Will East Coast boxing survive NBC's The Contender?

In a special Thursday presentation of the second episode, Nashville's Jonathan Reid, whose only previous loss was a bout for the WBA middleweight world championship against William Joppy in December 2000, dropped a unanimous five-round decision to Las Vegas's Jesse Brinkley. Reid's defeat means that the two most highly-regarded East boxers (Reid and Peter Manfredo, Jr.) have become the first two fighters to leave the competition.

In the challenge to determine which team was allowed to pick the match for this episode, both teams raced through Pasadena's Rose Bowl to grab flags, then had to rearrange a puzzle (spelling out, "No Pain, No Gain") in the correct order. Although the East had a slight edge after the flag retrieval, the West (with Jesse sitting out) quickly solved the puzzle and won its second straight challenge.

During the debate for setting the week's match, most of the West, led by Jesse, advocated a match between trash-talking rivals Ishe Smith and the East's Ahmed Kaddour, a Lebanese native who currently lives in Denmark. Ishe, however, drew back from the fight, after which Jesse called him a "little chicken" who wouldn't back up his words. As tension between the two Las Vegas natives escalated, Jesse then proposed his own match against Jonathan.

Even after the match was set, tensions between Ishe and Jesse continued to build, highlighted by Jesse telling the pre-fight "press conference" (with NBC's Access Hollywood) that "I'll put myself on the line" because "I'm disgusted with the move that Ishe made," adding that Ishe should "shut up, put up, go hard or go home." Ishe yelled back at Jesse that the upcoming fight "is about you, not me" and stormed out of the press conference.

In an unaired video clip on the Yahoo! web site for the show, it turns out that manager Jackie Kallen actually had to follow Ishe onto the street and talk him out of quitting the show at that point. Apparently executive producer Mark Burnett's crew decided that one Osten Taylor was enough. Nevertheless, Ishe then told Jonathan that he'd like to see Jesse get beat ... a move that might not make him very popular with his West teammates in the future. Looks like Ishe now has to contend with two intense rivalries, but perhaps that's what he wants.

The choppy editing of the fight, unlike episode 1, made it impossible to tell who won or what the score should have been (although Mark Burnett supplied a lot of editing cues to prepare viewers for a Jesse victory). Instead, the end of the episode was a discussion between hosts Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard and trainer Tommy Gallagher, apparently intended to assure viewers that the judges got it right.

However, the absence of a complete version of the fight on line (the so-called "complete" version on Yahoo! is, in fact, a heavily-edited version that adds little action to what was shown on the air) makes it difficult for boxing fans to evaluate whether Jonathan Reid (now 33-2, 19 KOs), who is a more technical and less "loose" fighter than Jesse Brinkley (now 24-1, 16 KOs), actually deserved his second loss. Perhaps, in addition to the so-called "complete fight", Mr. Burnett and crew could also include an UNEDITED and ACTUALLY complete fight (which would only need to be about 20 minutes long) online in the future.

With Jesse's victory, it would seem that the chances for an Ishe-Ahmed match in episode 3 of The Contender, which will be aired in the U.S. on Sunday, March 13, at 8 PM ET/PT on NBC, have grown. The team challenge is a dodgeball match, which may give the boxers from both teams a chance to work out some of their increasingly fevered aggression.

The East will certainly set up an Ahmed-Ishe match if it wins the challenge (if for no other reason than to eliminate the trash-talking distraction; during this episode, Stallone had to take Ahmed aside and order him to cool down), while it appears that the only options that Ishe will have if the West wins will be (1) to agree to the match with Ahmed or (2) to open himself up to more harsh criticism from Jesse.