I once went to a professional hockey game. (Hey, I live in the south. Ice hockey is not real big here. Even though the game I went to was actually in Charlotte, North Carolina). Anyway, I was expecting some fights during the game. I mean, that typically happens in hockey, right? Evidently, wrong. They hardly even shoved each other, much less entertained me with the bloody, bone-breaking spectacle I’d expected. I’m not a particularly blood-lusty person – I can’t even watch gymnastics in the Olympics for fear some gymnast will fall off the balance beam and crack their skull – but by god if I’m going to watch a sport renowned for its violence, I want to see some bloodshed.
My point is that this episode starts off promising blood, with dramatic hints of hospital visits and a K.O. in the fight. Does it deliver? Does it show me the blood? *sigh* Not really.
Clash of the Egos
We pick up the action right after last week’s fight, when Fred Bachmann beat Lawrence Alonzo. That puts Fred in the winner’s circle room with the other white dude, David Pareja. Fred, David, David’s scary wife PJ and Fred’s scarier brother Lance all congratulate themselves on the jealousy they imagine the rest of the boxers are nursing towards the two winners. “Nobody likes a champion,” Lance gloats.
According to the non-winners, though, it’s more just that nobody likes David, Fred or their confidantes. A girl named Amanda, who I think is Mohammad Elmahmoud’s girlfriend, tells us that those four are the only ones who really value that spot in the winner’s circle bedroom. Two or three of the boxers point out that one fight – which is how many fights David and Fred have won apiece – does not a champion make. It makes a guy who won one fight, and that isn’t enough to warrant the kind of self-congratulatory preening the four in the winner’s room are doing.
For dramatic narrative purposes, of course, this hostility cannot be allowed to remain unspoken. When the boxers arrive at the training facility, trainer Tommy Brooks has Fred and David step out of the line. He says he knows there’s tension in the house, and if anyone has anything to say to the two winners, now’s the time to get it out. I would think, actually, that the time and place to work out such differences would be in the ring. But I guess hostility that goes unnoticed by its target is hostility wasted.
After a pause, Gilbert is the first to step up to clear the air. He thinks David is arrogant and that he needs to stop with this “my poo don’t stink” business and start carrying himself in a more professional manner.
David gets right on that, telling us that “Gil thinks because he’s big, Mexican and ugly he can fight.” Hm. Ok. First, this seems to be a variation on one of David’s favorite put-downs – to say another fighter is big, of a certain ethnicity, and ugly. Why one’s ugliness, or ethnicity, makes a difference is beyond me. I think I’m tall, Caucasian and passably attractive – does that mean I can’t fight? Or that I can? (hint: I can kick, but not punch) Second, Gilbert just got out of jail for fighting someone. Now, that doesn’t speak to his technique, or training regimen, or anything like that, but I assume it does suggest that Gilbert can in fact throw a punch. And he’s longing to throw one at David, and I for one would not stop him, especially if he were trying to hit David in the mouth.
Otis also has a bone to pick. He thinks Fred said something behind his back about Otis being out of shape. Fred denies it, telling us that he’d say anything to anyone’s face. Gilbert steps up as the gossip-monger here – I guess he told Otis that Fred said that – and says that Fred did indeed say it. What is this, junior high?
Anyway, that resolves itself – or doesn’t, and just lies there simmering – and we move on.
Boxing: Where Ugliness Means Respect
Oscar de la Hoya, the man whose name is on the show but whose face rarely makes an appearance, arrives with his trainer. He begins demonstrating very fast punches. The guys, who by comparison move with all the quickness of an 80-year-old woman, are impressed. De la Hoya tells them that they box because they love what they do, and that a bout is 12 minutes and you can’t win it without stamina.
Rene says as a young, Hispanic man, he is often compared to de la Hoya. As a Mexican boxer, he says, every time he steps in the ring he has to make Mexicans proud.
Paul, meanwhile, is worried about making pretty boys proud. He says that he’s a good-looking guy, which is a “big minus in boxing” because nobody takes him seriously. I wonder, is it his looks, or the fact that he’s a clothing designer, that accounts for a lack of respect in the ring?
Or maybe it’s the following scene: Paul and Gilbert agree to spar for four rounds, and Paul has to drop out after two because he’s winded. Gilbert sneers that Paul looks like he’s never been touched by a boxing glove. Gilbert, of course, looks like he fell out of the boxing glove tree and hit every branch on the way down. And then landed in the tattoo-needle bush.
Run, Forrest, Run!
