Hi, and welcome to yet another hour of everything-but-boxing, brought to you courtesy of Fox and The Next Great Champ. And me, of course. I’ve been here every week, but I’m happy to report that is soon to change – this show is on hiatus for the next two weeks, due to baseball or something or other, and isn’t due to return till Oct. 22. I’ve seen the ratings, however, and frankly I’ll be surprised if it returns at all. And I am not above crossing my fingers and maybe poking some pins into voodoo dolls to make sure it stays on hiatus indefinitely. I might even be willing to sacrifice a chicken to the hiatus gods. Although it might be worth sitting through the remaining episodes if I could get a guarantee that someone will beat the snot out of boxer David Pareja.
Anyway, it only went on hiatus after this week’s show, which means we have a whole recap to get through before I can go find a virgin chicken to sacrifice. This week, “all hell” is supposed to break loose, a term I would like to think is meant literally. I could be down with seeing Satan in the boxing ring. I assume he’d wear red shorts, trimmed in red. And you know, I think he’d win. Just a feeling. Although he might lose some points for headbutting with those horns.
Otis Gets a Speaking Role
We start, as always, immediately after last week’s elimination bout, in which Rene semi-KO’d someone whose name I’ve forgotten already. Rene returns to the loft triumphantly, ready to send “shock waves” through the cozy little winner’s circle of David and Fred and their scary relatives.
While the winner’s circle peeps pretend to welcome Rene, they’re not happy at the intrusion. Displaying a near-superhuman ability to ignore his own past behavior, Dave tells us that Rene is “acting all cocky and arrogant” and thinks he’s “big stuff” after winning just one fight. Dave, of course, was modest and humble after winning his own fight.
PJ, Dave’s wife of undetermined-years, says that Rene is “a child” and “has a lot of growing up to do.” Given that she’s probably at least twice Rene’s age, I guess I can understand her point of view.
However, this episode is not all about Rene. No, that was last week. This week, the spotlight is on Otis Griffin. Otis has been doing good work, and the trainers love him, but he hasn’t been part of the drama up till now so we haven’t seen a lot of him. Evidently that’s all going to change this time, because we get an intro to Otis that would have been handy to have had three or so weeks ago.
Otis, it transpires, is highly religious. At least, I think that’s what “I’m always on the phone with the Lord” means. He goes into the ring not to hurt the other guy, but to fight with honor, like “old Egyptian gladiators.” I will not really dispute this, as I’m sure Otis is more well-versed in Biblical history than I am, but I do not remember hearing much about Egyptian gladiators. Roman gladiators, yes, sure, those I know. But hey, Rome owned a lot of real estate, I’m sure there could have been Egyptians in the gladiator ring.
At home, Otis runs seven miles a day, trains three hours a day, and takes his daughter to school. He’s also a correctional officer (psst: that means prison guard), which probably does not make him ex-con Gilbert’s best friend.
Otis thinks everyone wants him to be the last person to fight, because they’re scared of his prowess in the ring.
But others – such as Mike, and Fred – say they see openings in his moves, that he’s beatable, and that he’s green. Otis has not boxed professionally before.
In a spot of foreshadowing that I’d have missed had I not had to rewatch the start of the show because I had a pot of rice burning on the stove the first time around, Otis’ regular trainer warns that he has a bit of a temper.
Another scene that will be relevant later but which I missed noticing at first involves Fred and Jimmy Mince talking about Otis. Fred says Otis lets his emotions get the better of him, and then he says something garbled that I couldn’t understand. Jimmy sits silent, but tells us Otis would be pissed that Fred was talking trash.
Sick and Sandbagged
We’ll come back to that later. The drama right now is that Jimmy has fallen ill. It’s not a vomiting, sniffling, breaking-out-in-hives sort of ill that’s easily provable. No, Jimmy just feels “weak” and is sweaty. Others doubt whether he’s really sick, and even if he is, Dave says, it’s too late in the competition for anyone to get a break.
Nevertheless, Jimmy chooses to forfeit the weekly challenge due to his illness.
The challenge this time is designed to test all-around fitness. The boxers must load bags with sand, run them about 30 yards down a beach, and fill up a barrel on a see-saw sort of thingy till it tips down and hits the ground.
Gilbert says he has to win, because he feels like he’ll be picked to fight if he doesn’t. Fred, who, with the rest of the winner’s circle, has been sent off to work on his tan, says the winner’s circle -- i.e. he and Dave – have their eyes on a few people to rank last if, as last week, they’re given that opportunity.
