‘The Contender Rematches’: Reality is Sometimes Robbery
By Jason Petock (October 17, 2005)  
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Before I start into this article that needs to be written, I wanted to express my initial support and enjoyment of the series that was and will continue to be commonly known as ‘The Contender’. I thought it was insightful, showed extreme promise and brought boxing to a whole new demographic of the United States that normally would not take an interest in boxing or its combatants on any level. It showed the personal lives and struggles of up-and-coming fighters, and gave a glimpse of what it's like to be a boxer to the average eye of society. With this being said, what I saw on Saturday night on ESPN, dubbed ‘The Contender Rematches’ had little to do with boxing, or anything even remotely close to boxing and the discipline of pugilism. Instead, viewers were witness to a series of 3 bouts that were essentially muggings in progress. Not only was each and every decision completely and utterly wrong, but they showcased the kind of decision making processes and payoffs that are destroying the sport of boxing and making more and more fans turn their backs and televisions when they see boxing as the programming of the evening. Granted the show is based on a ‘reality’ format, but when it comes down to boxing there needs to be a fine line drawn between reality (fantasy) television and actual reality. In this case, I think the whole thing stinks and the people involved with the show are really missing the point.

I am not going to mention stats, records or rounds in this piece. The reason I am not doing it is because I am so disappointed and disgusted by what transpired that I feel that numbers and figures would not make a difference anyway, especially since they did not the night of the fights. In Alphonso Gomez’ bout he did a decent job, but I feel that the fight was stopped a little prematurely and they basically handed the fight to him. Now if only referees would use that same type of power when a guy was legitimately getting hurt, maybe more fighters’ lives would be saved in the process.

In the second bout, Anthony Bonsante was decisively outboxing and outworking Jesse Brinkley the entire fight. There should have been no question in anyone’s mind, least of all the judges as to who won this match up. But once again the expertise (or lack of) of the judges in control, or better yet the lining of their pockets is what determined who won the fight. Brinkley did not win this rematch and no amount of money or influence could ever enable a real fan to see it play out any other way. This is no way to save our sport.

Then the topper of the night was the bout for ‘The Contender’ Middleweight Championship, whatever that is. With boxing being over flooded with ridiculous rankings and an all consuming alphabet soup as it is, this addition to the mix only further fouls things up. I have always been a big fan of Peter Manfredo and can remember him fighting at different times on ESPN. He was a staple of the network for many fights and many years. I can even recall him in a fight against Anthony Bonsante a few years back on Friday Night Fights in Rhode Island if I remember correctly. Manfredo came with his A-game and out fought Mora the entire fight, with Mora taking the 5th and 8th round and Manfredo taking everything else. But as I watched it I had a funny feeling in my stomach, much like when you have eaten rotten shellfish and need to visit the nearest commode. Once again the judges did their best to rob a fighter who had won, giving Mora (who is far more marketable and brings the ratings and more importantly ticket stubs), the hometown split decision win. Now I am no judge and I have never claimed to be an expert. But enough is enough already!

When are we going to clean up boxing’s act and bring a level of not only respectability and fairness to the sport. It’s true that in other sports there are point spreads, fixed games and points shaving. But when a guy clearly wins a fight in boxing and he does not get the decision that not only puts another stain on the fabric of boxing but it makes our numbers drop. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard people tell me that they do not watch boxing anymore because they became tired of watching poor decisions and highway robberies. If we as a boxing community are looking for a way for our sport to become erased and forgotten and our numbers to dwindle, then we have found our answer. It’s pathetic.

Maybe some of you think this viewpoint is too strong, or that I am wrong in my opinions. You are entitled to your opinions and I even welcome you to dispute what I have presented to you. Because I can guarantee you that any boxing fan worth his salt will not stand for any of this garbage either and saw the pathetic display of “reality” boxing that was aired on October 15, 2005 as a travesty. I do not blame the fighters whatsoever, because they were there to do their jobs. They showed up, fought as best as they could (some much better than others,
even though the better ones lost), and deserve all the respect, admiration and support that a boxer should receive.

In short, I think we need to do a complete overhaul in boxing. And while you can sit there and say, “Well this was ‘The Contender’, what did you expect?” Regardless if it was a reality based boxing program or not, there were REAL fighters involved, with REAL families to feed, and REAL records on the line. I know, I know they probably got paid well, even in defeat. But that’s not the point. The point is that not everyone wants to turn on their favorite sport (in any forum) and have to be subjected to a series of bad decisions and one-sided flip flops. It’s time for someone to put their foot down, look past the stockpiles of endless cash and say, “Hey, we need to give these fighters a fair shake. That guy won this fight.” Until we do that boxing will continue its slow spiral into oblivion with the people who are abusing its image and taking advantage of the discipline laughing all the way to the bank, while boxing blows away in the dust.
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