4/10: Juan, Two, Three--You're Out!
Last week: Anthony Bonsante celebrates his third round victory over East Coast boxer Brent Cooper, a fight considered by many of his teammates to be lopsided, not to mention unfair. Bonsante delivered a savage beating to Cooper. The fight was stopped less than a minute into the third round as Bonsante beat a defenseless, helpless Cooper. The fight was called shortly after for Bonsante.
Bonsante Beats Cooper, Ishe Smith Beats a Colander
As Bonsante enjoys his victory in the ring, Ishe Smith, Alfonso Gomez and Joey Gilbert speak to Sylvester Stallone in the tunnel between locker room and ringside.
Smith is furious and threatens to fight Bonsante for his undignified behavior, both lying to Team West about fighting Team East boxer Jimmy Lange and his merciless pounding of Brent Coooper.
Smith says he'll refuse to partake in the reward provided by Bonsante after his ring win.
"It's nothing personal," Bonsante says, defending his actions. "I just had to do what I had to do."
Smith stays as hot and bothered as a pregnant cat in August when the fighters return to Contender Gymnasium. He stomps around the loft, threatening to make Bonsante "pay."
Mixing his metaphors, Smith declares: "Cats like him [Bonsante], you make him pay. I swear it, dawg."
Alfonso Gomez asks Smith if he feels responsible for what happened to Cooper inside the ring, referring, perhaps, to the discussions prior to the locker room and inside the locker room, in which Bonsante apparently agreed to fight Lange.
"I can't even live with (Bonsante)!" Smith wails.
Meanwhile, Bonsante is cooling down in the locker room after his fight. His children (and mother?) watch him dress and listen to him explain why Team West thinks he's a big poo-poo head.
To stress the point, Joey Gilbert whines, "Guy lied to me to my face," as if this is the first time deceit has played a part in a reality program.
Sergio Mora, on the other hand, is more philosophical about the incident. "What happened tonight is boxing," the "Latin Snake" shrugs.
While Bonsante's mother--again, I assume that's his mother--is still "proud" of her baby boy, Alfonso Gomez is not as captivated by him.
"His attitude in the ring, like he's the master of destruction," Gomez shakes his head, reminding Smith of how Bonsante celebrated, almost gloating, after his beating of Cooper.
This only serves to rile up Ishe Smith even more. He imitates Bonsante: "I'm going to be the first knockout!"
We don't know if Bonsante is going to knock out anyone, but bowls of dry pasta don't stand a chance to Smith's fists of fury. He knocks items off the kitchen counter and makes such a racket that Jesse Brinkley and Peter Manfredo, in the living quarters, hear Smith and laugh at his temper.
Before Bonsante returns to the loft, Tarick Salmaci takes the boxer aside to explain to him why Team West is put-out with him.
To the camera, Salmaci says, "I don't find any fault with Anthony's behavior. [If] you're too nice, you get hurt."
Police Academy 3 Back in Training
As the boxers proceed to training the next day, Tarick is shown again, this time speaking about his boxing career.
Salmaci was undefeated, a "top ten" fighter with a contract in hand to fight a world champion when the unnamed champ backed out. Salmaci was never given the chance to fight a champion again and became so disillusioned by boxing, he went into self-imposed retirement.
Sugar Ray Leonard, who is either watching the dailies or reading the boxers' minds (I think it's the latter), comments, "Contender is his (Tarick's) second chance."
Ishe and Brinkley--their differences put aside now that Smith has a new windmill to tilt at--study Jimmy Lange as he trains.
Lange says he doesn't like to speculate about who he's going to fight since he expected to fight Bonsante but Bonsante backed out and challenged Brent Cooper. Going back on his word, Lange predicts he can beat either Joey Gilbert or Tarick Salmaci.
Gilbert doesn't like being looked upon as the pushover. He recounts his record: three NCAA championships along with Golden Gloves.
And, gee, this episode is full of natural transitions today, isn't it? Because speaking of golden gloves, Stallone convenes all the boxers and awards Bonsante with his golden gloves, signifying his entry into the Elite Eight.
Bonsante offers to give his gloves to Cooper, in what may possibly be one of the emptiest gestures of all time, since I don't think Bonsante is giving up his place in the Elite Eight to Cooper, just the baubles he received for earning his place there. I'm sure Cooper would have enjoyed wearing the golden gloves to the doctor's office, given to him by the man who sent him there for his CAT scan in the first place.
Stallone tells Bonsante to keep the Golden Gloves and tries to inspire the men. Look, let's be honest--this is Sly we're talking about. The St. Crispin's Day speech, it is not. Stallone says something about "anger" and "guilt," but damned if I know what he was driving at because that's all I have in my notes: "Sly, anger, guilt." Even if I had transcribed the whole thing, it would have sounded like, "Ay oh, yo, hey, anger, yo, and guilt and...and..."