The challenge begins, everyone bags sand and runs and sweats, and in the end, Gilbert wins. He says that if he is chosen to fight this week, and is thus in the winner’s circle, Fred and Dave won’t be in charge any more.
Real Men Don't Blame Dust
It’s time for Oscar de la Hoya and the trainers to go through the charade of ranking the boxers. They’re disappointed Otis didn’t win – one says he’s a “duplicate” of a young Holyfield. They think Mike Vallejo wants to fight but they doubt his focus, and they say Jimmy Mince is slipping and at least one of them suggests his illness may be a put-on.
Back in the group, the trainers and de la Hoya announce that they’re only ranking the top two.
Number one is Gilbert, for winning. And number two is Otis.
That leaves four guys – Jimmy, Mike, Luis, and Elmahmoud someone who is getting absolutely NO screen time.
The “X-factor,” someone says, is that Jimmy is sick. Gilbert, whose cot is next to Jimmy’s, says Jimmy woke up drenched in sweat. (that’s meant to prop up Jimmy’s claim of being sick, by the way. It’s not just Gil saying Jimmy’s got a glandular problem. I don’t think.)
Jimmy says the doctor prescribed bed rest. Jimmy thinks he may have a bacterial virus – I believe those were his words, although I don’t think I’ve heard of a “bacterial virus” although I have heard of a “bacterial infection” – possibly from the dust in the house. Dust? How much wussier can you sound?
As it happens, Jimmy and Rene aren’t bosom buddies. Jimmy thinks Rene might feel threatened by him, and that Rene would love to not have to fight him. He tells Rene that he should not be chosen to fight this week because he won last week’s challenge, and because he’s sick.
But Dave doubts that Jimmy is sick. And Fred thinks Rene is too intense about making the choice – an opinion rendered from Fred’s lofty experience of choosing the last-ranked boxer, which he has done all of once before.
Rene says that Jimmy talks tough all the time, and he’d like to kick his ass for that alone.
The group gathers to hear the winners circle’s choice. Rene says that even though Jimmy is sick, he shouldn’t have forfeited that challenge – a lot of the guys would have fought for the $10,000 anyway. Jimmy says if they were real men, they wouldn’t choose poor, sick little him. They do anyway. Jimmy’s fighting this week.
And, per the trainers’ choice, he’s fighting Otis. Otis says Jimmy doesn’t look sick, and he’s ready to fight.
I’m Gonna Bleeping Bleep You, Motha-Bleeper
Jimmy is pissed that he’s been chosen to fight, and he decides that all the angst in the house shouldn’t be his. So he decides this would be an excellent time to inform Otis that Fred has talked smack about him. Otis heads off to confront Fred as Jimmy claims that he didn’t want to start trouble. Yeah, right.
The three gather in the TV room, where Otis goes off, asking why Fred is talking about him and saying that he, Otis, isn’t worrying himself about what other people are doing so they shouldn’t worry about him. Fred says he was only answering a question that Jimmy asked – aha! Don’t they see who’s stirring the pot here? He tries to respond but Otis tells him not to raise his voice at him. I wish I could give you this exchange verbatim, but a lot of it doesn’t even make sense, and then Otis starts cursing every other word, so I’m basically hearing a lot of bleeps. The essence is that Otis blows up, warning Fred that he could “hit you so hard I could kill you.” Fred says well, he could too, but asks if Otis is threatening him. More cursing and yelling ensues, along with some stomping off.
“We saw a side of Otis that he’s been hiding,” Fred says. You think?
Otis admits – to the camera – that his temper got out of hand. He says that sort of anger was his mentality “back in the day” but he usually keeps a better lid on it these days.
Fred, however, is not content to let this sort of hostility lie. He says one of them needs to leave, and he goes off to complain to the show personnel. We see him telling his side of the story, and a producer warns that if he leaves like this, he’s eliminated.
Gilbert says he wouldn’t be surprised if Fred quit, because he quit boxing once already. Fred says he is not quitting the show, but that he’s not risking his safety by staying in a house with someone as unpredictable as Otis. Oh, please. Fred, you are a BOXER. Whining about your safety, in a house with six other guys and cameras around 24-7, sounds wimpy and wussy. If this is your dream, suck it up and shut yer trap.