It’s time for the weekly challenge. As our theme this week is “stamina”, that’s what will be tested. The guys have to drag a two-ton pick-up truck for a quarter mile – best time wins. I would point out that monster-truck pulling is not usually a blood-inducing sport, and I’m getting antsy here.
Mike Vallejo’s girlfriend worries because, she says, “we’ve never tried this at home.” Well, honey, I would hope not.
Jimmy Mince says it reminds him of horse-drawn carriages in New Orleans. I hope he realizes that makes him the horse. And I guess now he knows how the horse feels. Perhaps he’ll think of that next time he’s tempted to pile into a horse-drawn carriage.
Although none of these guys seem like the horse-drawn carriage types.
With the confidantes screaming from the truck beds, the race gets started. Frankly, I’m amazed the guys can budge these trucks at all. If it were me in the harness – which is not something I say every day -- I’d lean forward to pull and fall flat on my face. So I’m pretty impressed when the trucks start to roll. They seem to pick up momentum as they go – the guys begin running.
Jimmy Mince, who has consistently done badly at these challenges, comes in first in the first heat.
But in the second head, things go badly for some of the others. Mike feels something pull in his leg, but keeps going. Then Luis’ harness rope gets caught under a truck tire, pulling him backwards to the ground. He hits his head, hard, but what surprised me was that the truck stopped and didn’t run over him. Did someone have some outside emergency brake or something?
Rene wins the second one – Gilbert says Rene “looked like Forrest Gump” running. That cracked me up.
The two injured men and their girlfriends pile into a van, ice-packs everywhere, and head for the hospital. Meanwhile, the trainers announce that the challenge winner, by six seconds, is Jimmy. Jimmy’s excited at winning $10,000 and the chance to box for $25,000, while Rene is, of course, upset. Sad day for Mexico, eh, Rene?
I think perhaps the worst thing about being injured in a weird fashion is trying to tell the doctor how it happened. Having to say “Well, I was in this harness, see, pulling this two-ton truck,” is not something I’d want to do. So props to Luis for saying it with a straight face, I guess. The doctor doesn’t bat an eye, but tells Luis he’ll have to come back for another checkup before the doctor determines if his head injury is too bad for him to continue in the competition. Luis is not happy.
Mike glosses over the manner in which he was injured. The doctor says he pulled a hamstring and advises him to take it easy for a week. Mike says no way – he doesn’t have a week, he’s only got a day or two to rest. He wants to return for a checkup the next day.
His girlfriend is upset, saying that Mike never listens to what’s good for him. The doctor agrees to see Mike again in a day or two, and that’s the best it’s going to get for now.
I Make You Fight Because I Like You
Now, here’s something I didn’t know, either because I wasn’t paying attention or the show didn’t bother to mention it before. All the guys are in the 163-175-pound weight class. Rene is a mere 145, and fighting these guys entails him moving up four weight classes. Gilbert, on the other hand, is on the other side, weighing in at about 190. If he doesn’t lose weight, he can be disqualified. Why did they let him on this show if he had to lose 15 pounds? What if he’d been up to fight the first week?
As it happens, Rene and Gilbert are tight friends. Rene says they’re both proud Mexican boxers; Gilbert views Rene as a little brother. In a cute moment, Rene urges Gilbert to eat something, even a piece of fruit, as Gilbert has chosen the near-starvation diet as a way to lose the pounds. Gil is also working out hard, in a plastic sort of suit that Fred tells us will fry your internal organs. Or something like that.
And, it’s rankings time. The trainers and de la Hoya gather to discuss the pros and cons. They don’t think Gilbert can lose the weight. They think Otis has what it takes. They had an interesting quote about Rene but I missed it and had forgotten to hit “record” again after the last commercial, so, sorry.
But before they run through all of the boxers, the men decide to change things up. As we shall see in a minute.
First, the rankings they did do:
Jimmy is first, as he won the challenge.
2 – Rene
3 – Otis. Paul says Otis has an intimidating look. Unlike Paul, I guess.
I think I missed a couple. I choose to believe the show just skipped over fighters who we never see, like Elmahmoud. I guess he’s in there somewhere.
Fred and David, having won fights already, aren’t in it. So that leaves us two. And the twist is, Fred and David will choose who’s last, which means they’re choosing who will fight.
Fred and David, and their psychotic confidantes, head back to the loft to debate strategy. It’s between Paul and Gilbert. Lance, Fred’s evil brother, wants Paul in the winner’s circle – evidently he sees Paul as one of “them” – and thinks Paul could win the fight. Lance also tells us it’s hard to manipulate the game all by his little self, and it would help him to have buddies. But the others muse that Gilbert is overweight and weak and this might be a chance to get him out of the game altogether.
