Ok, I had a stupid little intro written up about Tae-bo tapes and their relationship to my understanding of the word “jab.” But then I realized something (and no, it wasn’t that you readers don’t care about Tae-bo, although point taken). I realized what this show is missing, what it is that makes it feel all herky-jerky and badly-edited to me: there’s no host! It took me two episodes to even notice the absence of one. Now, I’ve made fun of a lot of reality-show hosts in my time, and admittedly they usually are vapid, boring and serve only to state the obvious. But in this case, I *need* someone to state the obvious. I need a narrator to tie it all together, to provide a theme and a flow. You would think, what with Oscar De La Hoya and two trainers floating around, that someone could do a little voiceover narration work on the side. But no. We’re left to leap from scene to scene with no one telling us, in a slow, measured way, what’s going on. I never ever thought I would say this about a reality show, but – I miss the host.
Coo Coo Ca-Choo
Last week, David “I’m Better than Everyone Else” Pareja beat R.C. Reyes in the boxing ring. Reyes went home, and Pareja won $25,000, which he can use to get an ego reduction. The other boxers are less than thrilled with Pareja and his attitude; Gilbert tells us David is a joke, while Rene calls him the “great white hype.”
David interprets this hostility – which isn’t even expressed to his face, he just imagines it – as jealousy. Because it couldn’t be that they just don’t like his personality. He has no pity for those poor envious boxers, as he fully plans to eventually pummel them and win the whole thing. In the meantime, though, he gets to move out of the bunk-beds of the boxing house and into a “winner’s circle” room, where there are fewer beds and they have satiny-looking bedspreads (much like the boxers’ shorts, actually. Maybe someone got a deal on fabric). The rest are left to sleep “where the dog-meat sleeps,” David says. Gee, and I wonder why they don’t like him?
While David is pissing off the other guys, his wife PJ has managed to irk the other confidantes. Christy, Luis’ girlfriend, says PJ is much older than David and is more like a mother figure to him. I think that would be a “stage mother,” as PJ is very much involved in David’s boxing career. I wasn’t going to actually say that PJ looks older, but yeah, she really does.
PJ thinks it’s all jealousy because everyone fears David and his phenomenal boxing skills. She tells him he should consider the hostility a compliment. If he did that, boy, he’d feel very, very complimented.
While PJ and David are off telling each other how wonderful he is, the rest of the boxers are making fun of them. Paul says David has an awkward style of boxing. Rene hops around mimicking David’s loopy style as the others giggle.
Jimmy Mince laughs about David shadow-boxing all the time, while his wife drools over him. He likens it to a “Mrs. Robinson” sort of relationship. Yeah, but PJ is no Anne Bancroft. (psst, PJ. One word: plastics. although I think she already knows a little something about plastics.).
Fame is a Bobblehead Doll
It’s time for a little treat, for the boxers at least. Legendary boxer Larry Holmes is paying them a vist. (Ok, I think they said his name was Larry Holmes. And the Google Gods inform me there IS a Larry Holmes who is a legendary boxer – legendary enough to have his own bobble-head doll. But his website also says he boxed as recently as 2002, and may do so again, and this guy on the show really didn’t look like he was in boxing condition to me. So I guess you can all just judge for yourselves.)
Anyway, Holmes – we shall assume that is who he is – is there to teach them jabs. Better jabs that Billy Blanks could ever teach me. He goes around the circle, making the boxers show him their best jab. He says David is “slow as Heinz ketchup.”
We cut from Holmes for a minute to see Fred Bachmann talk about how he’s never lost a bout. He also quit boxing several years ago to become a teacher. And then Gilbert muses on the joys of his pugilistic sport. “When you’re hitting that person, you’re earning their respect,” he claims. Gilbert has also been in jail for a couple of years for earning respect in that manner, so I’d say take his advice with a grain of salt.
Back to the ring, David – because he won last week’s match and is ranked number one – gets to pick one other person to share a private training session with Holmes. He picks Fred – or “his girlfriend Freddie,” as Rene says.
We don’t see any of that – we pick back up when the boys go home. Either Gilbert goes nuts for no reason, or more likely we’ve missed a lot of conversation somewhere along the way. Because back at the house, he starts needling Fred for having given up boxing for teaching. Gilbert sees this as a sign Fred’s heart isn’t in boxing, and asks if he’s afraid. Are you afraid, weenie boy? Fred says no. He didn’t particularly want to get his head beaten in as a job, and decided to pursue another dream for a while. Gilbert seems to take it as almost a personal insult that Fred voluntarily left boxing – he says he wants to fight him, craves fighting him. Easy there, Gilbert. This isn’t prison. Beating him up or being his bitch aren’t your only two options.
