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Joey Gilbert upsets Jimmy Lange, as Juan de la Rosa quits on NBC's eighth 'The Contender' episode


By Wade Paulsen, 04/18/2005 

In a double shocker, huge underdog Joey Gilbert (now 9-0, 7 KOs) defeated Jimmy Lange (now 24-2-1, 17 KOs), the boxer Anthony Bonsante was too chicken to fight, in a five-round unanimous decision to complete the first round of NBC's The Contender, while last week's winner Juan de la Rosa claimed sufficient injury to pull out of the competition, leaving just seven first-round winners left after eight episodes.

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At the end of the show, the remaining boxers were given a chance to vote a non-winner into the second round. After injury clearances, they were told that only five of the losers were eligible for voting: Jonathan Reid (who lost to Jesse Brinkley in bout 2), Ahmed Kaddour (who lost to Ishe Smith in bout 3), Miguel Espino (who lost to Peter Manfredo in bout 5), Tarick Salmaci (who lost to Juan de la Rosa in bout 7) and Jimmy Lange. Previews for Episode 9 appeared to show that the boxers had decided on Ahmed, and that he would be immediately sent into the ring to face Alfonso Gomez in the first fight of the second round.

The episode started with Juan whining about the cut over his eye from the Tarick fight -- a cut that Sugar Ray Leonard had dismissed as "superficial." When Juan told Sugar Ray that he'd rather withdraw than jeopardize his career, Sugar Ray gave Juan a look of pure disbelief, saying in confessional that "Fighters don't say that. It bothered me."

With no challenge this week, the first part of the episode was devoted to visits to Joey and Jimmy by their families. Joey's stepfather, a doctor, had just returned from duty in Afghanistan and showed up with Joey's mother and sisters in full military uniform (fulfilling one of Mark Burnett's personal fantasies, a link to the current "combat missions" in the Middle East). Jimmy's six-month-pregnant wife showed up with the couple's toddler twins in tow (and a lot of help around).

The fight itself was too close to call from the excerpt shown (or from the enhanced excerpt on the Web). The first round appeared to be mostly Joey's, as he threw a flurry of punches. The remainder of the rounds wereapproximately evenl, as Joey's punching was offset by the fact that Jimmy was a better and more mobile boxer ... albeit one who apparently never learned how to tie an opponent up who was connecting with punch after punch. Joey's sore hamstring clearly limited his movement, but his corner refused to permit that to be a reason for Joey to throw in the towel, and the fight appeared to be even after four rounds.

In the final round, Jimmy dominated the action early, with Joey and his multi-punch attach coming back at the midpoint. Near the end of the round, Joey shoved Jimmy down, but the action was not counted as a knockdown. Nevertheless, Joey was awarded a unanimous decision, meaning that only two East boxers -- Peter and Juan -- survived the first round, along with six Westerners (Alfonso, Jesse, Ishe, Sergio Mora, Anthony and Joey).

The next morning, the East had dwindled to one. Juan went to see the fight doctor, complaining of his slow-healing cut, his sore wrist and his battered body. When the doctor asked him if he felt well enough to continue in the competition, he replied in the negative -- and the doctor promptly gave him a 45-day suspension from boxing, which ended his chances of winning the $1 million prize.

Sugar Ray and the other boxers, though, thought Juan's biggest issue was that he didn't want to lose his undefeated status by suffering an almost-inevitable second-round defeat, and Juan added fuel to the fire by saying in confessional that "the way I was looking at it, going into the second round would be a lot tougher fights, so I decided I should pull myself out of the tournament." In confessionals, Sugar Ray, Alfonso, Sergio and Anthony all took shots at Juan's quick departure for minor reasons on the heels of Joey's upset despite major injuries.

The seven remaining fighters were flown to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas (where the live finale will be held) on the hotel's Gulfstream G-4 jet. During the flight, Stallone attempted to sell the boxers on the idea of bringing back Ahmed. Ishe argued that no one except Alfonso would want to fight Ahmed (which appears to be true, judging from the preview for next week), but a four-member bloc including Jesse, Joey, Anthony and Sergio appeared ready to do Sly's bidding and bring back the controversial Lebanese fighter, apparently in an effort to distract Contender co-favorite Ishe (who had an ongoing war of words with Ahmed before soundly beating him in bout 3).

All this despite the fact that each of the seven contenders was given an equal chance to win a new car in a drawing ... with Sergio (who claimed not to own a car) pulling out the winning number. NBC now plans to run Episodes 9 and 10 back-to-back on Sunday from 8-10 PM, thus revealing 50% of the quartefinal results, and leaving only four bouts to be fought prior to the finale. Although the preview appeared to spoil the Ahmed-Alfonso matchup, the other match is completely uncertain at this time.

(Photo credit NBC)


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