Fred and David finally go to Paul and ask him if he wants to fight. But Paul says he’s not ready, and needs more time with the trainers.
Gilbert fully expects to be chosen. But, he warns, they don’t know him and his amazing weight-loss abilities.
When the time to choose publicly arrives, Fred and David call Gilbert and Paul up into the ring. Fred tells Paul they don’t know where his head is. (I will resist the urge to point out that it’s on his shoulders.) David tells Gilbert he came in fat and weak, and they don’t think he’s got anything left in him. But for that reason, Dave adds, they’re giving Gilbert a pass. They want to kick his butt when he’s strong. So they choose Paul to be ranked last and to fight this week.
The White Boys Circle the Wagons
Paul picks Rene to fight, then rambles on about being “the Perfect Storm” and eating thunder and lightening and other stuff that makes me wonder if he’s recently had a punch to the head. He tells David and Fred, who are now trying to protect their precious satin-bedspreaded winners’ room from the Mexican interloper, that he feels good. Encouraged, they ask which bed he wants.
Nobody’s asking Rene about his bed choice, but he doesn’t seem to expect it. He says it’s time to break up the all-white-boys-together tone of the winner’s circle with some “Latin flavor.” Mexican pride is on the line, he vows. Let’s see: white boys bunkered in a room, Mexican trying to get in. Sound anything like the Alamo to anyone? We know how that turned out.
For more insight into how Paul feels “good” about his chances, we go to his sister Stephanie, whose method of being supportive is to talk about how Rene is a skilled boxer. She came in more nervous than Paul – she leaves him an anxious, self-doubting wreck. Way to go there, Stephanie.
The wreck then sits numbly, staring at nothing, as Dave tries a final time to pump him up. He tells Paul to put the fear in Rene – fear of what? Fear of the wrath of the clothing designer? – and assures Paul that Dave and Fred believe in him. Paul mumbles in a glassy-eyed fashion something about having already won and wheels being set in motion. Somebody give the boy a cold shower and some coffee and sober him up.
Rene says it’s a war, and that while he generally comes off as a nice guy, when he gets in the ring he’s looking to hurt someone. I think we already assumed that, Rene. It IS a boxing ring, not a circus ring.
The two weigh in, and I missed the exact number but Rene has gained some pounds. De la Hoya makes his ritual appearance to ask about their game plan. Why? It’s always the same basic thing. Hit harder, and win.
Rene makes his team wear red headbands for good luck. Paul’s sister continues to wig him out, and he tells her not to freak out if his nose starts bleeding.
I’m not Hurt, I’m Just Unconscious
Here’s a tidbit I didn’t know – Rene is 20, while Paul is 30. This is also Paul’s first professional bout. And, for you fashionistas, Rene is in blue and white shorts and Paul has red and silver ones.
Paul comes on strong in round one, attacking Rene and hitting him hard. But he also keeps leading with his head, which evidently is a no-no, because the ref keeps separating them and warning Paul to quit it. This round appears to go to Paul, but the announcer Voices remind us that Paul tired out after just two rounds in that sparring match with Gilbert. They also speculate that Rene is working a strategy to wear Paul down and then go on the attack.
In round two, Paul is back on the attack but Rene is also landing some punches. The ref continues to warn Paul about leading with the head, and says he’ll take away a point if Paul keeps doing it. The Voices think this round goes to Rene.
In round three, it’s a complete reverse of round one. Rene’s on the offensive, wailing away on Paul. The Voices say Rene looks confident and Paul looks weary. Finally, Paul nearly collapses and the referee declares a third-round TKO. The bout goes to Rene, whose dad picks him up in celebration.
Lance glares the glare of a man whose evil plan has been foiled, while Rene laughs that he’s sent shockwaves through the winner’s circle. Dave says that Rene is acting all cocky – that’s the pot calling the kettle black -- and that he and Fred will remain tight, which presumably means allied against Rene. If I were Rene, I think I’d be sleeping with one eye open in that winner’s room.
Gilbert is happy for Rene. And Paul, incredibly, thinks he should have been allowed to finish the match. He says it was obvious he wasn’t really hurt and he thinks he would have won. Um, earth to Paul – you were staggering and about to fall down. You were *losing* the fight. You would have continued to lose the fight. Be glad you got out of the ring while you were still conscious. That said, though, I didn’t know you could declare a knock-out until the guy is actually, literally, knocked out.
Rivalries erupt, someone feigns illness, and the fight sparks controversy. And there had better be blood this time.
Knock me out at firstname.lastname@example.org