Friday, March 11, 2005

The Contender Sucks

I know that many people deplore boxing in general, and so boxing mixed with reality television would have to rate somewhere between Michael Jackson and root canal on the horribleness scale. But i enjoy organized fighting, as a participant and as a spectator. So i was looking forward to The Contender and it started off promisingly. They managed to find some fairly credible middleweights, Stallone wasn't too obnoxious, and ya gotta love Ray Leonard.

The format is predictable-- participants divided into teams, contrived competitions to determine which team gets to pick the fighters, lots of faux drama and manufactured rivalries-- but that is reality TV. And then something good happened on the first episode. One of the members of the West team (Alfonso Gomez) decided to call out the fighter on the East team who looked like the strongest guy in the competition (Peter Manfredo). Didn't see that coming.

So then there's a long boring part where we see both fighters interacting with their families so we can see what good guys they are and how much they've got at stake. More reality TV formula. And then, and then, the actual fight, which they completely, utterly screwed up beyond belief. They edited the fight. They reduced the rounds to highlights of the punches that landed, though they sew them together so it seems to flow.

Not showing the whole fight is unforgiveable. Was it a good fight? Who knows? Gomez upset Manfredo, but were these really decent fighters? Maybe, maybe not. Apparently NBC decided that nobody is really interested in the boxing, just the idiotic ersatz drama. Insane. I watched the second episode last night to see if the first was an aberration. Nope. Same crap. Another fight where an apparent underdog beat an ostensibly better, more seasoned opponent. But as far as we know this was just more BS, since we didn't see enough of the fight to know if either guy can really box. The only assumption i can make at this point is that all of these guys are bums and the producers are afraid to show a full fight and reveal this fatal flaw.

Oddly enough, there's a show on Spike called Ultimate Fighter, which is the exact same format except it's UFC fighting and they show all of the weekly fight. They have a slight advantage in that these fights are two 5-minute rounds as opposed to five 3-minute rounds. The show is much more watchable, even with the bogus conflict and stupid competitions, because the real drama is in the fight. They also made a good move by having each team be led by a real UFC fighter (Chuck Liddel and Randy Couture, who incidentally are fighting each other in April).

So if you're a fight fan, The Contender is a bust. Stick to Friday Night Fights on ESPN if you want to watch boxing.

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