But Fred cannot hear what I am muttering to my TV. He claims to need time away to think, and also vows that he’s not staying in a place where Otis is staying. He gets into an enormous old white car and rides away into the night.
Whining and Praying
In all the drama, no one really looked at Jimmy and wondered why he was starting stuff. Hopefully, they’ll remember his role as instigator later on. For the time being, though, it appears that inciting drama did nothing to make Jimmy feel less angry. He’s still highly upset that he was chosen to fight when he’s so sick. Poor widdle Jimmykins.
He says the others aren’t the ones who’ll get hit, and possibly get brain damage. I’m not real sure why someone who recognizes the risk of brain damage would become a boxer. I guess the chances of it happening, however, might be greater if the boxer is woozy from fever at the time of the fight.
Anyway, Jimmy changes his tune and vows that he can fight even sick. He has fought, he says, with a pit bull bite on his foot. What the….? I don’t even want to know how that happened. He has also fought with a broken hand. And this is the guy who was whining in bed about dust making him sick?
Jimmy stomps around a rooftop complaining about the unfairness of it all – he’s talking to his confidante, who I think is his uncle. He also takes his temperature.
Meanwhile, Otis and his sister pray, and he trains. His m.o., Otis says, is to “fight you to death.” I think someone’s taking that whole gladiator analogy a little far.
De la Hoya arrives for his weekly pre-fight probing questions, such as, “What’s in your head?” Or something like that. Otis says he has prayed, and feels like the power of God is on his side. Boxing brings him closer to God, he explains, because he thinks him winning this fight is part of God’s plan. “Nobody’s gonna stop me from achieving this,” Otis says. “It is written.” Ok, he’s starting to creep me out a bit now.
Jimmy is thinking about his brother, also a boxer, who died from head injuries received in the boxing ring. Well, that brain damage worry makes a little bit more sense now. I know you true boxing aficionados will dismiss what I’m about to say as me being girly and not “getting” the sport, but I’m going to say it anyway. Why in the hell would Jimmy keep boxing after it killed his brother? Why? I do not understand. Anyway, Jimmy keeps his brother’s obituary with him, and he’s fighting for him.
Whose Side is God on Now, Sucka?
I didn’t realize this earlier, but it appears Jimmy forwent (is that a word? The past tense of forgo? Well, I decree it to be a word. It is written.) training all week in favor of trying to feel better. But then again, he has a 4-0 record, and all his wins were KO’s. Otis did train this week, but has never been in a professional fight before.
Jimmy has on white and black shorts, Otis’ are red and white.
Round One starts, and it’s not terribly exciting. They’re both dancing around rather far away from each other, looks to me like, and they’re not landing a whole lot of punches. Then Jimmy hits Otis in the head, Otis hits him in the body – as was advised by the trainer because of Jimmy being sick – and after a bit more of this, the round is over. The announcer voices call it for Otis.
In Round Two, both of them are connecting more, and the announcers say it’s tight. That’s about all that happens.
By Round Three, the voices are wondering if Jimmy will fight back – they see Otis as the more aggressive one so far. But Jimmy comes out more aggressively now. Otis nearly hits him in the groin, a literal “low blow” that would lose him a point, but the ref says it didn’t quite make the cut. The voices say Otis didn’t expect such a fight out of Jimmy.
Round Four, Otis is flailing a bit, and the voices say he needs to connect more if he wants to win. In the end, it comes down to the judges.
And it’s a split decision – two pick Jimmy by just two points, and one picks Otis. Jimmy wins.
Jimmy feels he won fairly and that he was clearly the more aggressive boxer. He says the others would love to see him eliminated.
Otis’ sister, on the other hand, says everyone knows Otis won, and that she hopes Jimmy never gets another night’s sleep from the guilt of having won unfairly. Ok, someone tell me why that was unfair? Jimmy didn’t have anything to do with the judges’ scoring. Obviously it was a close call, but that doesn’t make it unfair.
Otis, however, shares his sister’s disgruntlement (ha. Another made-up word. Because I’m too lazy to think of a proper one. Which would have been made up by someone else anyway.) Otis says the judges took the $25,000 for the fight off his family’s table, he’s disgusted and he feels disrespected. None of that “I’m honored just to be here” crap from Otis.
Whenever, if ever, this show returns:
Fred’s future with the show is still up in the air. Luis and Gilbert get into a confrontation. And a boxer who left the show comes back. Gee, I wonder who that will be?
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