Fred says that if he loses in this show, at least he has teaching to go back to, whereas Gilbert has nothing. Well, not quite nothing. I’m sure he could always go back to prison.
In an effort to make us care about someone else, we’re introduced to Andrea, the ex-girlfriend of boxer Lawrence Alonzo. They broke up because he shut her out of his boxing life, but they still love each other. Lawrence wants her back and wants to win to support her. He feels like this is his last chance.
Back to men hitting things, it’s time for the weekly rankings competition. Since the boxers have been practicing jabs, the competition allows them to put that practice to good use – they’re to jab at a punching bag till they move it up an incline and set off a light. Trainer Tommy Brooks warns that it will be as hard as taking down a 350-pound linebacker. Except you could just trip him, I guess. Which makes this harder.
Fred thinks he has the most powerful punch, and is psyched for this competition. So is his brother Lance, who screams himself hoarse encouraging Fred as the first group punch their bags up the incline. Fred wins; Jimmy Mince does dismally.
In the second group, Mike Vallejo wins.
Lawrence didn’t do very well at all, and he hates for Andrea to see him lose. She’s not big on it either – she tells us she doesn’t think he gave it his best, and she told him so. Andrea, by the way, reminds me of Marisa Tomei, but on speed – she talks fast and chirpily, and she’s very intense and she kind of scares me. But not in a PJ way.
Vallejo and Fred face off, and Fred wins. He gets $10,000, which he says will to go the school where he works. It also gives him the top ranking this week, which makes him the new target for the other guys’ derision. Gilbert says he wants to humble Fred. I assume he means in the ring, and not in a prison sort of way.
The Slacker Escapes Again
As they did last week, the two trainers and Oscar de la Hoya gather to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each boxer as they rank them.
They say that Gilbert is slow. They also point out his numerous tattoos.
Lawrence is determined, Otis has the power and will to get better, Vallejo is “a little Mike Tyson.”
Of Jimmy Mince, the three fume that this is the second competition in which he’s done poorly. Tommy Brooks says Mince had better get his act together or the other boxers will clean his clock.
They gather the boxers to announce the rankings. Pareja, incidentally, isn’t a part of it – as the winner of last week’s bout, he won’t fight again until the semi-final round, whenever that may be. He’s delighted, saying that he is now “untouchable because they can’t get into my mind.” I’m thinking they’d find it a dark, uncomfortable place even if they did manage to get in there.
Fred, because he won the competition, is ranked number one. The rest are as follows:
2 – Vallejo
3 – Otis Griffin (Mince says he could whip him)
4 – Rene Armijo
5 – ElMahmoud
6 – Gilbert Zaragosa
7 – Paul Scianna
8 – Luis Corps
For the last two spots, it’s between Jimmy Mince and Lawrence Alonzo. Brooks says Lawrence is soft and accuses him of slacking at the gym and putting too much time in at the pastry shop. Brooks is also disappointed in Mince, who was also in the bottom two last week. But once again, they’re more disappointed in someone else, and Mince is off the hook – he’s number 9, and Lawrence is number 10. That means Lawrence will be choosing one of the top three to fight, and will leave the show if he loses.
Andrea, little perky pillar of support that she is, is very disappointed in her man. She tells Lawrence he let her down. Gee, I can so see why he keeps her around. Lawrence himself says that stings, but he vows to prove himself in the ring.
The Confidantes Strike Back
With that taken care of, the confidantes of the four people who might fight – the top three and Lawrence – come over to hang out. This, alas, provides Fred’s brother Lance a chance to be obnoxious. Lance wants Fred to fight, which means he has to convince Lawrence to choose him. Lance – who looks like an evil John Grisham – goes to Lawrence to tell him how the honorable, manly thing to do is to step up and challenge the top-ranked fighter.
Andrea rolls her little perky eyes. She recognizes that Lance is trying on a game strategy, but she thinks he’s being deceitful. I’ll give her that he’s being manipulative, but I’m not sure I really see where he’s being dishonest. At least, not to them – he promptly proceeds to be dishonest to his brother, telling him everyone else thinks Lawrence can beat him. Maybe they do and I wasn’t paying attention, but I didn’t see that.
Meanwhile, Mike Vallejo and his girlfriend Glenda want him to be picked, because they need the money.
