families come in to visit them before the fight and provide words of encouragement. The fighters then enter the arena for the fight shortly after. The first three rounds have just about the same action throughout - Both fighters are content to stay inside and try to do damage from that position; both are successful in doing so.
Corneilus’ size advantage seems to be the factor that gives him the first round - He is able to smother Walter when he gets him up against the ropes, counter his shots, and land some of his own. Walter comes out of his corner to begin the second round with a new gameplan as he outworks Bundrage to take the second and third rounds.
During the third round, Corneilus is particulary careless in his approach towards Wright, committing multiple fouls including headbutts and rabbit punches to the back of the head. He receives several warnings from the referee, including the referee coming to his corner after the third round and giving him one final warning before he starts deducting points.
Corneilus evens the fight up during the fourth round by outlanding Wright from seemingly every angle. The final round is a complete slugfest with both fighters just throwing. Bundrage however actually focuses on his defense instead of just swinging for the fences like Wright. Bundrage is able to block, move away from, and counter Wright’s punches, outlanding him by a pretty good margin to end the fight.
Corneilus is announced as the winner by unanimous decision. Bundrage taunts Wright while the referee holds both fighters’ hands up, dancing in front of him. Wright is obviously dissappointed but holds his hands in the air after the fight to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
For those of you who might be confused, I put last week’s two-fight episode as Episode 7 instead of splitting them into two separate ones. This week’s show will be Episode 8…
The show starts off with a detailed recap as to what has happened so far this season. Steve Forbes and Nick Acevedo are told that they will be fighting on very short notice to start the second round of the competition. The two are given necklaces by Sugar Ray Leonard because of their victories. The rest of the fighters are then sent to choose an outfit on the house for a trip to the city that night.
They eat a restaurant where Norberto Bravo receives a brand new Toyota Tundra based on the fact that the other fighters named him the boxer with the most heart and soul.The Forbes and Acevedo families visit with the fighters just before the bout begins. Both fighters surprisingly go for just about nothing but body shots during the first round. Tommy Gallagher tells Forbes to pick it up during the next round. Steve takes Tommy’s advice and starts taking it to Acevedo.
He pulls ahead in the round when he lands a powerful uppercut that stuns Nick. Acevedo starts to come back but it isn’t enough as Forbes takes the round. At the beginning of the third round, Acevedo connects with a couple of combinations that look to have hurt Forbes. Acevedo continues to unleash flurries on Forbes who is able to weather the storm and make it out of the round.
All of those punches looked to take a toll on Acevedo as he comes out very sluggish in the fourth round. Forbes capitalizes on the opportunity and out punches Acevedo to take the round. The fifth round is all Forbes as he gives everything he has left while Acevedo is visually drained. Forbes is declared the winner by split decision.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
This episode is different from all of the others in that there will be two fights instead of one. Because of Michael Stewart’s victory over Ebo Elder, the Blue Team gets to decide who will fight who. Freddy Curiel decides to take on Steve Forbes, leaving Nick Acevedo no choice but to fight Jeff Fraza who is the only fighter lefts that hasn’t already been eliminated or made it to the semi-finals.
Acevedo-Fraza is the first fight of the night. They begin the fight going back and forth with punches in the center of the ring: Acevedo wins the exchange, landing harder and more often. Acevedo continues to out land Fraza and take the first round. Acevedo continues his assault in the second round, seemingly landing combinations at will. Fraza’s corner lets him know that he is down big in the fight and needs to step it up if he wants a shot at winning.
Fraza comes out in the third round with guns blazing, using his jab to set up a couple of flurries. Towards the end of the round, Acevdeo starts coming back, countering just about every combination that Fraza throws. Fraza walks back to his corner after the bell with a cut over his eye. The fourth round consists of both fighters connecting with their fair share of shots. They enter the fifth round looking dead even on the score cards.
Acevedo seems to dominate the fifth round, his aggressiveness allows him to land punches at just about every angle. Fraza lands a quick right cross in Acevedo’s eye, causing him to slow down and squint. However Acevedo continues to out land Fraza and eventually takes home the unanimous decision victory.
Curiel-Forbes is the second fight of the night. Before the fight, Forbes states that the reason that the other fighters didn’t select him to fight was because of fear and that he will prove that tonight. However the first round doesn’t go as planned for Forbes as Curiel lands multiple overhand rights that Forbes just doesn’t seem to be able to figure out how to stop. Forbes takes the second round, landing a few left-right hook combinations that send Curiel back towards the ropes.
