5/15 - Everything Old Is New Again
Brinkley Vs. Bonsante: The Aftermath
In Contender Loft, Alfonso Gomez, Jesse Brinkley and Sergio "Latin Snake" Mora discuss Jesse Brinkley's fight against Anthony Bonsante and the knockout blow delivered by Brinkley that sealed Bonsante's fate.
Mora shakes his head as he thinks about Bonsante and promises that if he were ever knocked out, he would walk away from boxing altogether. It's one of those promises made in a moment of bravado that may come back to haunt the young fighter. And I hope it's not Burnett Foreshadowing.
Brinkley, Mora, Manfredo and Gomez congratulate one another on making it to the Final Four.
Tommy the Trainer commends them on the way they've conducted themselves to this point.
Manfredo talks to the camera and tells the audience that he would like a rematch with Gomez, as the loss has bothered him all this time. (Gomez beat Manfredo in the first boxing bout, but Manfredo voted back into the house by the other boxers after Jeff Fraza was disqualified for health reasons--chicken pox, to be precise.)
Brinkley is told to report to the doctor's office where he receives an injection in the face near the cut above his left eye. Brinkley admits that he doesn't like needles, so good thing this is called The Contender and not The World's Most Outrageous Knife Fights.
Brinkley makes a good point about the grueling Contender schedule. Most boxers take three or four months to recuperate from a boxing match. On the show, the boxers may have only three or four days, a daunting prospect, especially now that the remaining boxers have fought in more bouts and are carrying more injuries from fight to fight.
In light of this, I hope that none of the boxers sustains permanent injury or, worse, is hurt so badly he could no longer continue his boxing career. (I can't say the same thing for De La Rosa since it seems like Juan would throw in the towel if he had a hangnail.)
If this Is Reward, I'll Take Punishment
The Final Four meet in Sylvester Stallone's office where Brinkley receives his EBGG (Even Bigger Golden Gloves).
Sly asks Brinkley about the fight with Bonsante, and Brinkley rambles on at length about something. Can't get him to shut up, that guy, once you get him started.
The point Brinkley is trying to make seems to be lost on Sly, too, as the actor's eyes glaze over and he cuts off Brinkley by simply stating that the boxer from Nevada seems "more thoughtful." Yeah, well, so is my girlfriend when she bakes a pie the next day after we've had a fight, but that doesn't prepare her for a shot at $1 million at Caeasars Palace in Vegas*. (*Unless we take our honeymoon or she takes her bachelorette party there. So, uh, never mind, then.)
And now, there's...a...twist! (Dum dum DUM!) Sly tells the boxers that they must decide, among themselves, who will fight whom going into the Final Four. And apparently, they must give Sly their decision on the spot.
Mora speaks for the group and says he and Brinkley want to fight, so the "rematch" (meaning Gomez and Manfredo) is on.
In what must be one of the worst rewards in recent reality-television history, Tommy the Trainer takes the boxers and their families to the beach. What, no beer? No Sierra Mist? No Toyota truck giveaway? Not even a barbecue lunch? Did the producers of this program tell Tommy that this week's reward was coming out of his pocket?
As the boxers mill around awkwardly with one another's families, I'm reminded more of Average Joe than The Contender. I hope the real twist isn't that whomever Jackie makes Husband #3 earns a million-dollar payday, whether he fights or not.
Alfonso is thrilled that all of the Gomezes could be together for the occasion.
Manfredo, Sr., and Sylvester Stallone discuss...well, something. Because they are both largely unintelligible, it makes about as much sense as an Alaskan Husky trying to communicate with a paperweight.
("Nah nah nah nah?" Manfredo asks Stallone.
Stallone: "Wah wuh wuh wuh."
Alfonso Gomez, ever the good-hearted one who has nary an ill word to say about anyone, remarks that he's surrounded by "Humble people with hearts, who love each other."
His mother, however, is worried about his ring style.
"Don't let these heavy exchanges of punches happen," she tells him in Spanish. "Please!"
"I don't find these exchanges," Alfonso laughs. "They find me."
Train Like the Little Engine That Could
Cheap Reward Time is over when all the boxers are back in the gym, training. At this point, the boxers have been through so many battles that I'm surprised they have the energy or are in condition to stand on their feet without assistance, much less train for a boxing match.
Manfredo talks to the camera and has yadda-yadda to say about losing to Gomez. Yeah, yeah. We get it, Manfredo. You lost. Frankly, I'd like to see you lose again.
As we see a shot of the boxing ring, for the first time, the new fighters' posters are hung over the ring. Whereas Elite Eight posters featured full body shots, the Final Four's posters are huge color photos, shot from the waist up.
Once again, Alfonso Gomez stands in the ring and envisions himself winning the bout against Manfredo, which is exactly what he did prior to his fight with Manfredo in the first episode.
When Gomez returns to the loft, Sugar Ray brings him the color photo of his family, taken the day before on the beach.
