In the fourteenth episode of NBC's boxing reality-competition show The Contender, heavily-favored Sergio 'The Latin Snake' Mora (now 15-0, 4 KOs) pounded his way to the show's $1 million final match by decisively thrashing Jesse Brinkley (now 25-2, 17 KOs) in the last semifinal match, winning by unanimous decision. With his win, Sergio will face Peter Manfredo Jr. (24-1, 10 KOs) in the seven-round bout, to be held at the famed Caesar's Palace venue in Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 24, with the live broadcast beginning at 8PM ET.

The penultimate episode offered little in the way of drama, since (1) the outcome had been widely spoiled and (2) Jesse had advanced this far not through talent, but rather because of the machinations of the dominant 'Italian Clan' coalition, popularly known as the 'Gutless Four' for the unwillingness of three of them to fight anyone with even a modicum of talent. Since there was no challenge, the majority of the episode was devoted to the fight -- although the action in the ring was too one-sided to present the amount of drama desired by executive producer Mark Burnett, meaning that the amount of deception in the editing increased proportionately (for example, round 5, which the viewing audience was supposed to score for Jesse, was shown for about 20 seconds).

Once again, the refusal of NBC and the producers to put the unedited bouts online in any form made it impossible to determine the extent of Sergio's dominance, but Jesse (known as 'ChickenMan' for ducking Ishe 'Sugar Shay' Smith after challenging him to fight on camera) sustained a cut early, was outboxed continually, and was reduced to shooting for a "lucky punch" at the end. Needless to say, he didn't get it.

However, as a consolation, Jesse will be matched up against the other semifinal loser, Alfonso S. Gomez (12-3-1, 4 KOs) on the undercard for the Contender million-dollar finale. In addition, three "fan favorite" bouts have been added, featuring six boxers selected by fan voting. However, the pairings for the bouts are extremely unexciting and once again have fallen victim to the manipulations of the 'Gutless Four'.

According to the Contender web site, the bouts begin with Ishe Smith facing his friend Brent 'The Disciple' Cooper at 11AM Vegas time (9AM ET), followed by the cowardly Anthony 'The Bullet' Bonsante facing the smallest man in the competition, Jeff 'Hell Raza' Fraza at noon, with the "feature" fan favorite match of Jimmy Lange versus Tarick Salmaci at 1PM. The Anfonso-Jesse consolation finals will follow at 2PM, with just the finale held back for live prime-time broadcast.

Although the Jimmy-Tarick match (between two first-round losers) has promise, the other two bouts promise only to be one-sided. Two much more interesting matchups would result by pairing Ishe, the target of the 'Gutless Four', against 'Gutless Four' member Anthony, while the two littlest boxers, Jeff and Brent, face off. According to Alfonso's web site, the boxers were aware of the match-up problems and three of them agreed on a resolution, but the "gutless wonder" in the group messed it up.

Here is Alfonso's on-line comment, after talking to Brent: "just so you guys know, yesterday [B]rent, [J]eff, [I]she all agreed that it would be better if Jeff and Brent fought, and Ishe and Anthony fought, so they agreed except Anthony....the three of them called Anthony and talk to him for a while about it..but Anthony said NO." Considering that Anthony earned his place in the "Gutless Four" by chickening out of a fight against Jimmy Lange, after which Ishe wanted to fight Anthony to teach him a lesson (which is why an Ishe-Anthony matchup would be exciting), it appears that his time in the Contender house did nothing to change Anthony's "cowardly lion" personna.

Also experiencing a meltdown of courage is the so-called "hero" of the show, 'Gutless Four' member Joey Gilbert. Joey would have been selected to a "fan-favorite fight," perhaps even the match between himself and fellow quaterfinal split decision loser Ishe that was advocated by some viewers, before (according to the Reno Gazette-Journal) he asked his personal doctor to send a letter to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, saying that his three ribs that were broken in his split-decision loss to Peter EIGHT MONTHS AGO had not yet healed. As a result, the commission declared Joey "medically ineligible" to fight, allowing him to duck out of his contract with the show.

For anyone still sympathetic to Joey, his subsequent quotes made clear the seriousness of his "injury." "The tournament’s over. The show’s over. The show has been canceled [for next year],” he said. “Why in the hell am I going to get in there not 100 percent? For what? The tournament’s over. If it was a shot at a million [for first place], I would be pleading [to fight]. And not just taking a shot at a million, a chance to be champion of The Contender … it would be different."

Perhaps. But there was a reason that the 'Italian Clan' became known as the 'Gutless Four', and Anthony and Joey just illustated it in living color.