Lance, not surprisingly, bonds with David Pareja. Wow, how shocking that those two would get along. After all, they share common interests, such as ego-polishing, chest-puffing, and smack-talking.
Lawrence meets with the three top boxers to announce who he’s chosen to fight. He says he knows they want to fight, but while they’re fighting for money, he’s fighting for survival. Nevertheless, he chooses Fred. Fred is excited, and says it’s the first time he’s felt that way in seven or eight years, since he quit boxing. Incidentally, this is Fred’s first fight since then, and he realizes that his seven-year break from the ring could be a disadvantage
Lawrence says he knows Lance will be gloating, thinking he forced Lawrence into that decision, but he says it wasn’t like that. He wanted to fight Fred.
Andrea tells Lance he’s very deceitful. Lance makes no apologies, telling us that he’ll do anything to help Fred win and if the others aren’t careful, “they’re getting snipered.”
Lawrence tells us he just has to impose his will on Fred, and hit him harder than he’s ever been hit before. This is a David and Goliath matchup, Lawrence says, although he can’t be talking from a purely literal size-related point of view – Fred actually looks a bit puny to me. Lawrence acknowledges that everyone thinks Fred will win. But he says they’re wrong. He tells Andrea he’ll win it for her.
The Warriors Prepare for Battle (Get Them a Kleenex)
We briefly skate through just enough film to suggest that the two have trained a bit before the match. They weigh in, a quarter-pound apart, and then go off to endure De la Hoya’s lackluster speaking skills as he questions them about their game plan going into the match.
Fred says he’s afraid to lose. He talks a bit about the schoolkids and how much the money will mean to them, and so on.
Lawrence’s mind seems to be anywhere but on boxing. He says Andrea means the world to him, then he literally tears up talking about his two nephews, about how great they are and how rough he had it and how he wants to make life easier for them. This whole blubbering scene is painful to watch, as Lawrence breaks down in tears. He reminds me of an acquaintance who once got knee-walking drunk because his dog had a tumor on its spine and might not live. As I watched De La Hoya awkwardly hug the sobbing Lawrence, I can hear my friend tearfully wailing, “Dogs are great, man.”
Ok, maybe that was only amusing to me. Anyway, Lawrence decides that in honor of this fight, he’s going to shave his head. He calls it “shedding my softie side” and says the friendship he might have with Fred will fall away with his hair. “There is no such thing as friends in the ring,” Lawrence tells us. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as a top-knot still on his head. Dude. Shave it all off, that thing is nasty.
The trainers pump Fred and Lawrence up a bit, and Lawrence is trying to get into fight mode. “I’m thinking about hitting him so hard, his kids are going to come out bruised,” he says. Heh. I don’t care who you are, that’s kind of funny. Lawrence and Andrea pray, while Lance lets his forked tongue do the talking to Fred. He says Fred might as well just thank Lawrence for the money, and says the match will be easy.
Maybe the Top-Knot Threw Him Off
Ok, here’s something that is bugging me. This is a show about boxing, right? It’s the search for a good boxer? The assumption would be that fans of boxing would be the audience? Then why don’t they show more BOXING? We don’t even see this whole bout, do we? It doesn’t feel like we do, although I’ve only watched one real boxing match in my life, so I guess I could be wrong.
Anyway, it’s fight time. Lawrence is wearing red and black satin, while Fred is in red and yellow.
Those disembodied commentator voices are back for a second week. They tell us that Fred is doing well, and Lawrence is on the defensive, both of which even I had already figured out. Fred is just pummeling Lawrence, who is lucky to get in a jab every now and then.
And that’s pretty much how it goes for all four rounds. Fred hits and Lawrence flails around, to the point that the Voices wonder how Lawrence is even still standing. Not surprisingly, Fred is deemed the winner at the end.
Lawrence tells us that Fred didn’t beat him. “He won the fight, but he didn’t beat me.” Aw. That’s great. You just keep telling yourself that, honey.
Lawrence’s nephews have been there watching the fight, and they come into the ring, where Lawrence tells them to push hard. Aw *sniff* I think I’ve got something in my eye. Not. Surprisingly, Andrea says she’s proud of him. “In my eyes he came out a champ,” she says. Or, she said he came out “on top.” I can’t quite read my writing there. Either way, the future looks bright as Lawrence hangs up his gloves.
Ooh, it looks busy. A twist has the two most hated boxers determining the fate of someone else, a challenge that appears to involve pulling trucks sends two boxers to the hospital, and the fight ends in a K.O. Also, just from my own point of view, it looked like Rene in the ring. He’s got that poofy hair, you know.
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