The boxers applaud Stallone, anyway, probably because the excrutiating speech is over.
Reward Time? Ja.
Alfonso Gomez says he's no longer angry at Bonsante, now that Bonsante has apologized for taking his Barbie and not returning it.
(I made that up. About the not returning, but not about the Barbie.)
He tries to convince Ishe Smith to go to the reward challenge, pulling Smith's arm to try and get him out of bed, like a drunk sorority girl trying to get a sister with a hangover ready for the spring formal.
But the fun never stops at Contender Gym as hip-hop superstar Ja Rule shows up to take the boxers on their reward.
Now, I'm not (finger quotes) "square," as the kids say. I can (finger quotes) "shake it" with the best of them, but Ja Rule may be one of the (finger quotes) "biggest" hip-hop stars in the world, and I couldn't name a single one of his records, even if you held a gun to my head.
While I may (or may not--Who knows?) be (finger quotes) "down" with his music, I'm grateful to Ja (or is it "Mr. Rule"?) for finally solving the ancient hip-hop riddle "Tell 'em what time it is!" Ja Rule has brought watches for Team West and invites the boxers to each select one.
Trainer Tommy, that fashion maven, tells them, "Dese watches cost twenny five hunnert dollas!" How the hell does Tommy know that? Did the producers tell him ahead of time? Did he look at the price tag on the bezel?
But like a winning contestant on The Price is Right, that's not all they get. Off they go to an LA nightclub with Ja Rule, where Bonsante (finger quotes) "freak dances" with one of the laydiez in da club.
And, not that I have been to many LA nightclubs, but this is one of the smallest nightclub crowds I have ever seen. Along with the boxers, there are maybe six other patrons, and four of them are young ladies who seem to be most interested in...Tommy.
(Tommy: "Dis kicks ass!")
The crowd is so small, it's like one of those "parties" Jack, Janet and Chrissy always had in Three's Company every time Ralph Furley had something to celebrate.
Sergio Mora is eating it up, though.
"We got watches, we got a great time. It was one of the greatest nights of my life!" Mora exclaims, pretty much describing my fifth-grade birthday party.
(Note: No limo drivers were shot during the course of this reward.)
Ten-Hut! Father Knows Best, Sir!
Back home at Contender Gym/Loft, Joey Gilbert is puzzling out a new piece of technology called the "telephone."
He finally reaches someone at home in Reno, NV, and is surprised to hear the voice of his father. According to Gilbert, Gilbert pere was stationed in Afghanistan and, later, Kandahar, in an "undisclosed location."
Gilbert is in tears while talking to his father, grateful and relieved that he's home.
This, no doubt, will make next week's fight even more poignant when Lange beats the holy hell out of him and sends him back to the Silver State.
Sugar Ray, Tommy and Sly gather the fighters, and Jesse Brinkley applauds when they enter. (Enough, Brinkley, enough.)
Sugar Ray reminds them that the team that wins this week's challenge will not only choose the bout this week, but, by process of elimination, next week's fight, as well.
The boxers are taken out to a vacant lot that, with the help of charities like Kaboom!, will soon be redeveloped into a playground.
The challenge: Two boxers from the East and two from the West will each have two minutes to demolish a concrete wall and load the debris in the back of a Toyota pickup truck. The team whose truck weighs more wins the challenge.
This is, no doubt, showing the boxers their career options for the next 40 years when this whole boxing thing doesn't pan out.
I could detail the challenge, but why bother? In case you missed it, they're breaking up a concrete wall and loading debris. That's about as exciting as it gets, folks.
Teams East and West go to work under Tommy's encouragement, who shouts useful things like, "Swing, baby, swing! Keep whacking!" (With that kind of language, Mark Burnett should expect a call from the nice people at the FCC really damn soon.)
At the end of the challenge, Team East's Toyota weighs (drum roll, please) 6,655 lbs. Team West? 7,015 lbs.
I’m Temporarily out of Clever Titles, but Here’s Tarick’s Family
In the locker room, after Team West applaud Joey Gilbert for the way he handled the challenge ("Yo, way to go on breaking up concrete!"), Tarick steps forward and offers to fight.
(Well, actually, since he's sitting on a little stool, he sort of scoots forward a little.)
They advise him to pick the best challenger for him, no doubt trying to head off another Bonsante-Lange farce like the previous week.
At the line, Tarick calls out Juan De La Rosa, and today, more than ever, the 18-year-old boxer looks like he's not even ready to shave.
