Past seasons of The Contender have been panned due to the heavy editing of the fights. The rounds were chopped and given a background score to go along with sound effects when a punch connected, and oftentimes when it didn’t. It will be a wait-and-see approach to see how the fights are handled this year.
This season focuses on 16 super middleweights fighting for a piece of the million dollar fight purse: $750,000 for first place and $250,000 for second place. Buddy McGirt and Pepe Correa join the show as trainers. Sugar Ray Leonard serves as host and emcee and states that only 10 boxers will actually advance to the Contender Tournament.
The show opens with an introduction of some of the fighters before Sugar Ray officially welcomes the fighters to the show. Buddy will captain the Gold Team while Pepe will lead the Blue Team. The fighters will be evaluated by SPARQ training, an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, and Quickness. Sam Soliman, who nearly defeated Winky Wright a few years ago, flew through the training with ease. Makes sense as he’s known for throwing a constant stream of punches and always being in good shape. The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Roshi Wells ranked last in reaction and that concerns the trainers.
Elimination Day 1
Sugar Ray announces that two fighters will now be cut based on their overall performance in the SPARQ training. Well that sucks for them. Imagine getting cut from a boxing show in the span of about three hours without ever stepping into a ring. It basically weeds out the guys that didn’t show up in proper shape but at least let them fight.
Ray calls the guys over and does his thing. Wayne Johnson, Jaidon Codrington, and Max Alexander advance into the Contender Tournament while Les Ralston and Rubin Williams are cut. The other guys are still in limbo and will be judged on a sparring session. I’m surprised Williams got the ax as he’s a decent fighter but he just didn’t perform up to par in the training scenarios.
Elimination Day 2
Adam Carolla joins the crew for Day 2. Carolla used to be a boxing trainer and gives some advice for the guys as they step into the ring to spar. Some of the guys shine and some show their weaknesses. Danny Santiago shows off his gut and Leonard catches it and takes him to the scale. 198 pounds for Mr. Santiago. The super middleweight limit is 168 lbs. HA! Ray is concerned about the 30 pounds and he damn well should be. Shouldn’t he have been weeded out with the first cut of out-of-shape fighters? Time for another elimination. Sam Soliman, Sakio Bika, and Henry Buchanan advance. Olympian Roshii Wells and Miguel Hernandez are cut. Leonard tells Wells that the 2 Â½ year layoff left him rusty. That must be hard for Wells to swallow. Then again, he probably expected to have his fate determined in an actual boxing match.
Elimination Day 3
Six fighters remain for the four available spots. Ray brings in Sergio Mora, Peter Manfredo Jr, and Alfonso Gomez as special sparring partners. Well, not Gomez, who opted out when he realized these guys walk around with roughly 30 pounds more than he does. Speaking of fatties, Danny Santiago is weighed in again and comes in at 191 pounds. Ray says he would have to lose 23 lbs in one week. He wants to give Danny a chance but fears the health risk involved.
The elimination round is skipped in favor of picking teams. Those not picked for a team are obviously cut. The fighters that were already safe go with the first six picks. Of those that were on the bubble, Pepe chooses Paul Smith. Buddy responds by selecting Donny McCrary, who impressed Sergio Mora with his courage. Pepe then takes Brian Vera and Buddy nabs David Banks with the last pick. La Farrell Bunting and Danny Santiago are cut. Danny was let go for his weight issues and Bunting wasn’t selected because he suffered a cut during the second day of training. The trainers didn’t think it would heal in time for the start of the tournament. And who does a 10-man tournament? That doesn’t seem to play out fairly. I’m curious to see how that part of the tournament is handled.
The Blue Team
Trainer: Pepe Correa
1. Max Alexander
2. Sakio Bika
3. Wayne Johnson
4. Paul Smith
5. Brian Vera
The Gold Team
Trainer: Buddy McGirt
1. Jaidon Codrington
2. Henry Buchanan
3. Sam Soliman
4. Donny McCrary
5. David Banks
The trainers get their first look at their teams. Jaidon and Brian get into an altercation and Oscar De La Hoya stops by the gym.