Gomez squints at the photo, leading Sugar Ray to ask Gomez if he wears glasses. Alfonso replies that he does. Sugar Ray holds the photo up to his nose, imitating Gomez and laughing.
A real card, that Sugar Ray. I suppose that's what passes for comedy when you've taken one too many death blows to the head.
Sugar Ray camera talks about the time he spent with the boxers in their living area, just talking about what had gone on before and what they're about to face.
It's hard to concentrate on what Leonard is saying because he has what looks like all his championship belts behind him.
For the final time, Champ, yeah, we get it. Are we supposed to believe that the camera crew just happened to be following him around and caught him near his belts?
"Well, why don't we film right here, Sugar Ray? In front of your championship belts? They look so good on the display stand like that."
"What? Right here, guys? Nooo, come on, I'd be too embarrassed...well, okay, you talked me into it."
With two episodes left of this show, look for Sugar Ray's next interview to take place in front of a bigscreen TV showing one of his fights and the one after that to take place at an outdoor cafe where children will interrupt the interview to mob him for his autograph. ("Wow! Sugar Ray Leonard! I loved how you beat...uh, junior middleweight champion...Ay...Ay...Ayube...K alule!" "Thanks, kids!")
Forced to do The Contender, I bet Sugar Ray cries himself to sleep every night, wrapped in his old ring robe.
In the locker room before the Gomez-Manfredo fight, we have a number of poignant moments. How do we know they're poignant? Because the theme song is set to a slow tempo piano rather than sturm and drang horns.
Manfredo, Sr. is giving his son--what else? Unintelligible advice. "Box. That's it. Showtime. Bluh bluh bluh."
Manfredo, Jr. tells the camera that if he didn't have his father at his side, he wouldn't want to fight at all. Awww...
The first half of the first round is characterized by both boxers jabbing and moving, taking one another's measure as they settle into the fight.
Manfredo manages to come up with a fierce uppercut and then a powerful left. Gomez doesn't appear to be hurt badly.
Gomez responds with a series of body blows that seem to give Manfredo pause.
Gomez hits Manfredo with a series of hard rights and then comes in for some solid body blow action.
In what I feel is one of the most controversial calls in the entire bout, Gomez rocks Manfredo with a body shot, and Manfredo is immediately down on one knee as a result of that shot.
I watch the segment three times. It's hard to say whether Manfredo slipped since we don't see his feet. We only see Gomez hitting Manredo, and Manfredo going down like a sack of old potatoes. However, the referee calls it a slip and orders Manfredo and Gomez to continue.
They throw a few exchanges leading to the bell, but nothing noteworthy.
In the lead up to the third round, Manfredo Sr. tellls his son not to do [something] on the jab, but who knows what he's shouting about now.
Hilariously enough, Brinkley looks at Manfredo and shouts for him to "Jab!", contradicting what Manfredo's father appeared to tell him.
Round Three is Manfredo's round. He dominates Gomez and controls the ring. At one point, his blows are so vicious, he has Gomez not only on the ropes, but Gomez falling into the ropes as a result of Manfredo's punches.
There are so many exchanges in this round, it sounds like a thunderstorm.
Alfonso Gomez comes up big and has Manfredo's number.
Gomez puts together a series of uppercuts that seem to take the wind out of Manfredo's sails. Manfredo can't seem to get back in the fight against Gomez.
Round Five is owned by Gomez. Gomez puts up a solid defense and exhibits some good ability dodging Manfredo's shots.
Gomez takes Manfredo's measure, but both seem to be weakening.
Round Six continues where Round Five left off: with Alfonso in control.
Just when it appeared that we were headed for another Alfonso-dominated round, Manfredo comes up big with an uppercut.
The tide turns to Manfredo as he does to Alfonso what Alfonso did to him in Round Five and part of Round Six.
Round Seven is a ferocious battle to the finish as Manfredo and Alfonso exchange blow for blow for blow, neither boxer giving an inch as they fight to the final bell.
Farewell to a Fighter
After the bell, the decision is called for Peter Manfredo, Jr.
After the fight, Manfredo tells the camera that Gomez has the "heart of a champion. He belongs here." (More than you do, Manfredo, I might hasten to add.)
Gomez says behind the scenes: "I never gave up. I stood there, toe to toe. I didn't lose to a nobody."
In the locker room, Gomez's family comes to console him. Gomez has tears in his eyes, but he's trying his best to hide it. I appreciate and understand how Gomez tries to retain his sense of pride, even in the face of such disappointment.
"The whole world knows you are a great fighter," Alfonso's mother tells him. "You did well."
His father adds: "You have nothing to be ashamed for."
I'm struck (and then overwhelmed) by what good people they seem to be.
In a demonstration of just what an extraordinary boxer and person Gomez is, he visits Manfredo in his locker room and tells Manfredo: "You deserve the million. Congratulations. Good for your family."
As Alfonso Gomez leaves Contender Gym, he thanks the staff for everything.
I don't know who will win the fight in Caesars on Tuesday, but I do know one thing: Contender's true hero--and champion--just walked out the door.
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