Quick Thoughts from The Contender Season Premiere

Well the Contender is officially back for a fourth season and after watching this season’s premier episode I have a couple quick thoughts:

  • I’m really not too high on the show taking place in Singapore.  I suspect the move was a cost effective one given the Contender’s Muy-Tai edition (who knew!) just wrapped up from the same locale.  But the Singapore backdrop worked well when doing a show on martial artists.  Boxing is a western martial art and a show based off of it should take place in a location that makes sense.  That being said, the gym and accommodations the participants find themselves in are pretty impressive and probably trump any of the fighters familiar surroundings.
  • Tony Danza.  Growing up I admit that I loved me some Taxi and later Who’s the Boss, so forgive me if I find it a little surreal to see Tony Danza host a show about aspiring boxers.  I know, I know, Danza was a credible fighter in the 70s, and his love of boxing is undeniable but to see him tape up gloves strikes me as a tad odd.  Still, I will give Danza credit as he is doing a respectable job hosting the show so far.  My one knock against him is I find him to be too upbeat.  Given the stakes, the fighters, and the dramatic underscore his “I’m happy to be here” smile just seems a bit out of place.
  • I’m going to dork out here for a moment and admit that I love the Contender’s theme song.  How many “cool points” will I lose if I admit that I have the song on my mp3 player sandwiched between the theme song from “Rocky” and “You’re the Best Around” from the Karate Kid movie?
  • Nothing and I mean nothing was a more appreciative move by fans of the show than doing away with those lame-ass challenges.  The offered little in the way of drama, served as nothing more than product placement commercials, and sort of chipped away at the credibility of the show.
  • Interesting move by the producers of the show in splitting the teams up in such a way that you had one team compiled mostly of power punching sluggers (Blue Team), with the other team made up of mostly slick boxers (Gold Team).
  • Early drama was sparked when Joell Godfrey and Erik Vega started to trash talk each other.  Truth be told, the back and forth banter by these two was pretty lame and seemed to be a bit contrived.  I don’t know, it just felt disingenuous.
  • Watching Felix Cora Jr. working out in the gym and seeing the quality of fighters in the house, I’m picking the Galveston, Texas native to win the show.  You heard it hear first, Cora wins this thing.
  • So the slick editing of the show, coupled with the already existing tension between Godfrey and Vega, was leading viewers to believe that the first fight of the show will be between these two.  Wrong!  While Godfrey steps up, thinking that Vega will accept his challenge, the Blue Team pulls an audible and select Felix Cora to fight for them.   The look of trepidation on Godfrey’s face was a real as you could get.  Clearly he wanted no part of the far more experienced Cora.
  • Here is what I hate about the Contender, the damn edited fights.  ESPN did a wonderful thing last season by showing the fights in there entirety on ESPN2.  The Versus network doesn’t seem to be doing the same, though I would suggest putting the fights up on their website, so we are forced to watch fights with sound effects and gratuitous amounts of slow-motion camera work.  While it appeared Godfrey got the better of Cora in the first round, no amount of editing could hid the fact that Cora took Godfrey’s heart in the following four rounds.  I’m really liking the soft spoken and humble Cora and again, I pick him to win this thing.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.