Confidence Will Only Get You So Far…
Welcome to season 2 of The Contender! Are you excited? I know I am! I really think the Contender theme song is one of the best reality show theme songs ever! It really gets me pumped to see what’s going to happen next. Plus, it’s so inspirational.
Anyway, in the premiere episode, we begin with an introduction of the 16 welterweights who will be competing for the big prize of $500,000 and the title of The Contender! These guys are just trying to have the chance to make a better life for their families. To have the shot at getting all the way to the end and make a difference. They are unlike other reality show contestants, because I cannot make myself bash them! No matter how hard I try! For a full description of each boxer, including their current records and a cast photo, see this article.
We begin with Sugar Ray introducing the trainers and last year’s winning Contender, Sergio Mora, who tells the guys, “take this serious”. Which Sugar Ray reiterates to them. The guys get to their training right away. Some of them are sizing up the competition, trying to figure out who they want to fight first. Michael Clark, a very confident guy and somewhat of a trash-talker (normal for boxers, of course), points out Cornelius “K9” Bundrage’s lanky, head-up style and compares him to Curly from the Three Stooges.
Sugar Ray calls the guys outside and tells them he needs two volunteers. Michael Clark and Nick Acevedo step out of the line. Sugar Ray tells them, after everybody wondering what they volunteered for, that these two will be the team captains and they must now pick their teams. Michael is the captain for the gold team and Nick for the blue. Oh man! What happened to East vs. Westsiiide???
Michael picks first and chooses Steve Forbes, then Nick chooses Freddy Curiel. They take turns picking teammates, going back and forth. Some of the gold team members say Michael is calling all the shots. The gold team now has Walter, Vinroy, Ebo, Rudy and Gary, while the blue team consists of Michael Stewart, Andre, Norberto, Grady and (Aaron) Torres. The two boxers left to pick from are K9 and Jeff Fraza, who has returned to the Contender free of those darn chicken pox. Sugar Ray asks them how they feel about being picked last. Jeff says it’s like when he was a kid playing dodgeball. Sugar Ray tells them he was always picked last too. (I wonder if he made that up.) The gold team picks Jeff, so the blue team is left with no choice but K9. K9 tells us the bible says, “first will be last and last will be first”. Apparently, he is a very spiritual man, as are many of the boxers, which is something we see throughout the episode. Once the teams are chosen, Sugar Ray sends them up to the loft so they can see where they’ll be living. The guys settle in by picking beds and hanging pictures of their families nearby.
The next morning, at 5 am, they are all woken up to go running. As the trainers said, take this serious. I’m sure there will be plenty of 5 am wake-up calls! You guys are in training and this is serious competition!
When they return to the loft, Sugar Ray tells them the teams need to split up into their respective rooms to decide who will be fighting first. On the gold team, Michael Clark tells everyone he’s going first! As a matter of fact, the gold team wants to make a list of all pairs for the entire first round. Over in the blue team room, they know Michael will be going first and discuss who is the best match-up for him. K9 wants at him, of course! He disrespected him, after all. Nick Acevedo wants to fight too!
They go and line up on the apron of the ring to find out who will be fighting. Sugar Ray announces that Michael Clark will be representing the gold team and from the blue team… it’s K9! The two boxers are preparing for the match. They show Michael’s adoptive father and his girlfriend. K9 has a visit with his fiancée and his 4 year old son, who say a prayer with him.
And we’re ready for the match! We see quite a few stars coming in the Contender arena and there a familiar faces from last season’s show. Sergio is there, of course, as is Peter Manfredo and Alfonso Gomez. On to the real action… In round 1, it seems like K9 has a big advantage. He lands a lot of punches. …but remember, we aren’t seeing the entire fight, just the highlights. Round 2 is much of the same, with one huge blow from K9. Michael staggers a bit. At this point, it’s not looking too good for Michael. Until Round 3… Michael comes out hard, hitting K9 like we may have expected in the earlier rounds from all that trash talk. Michael has the advantage and gets K9 up against the ropes! Michael dominates Round 4 too! …and it’s all evened up. Now, going into Round 5, it’s anybody’s fight! In the fifth and final round, Michael gets a little overconfident and starts dancing around. K9 lands a huge right and knocks Michael to his knees! Michael gets back up, but we can tell he’s pretty banged up. There is blood on his face from a deep gash over his eye. The fight ends and we await the results… by majority decision… (we are not told the scores) the winner is K9!!!
