Boxing Takes Second Place in the Contender Rematch
By Oleg Bershadsky (October 17, 2005) 
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The Contender reality show has become more than a mere entertainment venue, it became its own boxing organization not too much unlike the many others in the business. With its popularity and ability to affect boxers lives, come real responsibilities that cannot and should not be overlooked. These responsibilities must first and foremost include taking care of the boxers who made the show a success. Unfortunately, the Contender rematch which was supposed to showcase their talents also exhibited the other side of boxing, the side we are all ashamed of.

Gomez vs. Perez

Alfonso Gomez who is one of the most exciting boxers from the Contender stable faced off against the hard punching Luciano Perez. This was a fight that should have never taken place to begin with. Whoever matched up Gomez with Perez should have taken into account their tremendous disparity in skill level. Perez was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb and that is exactly what he turned out to be. Now every boxer has an easy fight now and then, but to put a boxer in the ring against an opponent that is so badly outmatched that he has basically no shot of winning and a real shot of getting hurt is barely short of criminal. In one round Gomez was able to land 70% of his power punches which is an astounding amount and only goes to show how terrible this match-up was from the beginning. Thankfully the referee saw enough in round 4 and put an end to the fight saving Perez from being a punching bag for another two rounds. The stoppage came at 2:20 of round number four after it was obvious that Perez was taking too many clean hits and was badly overmatched. Tommy Gallagher the trainer from the Contender season one seemed upset at the stoppage, I guess he wanted Perez to leave the ring on his back or seriously hurt.

Bonsante vs. Brinkley

In their first fight Anthony Bonsante dominated the first four rounds before Jesse Brinkley was able to land a crushing uppercut that put him down and out, thereby stealing the victory right from under him. This time around Bonsante came in with a perfect game plan which was to stay on the outside, use his jab and movement to stay away from Brinkley’s power. His plan worked to perfection as he was able to land jabs and overhand rights from the outside while at the same time avoid getting hit back. He won every round easily dominating Brinkley who looked confused and unable to figure out how to get to Bonsante. The Compubox punch stats at the end of the fight had Bonsante significantly out landing Brinkley in every round. The shock of the fight came not during the bout but during the decision as Brinkley was pronounced the winner by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) . Teddy Atlas who had Bonsante winning every round was irate and rightfully so. It seems there is no escaping bad decisions anywhere in boxing so why should a reality show be any different? After all a reality show should display what really happens in boxing and nothing is more real than bad decisions.

Mora vs. Manfredo Jr.

Mora became the Contender “Champion” and won a million dollar grand prize by defeating Peter Manfredo in their first bout. This rematch was an opportunity for Peter to get redemption and display his real ability which he claimed he failed to exhibit in the first fight. With trainer Freddy Roach in his corner Manfredo looked like a completely different fighter. He fought an entirely different fight as he chose to box from the outside for most of the fight confusing Mora and controlling the pace of the fight. When on the inside Manfredo was the more active fighter landing the harder and more accurate punches. His defense was also notably improved as he consistently made Mora miss making him look more frustrated with every consecutive round. Mora fought in spots and was anything but consistent. He mustered enough energy to maybe pull out two rounds by simply being the more active fighter, not necessarily the more effective one.

As the fight went into the eighth and final round Freddy Roach told Manfredo he was way ahead which seemed to be obviously the case and that he should let his hands go and put Mora away. Manfredo finished the last round strong raising his hands in victory as the final bell sounded. Mora on the other hand seemed disappointed at his performance as he exchanged a few bitter words with Manfredo after the bell. For the second time during the evening the main drama would come with the decision. Manfredo and his trainer Freddy Roach were celebrating their well deserved victory when their jubilance was cut short by a split decision win (77-75, 77-75, 75-77) in favor of Mora. Once again Teddy Atlas had the fight going easily in favor of Manfredo and once again it seemed the judges gave the victory to the wrong guy. After getting a home town decision Mora seemed to forget that only a few minutes before his face was that of a defeated fighter who knew he had lost, but as he received his gift decision the “Latin Snake” blasted Manfredo in what I saw as a shameless act of bad sportsmanship. Manfredo on the other hand was a good sport even though he didn’t get a win for a fight he obviously dominated. Mora deserved to win the million dollar prize as he clearly outworked Manfredo in their first fight, but Peter deserved to win the rematch as he outworked and beat up Mora for eight rounds. However, as the case often is in boxing and life in general you don’t always get what you deserve.

The night of Contender rematches had two bad decisions and a badly matched fight, but if you ask all the Hollywood actors present they will probably tell you it was a success. I thought that having Teddy Atlas present as the ringside commentator would perhaps make the Contender seem more legitimate in the face of hard boxing critics, but, as it turns out his presence ringside only served us as a reminder of the crap we still have to deal with in boxing.

I always wondered how a fighter who knows he won the fight feels after getting bamboozled at the hands of the judges. I mean, it can’t feel very encouraging to have all your hard work and effort simply go down the drain because of the judges' incompetence. But, as it stands in boxing, bad decisions are not only common, but at times actually out-number the good ones. With no regard for the way these decisions affect the lives of the boxers who deserve to win, these judges and organizations continue to do wrong by them. Unfortunately, it seems that now we have yet another organization that is going to condone such behavior. They need to realize that this is not a Rocky movie, it’s real life, with real people who suffer and whose families suffer because of incompetence and corruption of certain individuals. While the show certainly gave these boxers an opportunity to get exposure they wouldn't have otherwise received, that does not excuse the travesty that transpired this Saturday night.

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