“Interesting fight,” Stallone mumbles.
Tarick Salmaci goes home to the quarters provided to him by the nice people at The Contender to see his (hot) wife Dena and their 3 1/2 year old daughter.
Tarick smiles and says that his daughter is an unbelievable source of energy to him.
His (hot) wife Dena muses that she, their daughter, has never even seen Tarick box before. Tarick retired before she was born.
“Are you ready?” Dena asks Tarick.
“Um-hmm,” he mumbles.
At Contender Gym, where Juan is circling the ring and thinking about his grandfather.
De La Rosa is thinking about his grandfather’s words about facing obstacles and whether you can run around an obstacle or jump over an obstacle. Juan looks at Tarick as an obstacle that he’ll run through.
Tarick Salmaci (20-1) Versus Juan De La Rosa (12-0)
On fight night, Tarick is in the locker room but says he envisions himself in the ring.
Juan calmly says, “I’m ready.”
Tarick says that he simply wants his family to have “the best,” and for him, that means the spoils from a successful boxing career.
Juan’s father shows up to lend his support.
Tarick looks at The Contender as the “last hurrah” of his career.
While Juan’s hands are being taped, the tape guy tells Juan, “Nothing is better than this!” (Umbrella drinks on the beach? A steak dinner with all the fixin’s, maybe?)
Salmaci misses a big shot at the start of the bout, and De La Rosa starts a pattern he’ll continue for the rest of the fight: he chases Salmaci all over the ring with a series of wild punches. He even manages to land a few.
Salmaci fights out of the corner with a series of left jabs that land. De La Rosa is all power and wild swings, no real defense work.
When Salmaci tires, De La Rosa comes out swinging again with his crazy punches, all energy this time. He may have better luck simply closing his eyes and hoping to land a punch.
Salmaci, a more experienced and polished boxer, seems confounded by De La Rosa’s style (or lack thereof), and can’t seem to get his head into the fight.
As the first round winds down, De La Rosa comes up with some big shots, stopping Salmaci in his tracks.
Salmaci grabs De La Rosa’s left arm--hoping to frustrate him or stop his momentum, perhaps?
When the referee breaks the clinch, De La Rosa goes a’hunting again with his wild left. Again, Salmaci gets some breathing room by firing a series of left jabs.
Salmaci shows some life when he comes at De La Rosa with a left, cuts through what defense De La Rosa has, and like a farmer on Sunday, goes to town on De La Rosa, raining blow after blow on De La Rosa’s head and chin.
Between rounds, Lange tells De La Rosa he needs to jab, his father tells him to throw a few jabs, so jab he does, going after Salmaci with a series of left jabs, employing his opponent’s trick of getting some breathing room with rapid-fire lefts.
Salmaci goes into the clinch but leaves his body undefended. De La Rosa hits low with devastating results. De La Rosa continues to work over Salmaci’s belly as the third round comes to an end.
Proving that every dog has his day, De La Rosa dominates early into the fourth, going to work some more on Salmaci’s body, then coming up with a wild uppercut that lands.
Just as De La Rosa thinks the fight is his to lose, Salmaci comes out of nowhere with a right, like an uncle pulling a wrapped birthday present from behind his chair.
The blow is crushing; De La Rosa is cut right above his left eye. He staggers on his feet, leaving himself completely unguarded. If Salmaci weren’t nearly spent with three rounds of dodging De La Rosa’s grab-ass punches, he might have been able to finish him off.
As it is, the opportunity is gone by the time Salmaci catches his breath and realizes what an opportunity this is before him. He telegraphs his piddling punches because he’s winded, and De La Rosa, the young, energetic fighter, dodges them easily, without moving too much.
De La Rosa continues to dance at the bell, taunting Salmaci and emphasizing how impotent his opponent is.
Between rounds, Salmaci’s corner asks the boxer from the West if he’s done. He nods, obviously completely spent.
Nevertheless, they tell him to glance at his family in the audience and to go into the last round.
At the start of round five, the two boxers go into a clinch, and Salmaci again gets worked into a corner.
They swing in the clinch, and Salmaci manages to produce some combos. It’s a furious round to the bell, as both boxers punch and weave, punch and weave, both giving every last ounce of strength they have.
The decision is for De La Rosa, unanimously. Salmaci showers in the locker room and tells his wife that he “gave” everything he had.
As he leaves Contender Gym for good, he says, “I couldn’t ask for a better experience.”
At the credits, Stallone, Sugar Ray and Tommy mock Juan’s fighting style, criticizing him for his lack of ability in basic boxing, like jabbing.
Next week: An “unexpected” result from the inevitable Gilbert-Lange matchup.