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Juan de la Rosa defeats Tarick Salmaci in NBC's seventh 'The Contender' episode


By Wade Paulsen, 04/11/2005 

With one fight in the first round still remaining, one thing is certain on NBC's The Contender reality competition boxing show : an Arab-American will not win the million-dollar first prize.

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In the show's seventh episode, youth defeated experience as former Top-10 middleweight Tarick "The Arabian Prince" Salmaci (now 19-2-0, 5 KOs), 32, dropped an unanimous decision to 18-year-old Juan "El Gallo Negro" de la Rosa (now 13-0-1, 11 KOs), who started fighting professionally in Mexico at age 15. With his loss, Tarick joins the show's other Arab-American boxer, Ahmed Khaddour, on the sidelines prior to the quarterfinals.

In a distortion of American geography, Tarick, from Dearborn, MI, fought for the West, while Juan, from Harlingen, TX, fought for the East. Juan joins Rhode Island's Peter Manfredo Jr. as the only East boxers to win in the first round.

The episode began with lingering hard feelings over the decision by West boxer Anthony Bonsante to double-cross everyone and fight the East's Brent Cooper last week. After Anthony won easily, his roommate Joey Gilbert moved to a different room.

When it was time for the West's reward, top prospect Ishe Smith refused to participate, taking the principled stand that he wouldn't celebrate Anthony's victory when he wasn't happy about Anthony's win. Ishe then watched from the sidelines as rapper Ja Rule handed out $2,500 watches to the other members of the West team and took them out for a night on the town -- but Ishe stuck to his guns and stayed behind with the East.

The challenge the next day gave the winning team the right to determine the final two matches of the first round. Two three-man teams, made up of the two boxers on each team that hadn't fought yet plus one prior winner (Peter for the East, Ishe for the West), competed in a challenge to knock down identical concrete-block walls in one minute intervals, then haul the rubble to a pickup truck in 60 seconds. The team loading the most rubble onto the truck would win -- and once again, the West emerged victorious, with a loaded truck weighing 7300 lb. compared to the East's 6655 lb. In total, the West won six first-round challenges; the East won only one.

Juan had already told the West that he would rather fight Tarick than Joey, and Tarick accomodated his wishes by choosing him, leaving the remaining first-round matchup as Joey versus the East's Jimmy Lange, the boxer Anthony chickened out of fighting last week.

In the actual fight, Juan's inexperience was obvious, and Tarick managed to take advantage of it early. However, Tarick "lost his legs" early in the third round, and the two then swung at each other from immobile positions reminiscent of the "rock 'em, sock 'em robots" of the 1960s. Unfortunately for Tarick, the fact that he had only fought once since October 1999 (in March 2001) was telling. Juan simply had much more left in the tank at the end of the fight, and the outcome was never in doubt.

Despite his loss, Tarick, a graduate of the University of Michigan who works as a relocation broker for RE/MAX, was happy that he'd finally been "given a shot" -- as well as a fair amount of "bling" from all of the West's victories.

The previews for next week indicate that Joey's father, a naval flight surgeon who had been stationed with U.S. special forces in Afghanistan but who just returned home unexpectedly, will show up in time to see Joey's match with Jimmy -- a match which also should show something about the level of college boxing, since Joey is a three-time NCAA national champion and twice was named Outstanding Boxer at the national tournament.

For his part, Jimmy has to be hoping that he runs into better judging than in his last fight, where he won a 10-round split decision ... with one judge awarding Jimmy 9 rounds, a second judge awarding his opponent 9 rounds, and the third judge giving JImmy a razor-thin 95-94 edge in the scoring. Anyone wondering why boxing has such a corrupt reputation need look no further than those scorecards; hopefully, all the judges on The Contender will at least be watching the same fight.

(Photo credit NBC)


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