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Meet the Contenders – Contender Commentary, Episode 1


by Panndyra, Goddess of Chaos

After watching the first five minutes of the premiere, I turned to my husband and said, “Damn you, Mark Burnett.” I was already hooked. I loved watching Sylvester Stallone in his Rambo and Rocky Movies. I didn’t like “Stop or My Mom will Shoot” or “Oscar” very much – but you know, a Stallone’s gotta eat.

This has all the human interest of any great Reality TV series with a lot more heart. I am not a boxing fan. I prefer watching less brutal fare – like “America’s Next Top Model”. I usually think of boxers as brutes like Mike Tyson. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

However, each of these 16 men has a story to tell. The majority of them are fighting for their families. Some are single dads; many are just sons and husbands and brothers and friends. They’re people with a passion to be the best and earn a good life for those they love. I respect that.

Tonight’s elimination made me cry. I was amazed that Alphonso, who is seen as the weakest in the “West” by many, challenged Peter Manfredo Jr., the “East’s” best fighter – and heir to a rich, boxing dynasty.

It made great television. It was the David vs. Goliath scenario. I didn’t know who to root for. When the loser left the stadium, after his daughter saw him fight for the first time, he was devastated. He didn’t know how he’d go on without fighting. The winner knew he’d either be the “hero” or the “idiot”. He didn’t gloat. He showed respect for his competition, but he fought like a lion.

Sylvester Stallone and legend Sugar Ray Leonard care about the sport and these guys. They are a great team and have a winner here. If you haven’t watched it, check it out on Thursday after the Apprentice. You will be pleasantly surprised at the drama and heart in this series. I know I was.

Now – here’s a rundown of the “Contenders” with my pick to win it all.

Ahmed: born in Lebanon and raised in Denmark. He was a successful pro in Europe until he was scooped up by a US promoter. He’s 23 years old. He’s cocky and very “Hollywood”. He’s a pretty boy who has already begun to stir up the pot.

Alfonso: born in Mexico and moved to the US with his family when he was 10. His dad was a boxer and took over his son’s training almost immediately. His family has made major sacrifices including selling their business and moving the family to LA where he needed to be to become a “contender”.

Anthony: He is a hard-working single father who is a night supervisor for K-Mart. He’s sincere and wants to fight to give Brittany (age 10) and Derek (age 8) a better life.

Brent: A personal trainer from Hermitage, TN, Brent claims that finding religion helped him kick a drug and alcohol habit. He and his wife, Leeann, are country singers/songwriters as well. They have a recording studio in their home.

Ishe: Rhymes with “squishy”. He was born and still lives in Las Vegas. His priorities are God, Family and Boxing. He has had a successful pro career but was taken advantage of by promoters and agents. He had to declare bankruptcy. He and his wife, Latoya, have a 2 year old son, Ishe Jr. He wants to bring back some “integrity” to the sport.

Jeff: He’s from the rough and tumble working-class Massachusetts town of Haverhill. (I know – I have cousins who still live there!) Jeff’s dad and granddad both boxed. He has a 7 year old son with his wife, Sylvia. He lives in the same house as his parents, just downstairs. He is a fan of “Survivor” and is looking to play his best “mental game” since he’s one of the smaller boxers.

Jesse: He’s a country boy from rural Nevada (didn’t know there was such a thing, but I’m from the East Coast originally!) He learned how to fight from watching “Rocky” movies – look for him to be a star-struck Stallone fan. He hopes to fight DeLaHoya someday.

Jimmy: One of ten kids in his Catholic family, Jimmy had to be scrappy from day one – fighting for attention (lol). He and his wife have twin sons and are expecting a daughter soon. He’s got the highest IQ in the bunch – but his nerves may do him in.

Joey: His dad’s a Navy flight surgeon current serving in Afghanistan. His mother is Italian/Catholic and a nurse. She acts as his nutritionist. He began his boxing training while at the University of Nevada – Reno (UNR).He was a top academic graduate in the Nevada Air National Guard and earned his law degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

Jonathan: This dad of four, with a 5th on the way, did time for armed robbery. He’s not as cantankerous as he appears. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s grounded – he says that the money won’t change his life – because he’s already got what he needs – his faith in God and his family.

Juan: He’s the baby of the bunch at just 18 years old. He grew up in South Texas, near the Mexican border, in a close-knit family. His granddad died over a year ago – he was very influential in Juan’s early career, which started at 15 in Mexico. Currently, he, his dad and his three siblings live with his grandmother in a tiny two-bedroom house.

Miguel: He lives in a low-rent apartment with his mom, who’s legally blind, his 16 year old sister and his dad, Miguel Sr. He sees boxing as his way out and off the streets. He loves to cook and loves to check out new restaurants.

Najai: He committed suicide on Feb 14, 2005. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He was soft-spoken and saw boxing as his way out. He wanted to provide a better life for his family, especially his daughter Anyae. His mom died when he was 18. He had to take care of his younger siblings.

From the NBC.com web site: http://www.nbc.com/nbc/The_Contender/boxers/naja.shtml

If you wish to donate to a fund for Najai’s daughter, make all checks payable to the Anyae Chapple Trust
J.P. Morgan Trust Company, N.A.
1999 Avenue of the Stars, 26th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Attn: Fiduciary Services Dept.

Peter: He’s a happy-go-lucky guy who doesn’t know how to lose in the ring. His father and uncles all boxed. It’s in his blood. He married his high-school sweetheart Yamilka. They have a daughter who’s the light of both their lives.

Sergio: was born in East LA. (don’t start singing the Cheech & Chong song now!) He finally moved out of the apartment he lived in with his mom and siblings. He’s downstairs living with his bro now. He grew up without a father figure, but turned to sports instead of gangs. His nickname is the “Latin Snake”. He wants to earn enough money so his mom can quit working.

Tarick: He is of Lebanese descent. His dad and granddad were boxers too. He was a very highly-ranked and promising boxer but due to poor management and promotion he quit 3 years ago. He is a real estate agent/developer. His wife is a makeup artist/ model who happens to be his high school sweetheart. They have a 2 ½ year old daughter named Ava.

Okay! My pick is ISHE. I’ve just got a feeling. We’ll see if it changes.

If you wanna chat about The Contender – the next big thing in Reality TV – email me at panndyra@realityshack.com


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