Michael Clark tells us he has nothing to be ashamed of. He gave it his all and if this is how he ends his career, that’s OK. K9 is understandably excited about winning first! Michael hangs up his gloves on the wall and leaves the gym.
We begin the second hour back in the loft with the blue team celebrating K9’s win. All of the guys are playing pool and discussing how the first round has already been planned out and how they will just follow the plan and relax. They all know when and who they will be fighting.
Then, Sugar Ray comes into the loft and gathers the guys to talk. Alfonso Gomez of Contender 1 is there and they are dressed in suits. He tells them that the blue team will be rewarded with dinner on his dime! …and that Alfonso will be joining them, so they should pick his brain about how things work because he’s been there. He also tells them that with their win, the blue team now has the power to choose the next pair of fighters. The gold team almost craps themselves! Jeff Fraza, who has returned from last season (without any chicken pox), tells us they have no idea what the blue team will do with this power.
The blue team gets dressed for dinner and off they go in the Toyota Sequoia to a fancy place called Patina. The guys have no idea what they’re eating, but they say it is good! Norberto wonders where the taquitos are. Aaron picks up something off his plate that looks like squid to me. Later on, K9 joins them and the team celebrates some more! K9 is congratulated for being the first winner and he compares himself to Alfonso, who was the first winner last year and also thought of as an underdog.
Next, we’re back in the gym and more training. Aaron pretends he’s going to be the one chosen from the blue team by taking the day off. That’s what a fighter will do the day before a fight. Steve, of the gold team, figures that the blue team is going to mess with the order of the pairings, so they can catch someone sleeping. Freddy from the blue team tells us about Rudy from the gold team. Saying he’s off his game.
We are again shown the loft and Rudy eating… and eating… and eating! Norberto is at the table eating a salad, chatting with the young trainer, Jeremy. Jeremy tells him that people should want to fight sooner because as the matches go by, there are less people to choose to fight against. Rudy eats some more… and some more… and some more. The next morning, the guys go weigh in at the Jeremy’s office. Most of the guys are within the proper range for their target of 151 pounds, but Rudy weighs 160 pounds. Rudy has some work to do!
Sugar Ray has all the guys come to view the bracket wall! K9 is awarded his golden glove necklace and Ray tells the guys with a win also comes some more power! When you win a fight, not only do you move on to the next round of the tournament, but you also get to choose which match will be your next one. The second winning fighter can choose to either fight K9 or put his name in another spot. In round two, it will be matches numbered from 9 to 12. They will occur after the first round of 8 is complete. K9 puts his name next to match 10 on the bracket wall.
Now we find out who will be fighting. The guys come to the ring and line up on the apron. Sugar Ray asks who will be fighting for the blue team. Norberto “Nito El Gallito” Bravo toes the line and he calls out Rudy Cisneros. Ray asks Nito why he chose Rudy and he says, “’cause I can beat him.” The fight will be the next day and weigh ins will occur at 10 am.
Rudy works out long into the night. Nito tells us about the “heart” of a Mexican fighter. At 10 am, they get weighed and Nito comes in at 148 pounds, while Rudy has done his job and is in at 148 ¾ pounds! They stare each other down and then get back to their training.
On to the match! In the first round, it looked pretty even until close to the end when Nito turned into a madman! He started throwing a right upper-cut that was brutal! The second round was fairly evenly matched as well, but it looked like Rudy got in several more hits. Now remember, we are not show the entire fight, only the highlights, so I can only tell you what I see. As a matter of fact, rounds 3 to 5 were shown in about 3 to 4 minutes when I know these are supposed to be 3 minute rounds! Anyway, in round 3, Nito got that upper-cut going many times in repetition! He was putting quite a hurting on Rudy there. Round 4 was pretty even, but Nito got in several hits toward the end. …and from what I saw of round 5, I’d say that round was pretty even as well. …but I’m no expert!
The judges can’t seem to agree who won either as the first one scores the match at 49 – 46 for Nito, the second one scores it at 48 – 47 for Rudy and the third scores it at 49 – 46 for Nito… so Nito wins it by split decision and keeps the power of control for the blue team! Rudy tells us he knows he’s still a winner and some other stuff about his time on the show. Nito is really happy he won, with his family there and all. Rudy hangs up his gloves on the wall next to Michael’s and leaves the gym.
Next week: the blue team has the power again, what will they do with it? …and how will it effect the gold team?
A J Slice original ©2004
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