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Jesse Brinkley TKO's Anthony Bonsante in NBC's twelfth 'Contender' episode


By Wade Paulsen, 05/09/2005 

In the final quarterfinal match, which took place in the twelfth episode of NBC's reality-competition boxing show The Contender, the two most reluctant warriors in the dominant 'Italian Clan' coalition (also known as the "Gutless Four") were forced into the ring to do "battle." Unfortunately, they couldn't both lose.

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In what appeared to be an extremely ugly fight, perhaps because both boxers had to hold back urges to turn tail and run to the safety of the dressing rooms, Jesse Brinkley (now 25-1, 17 KOs) knocked down Anthony "The Bullet" Bonsante (now 26-5-3, 15 KOs) in the fifth and final round and then was awarded a technical knockout at 2:29 of the round. The knockdown was the first of the series, and the result was the second TKO so far, following Anthony's third-round TKO of the hopelessly outclassed Brent Cooper in The Contender's fifth episode.

With his win, Jesse becomes far and away the weakest member of the "final four," joining two Latinos -- Alfonso Gomez Jr. and undefeated Sergio Mora -- and the only talented boxer that joined up with the "Gutless Four," once-beaten (by Alfonso in episode one) Peter Manfredo Jr..

Because the final fight was preset and involved two allies, who both viewed the other as the "weakest link," the episode involved little action. For a reward for his win over his outclassed but loudmouthed ally Joey Gilbert in the previous episode, Peter was given the opportunity to spend a little over an hour with legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee (the trainer for legendary heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, as well as for show co-host Sugar Ray Leonard), reviewing the tape of his last fight while receiving tips for improvement in the ring.

In footage not shown on TV, Dundee and show co-host Tommy Gallagher then took all of the five remaning boxers out for dinner. Neither Jesse not Anthony seemed very worried about their imminent weigh-in, which was supposed to take place at the show weight of 158 lb. However, for reasons best known only to executive producer Mark Burnett and his gaffe-prone crew (who continue to refuse to provide an unedited version of the fights, despite two split decisions so far), the "Italian Clan" boxers were permitted to waive the weight limit and fight at 161, permitting Jesse to gorge on an entire "surf and turf" dinner, while Anthony chowed down a filet mignon.

However, Jesse, who weighed in at 171 lb. during Episode 5, still weighed 169 lb. on the morning before the fight. Anthony was also over the expanded limit, forcing both boxers to sweat off lots of water while jogging in "fat suits." Even after an entire day of work, Jesse still weighed in at 161.5 lb, and Anthony forced him to lose the remaining half-pound in a three-hour window before a second (and final) weigh-in. Jesse did. Perhaps that passes for drama in some places.

In the actual fight, both boxers took turns landing power punches -- while looking completely inept at other times. However, the true status of the bout was, as always, impossible to determine from the bits and pieces made available by Burnett and crew. In the final round, though, Jesse caught Anthony with an uppercut to the chin that buckled Anthony's legs -- and Anthony went down to the canvas shortly thereafter. As Jesse drove for the knockout, Anthony's mom and young daughter showed panicked looks on their faces. The referee, realizing that Anthony was caught defenseless in a corner, absorbing lots of punishment, stopped the fight shortly thereafter.

After his defeat, Anthony moaned "No!" in his corner, apparently stunned by his loss to Jesse. Since Anthony was afraid to fight a fair boxer back in his first bout, the fact that Anthony looked at Jesse as someone beatable says more about Jesse's nonexistant chances in the semifinals than anything else possibly could.

The previews for the next round focused on Peter, who appears to have gotten his wish for a rematch with Alfonso. We simply note that semifinal pairings of Peter versus Alfonso and Sergio versus Jesse would be consistent with a longstanding rumor about the final two, which now appears to be completely accurate (despite our initial skepticism).

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