The third round is pretty even - Curiel decides to establish his jab, which allows him to land a number of unanswered body shots on Forbes. Forbes however ends the round with a big flurry of punches that rock Curiel. The fourth round shows Forbes in control of the fight. Forbes decides that defense doesn’t matter and takes a number of punches while trying to land some of his own, including a uppercut that stuns Curiel. Forbes puts on a clinic in the final round, landing punches at will, and moving quickly - making just about all of Curiel’s shots miss the target. Forbes is announced as the winner by unanimous decision.
I’ll try to have the videos from ESPN Motion up sometime tonight/tomorrow…
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The shows opens with Grady Brewer getting stitches over his eye, the result of a Vinroy Barrett headbutt during their fight. Grady returns and is congratulated by his teammates. The Blue Team receives designer watches because of Brewer’s victory. After a lot of arguing over who should fight next, The Blue Team decides that Michael Stewart will fight Ebo Elder.
Both fighters’ wives are interviewed and they both state that the fighters have become close friends. It becomes very evident when Stewart and Elder have breakfast together on the morning before the fight. Elder takes the first round of the fight, establishing his jab and forcing Stewart to retreat to the ropes to avoid flurries. Stewart lands a few power shots of his own, but it isn’t enough to give him the round. The next two rounds are of the same nature - Elder continues to earn success with his jab while Stewart stands back and lands picked shots. However, Stewart isn’t able to work inside of Elder’s jab and turn the momentum in his favor.
During the fourth round, Stewart lands a left hook that stuns Elder. Elder continues the round although he is obviously hurt. Elder goes for the clinch multiple times to try and regain his composure but Stewart lands a big punch everytime Elder lets go of him. Stewart lands another left hook that puts Elder down for a count of nine. When Elder rises to his feet, he is asked to walk towards the referee but his knees buckle again, forcing the referee to stop the fight.
After the fight, Stewart is thankful that the referee stopped the fight before Elder could have gotten hurt any worse. Elder is rushed to the hospital for observation. One of the ring doctors notes that Elder may be bleeding from his brain.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Thanks to Walter Wright’s victory over Andre Eason, The Gold Team receives leather jackets and sunglasses, courtesy of Shane Mosley. The boxers get the opportunity to spar with Mosley and Alfonso Gomez, as well as having to run behind a pickup truck. Wright and Corneilus Bundrage get into a heated exchange, causing Wright to select Bundrage as his next opponent in the semi-finals.
Vinroy Barrett then calls out Grady Brewer and the two are set to fight the very next night. Brewer wins the first two rounds pretty easily, being able to keep Barrett against the ropes and unable to stop Brewer’s flurries. The third rounds goes to Barrett who uses his jab to create distance and surprise Brewer by setting up good, crisp counter shots.
During the third round, Barrett accidentally headbutts Brewer, opening a gash above his right eye. The fight is stopped and a doctor is brought over to check Grady’s cut. Brewer is deemed fine to continue and two finish out the round. Brewer has a little bit of a defensive side to his strategy during the fourth round - quickly coming in and landing a couple of punches only to quickly scurrying out of the way instead of waiting in the pocket for more openings.
Barrett is unable to capitalize on Brewer’s lack of aggression, still attempting to establish his jab even though it is so late in the fight. At the end of the round, both fighters look very fatigued. Barrett has a welt on the left side of the head, the result of a strong Brewer overhand right. The fifth round contains both fighters leaving everything they have in the ring and going toe-to-toe with no concern in protecting themselves. Towards the end of the exchange, Brewer lands a crushing left hook directly on Barrett’s jaw and traps him in the corner, unloading on him to win the final round.
They go to the judges’ scorecards and they all agree on the winner by unanimous decision, Grady Brewer.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Well our original plan was to do weekly episode recaps of the second season of The Contender, but things were delayed a little bit. We will be doing that from this point forward, but first let’s get caught up on what has happened so far.
Remember when reading that the two-hour long season premiere was comprised of two episodes. (I’ve seen other sites blogging about The Contender refer to the premiere as one whole episode, just don’t want to confuse anyone)
The boxers were introduced and they immediately started training. Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage began sparring, only to receive constant criticism from Michael Clark about his lack of head movement. After Bundrage left the ring, ending his workout, Clark continued to trash-talk him.
