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'The Contender's Anthony Bonsante TKO's Brent Cooper, but double-crosses his team


By Wade Paulsen, 04/04/2005 

In the sixth episode of NBC's reality-competition boxing show The Contender, the West's Anthony "The Bullet" Bonsante (now 26-4-3, 15 KOs) stopped the East's Brent Cooper (now 20-3-2, 15 KOs) at 0:38 of the third round. However, the victory may have cost Anthony more than the place in the second round that he gained is worth.

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In the aftermath of last week's victory by the East's Peter Manfredo Jr., the four remaining members of the East team finally had a chance to enjoy a reward -- tickets to see a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a brief meet-and-greet session with Jay after the show.

Meanwhile, the two teams worked out "fair" bouts for each of the remaining boxers: Anthony versus the East's Jimmy Lange (24-1-1, 17 KOs); Tarick Salmaci versus Juan de la Rosa; and Joey Gilbert (who has been struggling with an injured hamstring since episode 3) versus Brent. Although Anthony told all of his teammates that he was on board with the matchmaking schedule, he hatched his own plan to double-cross the team and fight the weakest guy left in the competition.

First, Anthony told everyone that he was looking forward to fighting Jimmy in this match. Then, he urged everyone to try their hardest in the challenge, so that he could win the right to call Jimmy out, instead of Jimmy getting to call him out. The team bought his ruse.

The week's challenge involved gathering 90 medicine balls, hauling them up to the top of Sepulveda Dam on the dry concrete bed of the Los Angeles River, and dumping them into the flatbed of a pickup truck. Some extra effort by Joey and Jesse Brinkley propelled the West to a microscopic win in the closest challenge yet, when one East ball bounced back to the bottom of the dam.

When Anthony actually called out Brent instead of Jimmy, Jimmy almost stormed out of the gym. Although all of Anthony's teammates were stunned, the most upset was Joey, the least-experienced fighter in the competition, who had expected to fight Brent, the lightest fighter left on the East. However, all of Anthony's teammates joined Joey in giving Anthony the cold shoulder.

Ultimately, the two teams (minus Anthony, but including a non-drinking Brent) decided to go out together to celebrate their anti-Anthony unity that night -- where Jesse succeeded in getting completely hammered in near-record time. None of Anthony's teammates applauded his entry into the gym for the main event. West leader Ishe Smith, who, like Brent, is a church usher, was actively trying to help Brent during the fight, and called for the fight's stoppage when Brent finally proved to be defenseless against a bigger and better fighter. Although Anthony totally dominated the fight, his teammates refused to join him in celebrating his triumph.

Anthony justified his selfish double-cross of Joey and his teammates by stating that his teammates "didn't have to feed my children." In the ring after his victory, Anthony's two children, Brittany and Derek (whom he was stunned to see arrive, because they had been back in Minnesota starting school in September 2004), seemed overjoyed with his victory. However, they may be the only fans Anthony has left in the world of boxing.

Only future episodes will let us know whether a double-cross can be a successful "game" strategy in The Contender, but the early results do not appear to be promising either for Anthony's future on the show .. or for his future boxing career, if any. Next week's previews indicate that Anthony's West teammates do not seem inclined to let bygones be bygones, at least not until Anthony is "bye -- gone" in the second round.

(Photo credit NBC)


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