Sugar Ray Leonard called all the fighters outside for the team selection. Michael Clark and Nick Acevedo step forward and become the captains for the gold and blue teams respectively. They then choose one-by-one the rest of their teams. Here were the results:
Blue Team -
Gold Team -
The two teams were then sent away to select who would fight the follow night. Who were the nominees? Michael Clark would be going up against Cornelius Bundrage in a fight that would settle the feud that the two had since the opening training session.
Even though many of Bundrage’s own teammates thought that his awkward style didn’t match up well against Clark, he proved them wrong. Bundrage took the first two rounds of the fight easily, leaving Clark and his team stunned. Clark mounted a comeback, taking Rounds 3 and 4 and turning the momentum to his favor.
During the final round, Clark dances around the ring, taunting Bundrage as if he had the fight in the bag. Bundrage responds with a monster right cross that sends Clark to his knees. Clark gets back up to his feet but spends the rest of the round trying to dodge flurries from Bundrage, who is obviously trying to finish the fight before the final bell. The judges go to the scorecards and Bundrage is declared the winner by unanimous decision.
After the fight, Clark announces his retirement from boxing.
Because of K-9’s victory over Michael Clark, the Blue Team is awarded with dinner with Alfonso Gomez and the ability to select who will fight in the next bout. Leonard shows the fighters the bracket wall, which gives the winning boxers the choice of when and who they will take on in the second round.
The next day, Aaron Torres does not train, instead watching and helping his other teammates, as if to make the Gold Team think that he is who they are selecting from their team to fight. Instead they choose Norberto Bravo to fight Rudy Cisneros. The Blue Team targeted Cisneros because he had a problem controlling his weight, betting on the chance that Rudy might not be able to make the weight and would have to forfeit. Both fighters end up making weight.
The next night they step into the ring, touch gloves, and get things started. Bravo gains an early advantage, out pointing Cisneros by picking his shots and quickly getting out of the way of Cisnero’s flurries. In the second round, Bravo started throwing a right uppercut that seemed to be Cisneros achilles heel for the rest of the fight as he was caught by the same exact punch a countless number of times. Cisneros continued to battle his way through the power shots, scoring some points of his own during the later rounds.
After the fight, the judges convene for a longer than usual period of time and declare Bravo the winner by split decision. Both fighters give their thoughts on the experience and Cisnero hangs up his gloves next to Clark’s and leaves the show.
The Blue Team was still in control of making the fights - however things came to a head when it came time to select who would be fighting next. Each one claimed that the other was scared to fight and that many wanted to fight early on to get their fights out of the way.
Bravo chose the last fight in the second round, claiming that he would have a signifcantly larger amount of time to recover from the fight against Cisneros. His teammates pointed out however that Bravo would have very little time to prepare for the next round.
The Blue Team selected Aaron Torres to take on Gary Balleto in the next fight. Both fighters seemed very confident that they would be able to defeat the other in pre-fight talks.
The fight was close all the way through - each fighter landed their fair share of shots. Torres opened Balleto up and continued to take the center of the ring, forcing Balleto to back up into the ropes on more than one occasion. Tommy Gallagher told Torres to focus more on the fight and not his girlfriend who was sitting in the front row in between rounds. Balleto took control in the fifth and final round landing multiple combinations and sending Torres reeling. Balleto was declared the winner by split decision and Torres was eliminated from the competiton.
The Gold Team has gained control of the matchmaking thanks to Balleto’s win over Torres last week. Because of the victory, each member of the Gold Team receives digital cameras. Balletto then chooses to fight Noberto Bravo in the second round, stating that he will open up Bravo’s cut again if it isn’t healed in time. The two teams then throw tires into pickup trucks for a workout.
The Gold Team then announces that Walter Wright will take on Andre Eason. Both fighters successfully make weight. The fight begins and Wright quickly establishes his jab. Wright lands a crisp left to the body followed by a left cross that sends Eason to the mat. Eason gets up after an eight count and continues on.
Eason fends off some heavy punches from Wright and starts to close the distance but is unable to land anything of note - his punches seem to have no effect on Wright at all. The final three rounds consists of Wright throwing a constant jab and picking his power shots while Eason tries desperately to land the one big punch, throwing wide, awkward shots. Wright obviously wins by unanimous decision, sending Eason packing.
The Contender comes on every Tuesday night on ESPN, so expect recaps to be up Tuesday night/Wednesday morning/afternoon…