Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Contender's Latin Snake Slithers, Hisses Into Finals

We’re getting close to the end. Two fighters now remain after an awfully good and tough bout between semi-finalists Jesse Brinkley and Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora.

Spending time with these fighters over the last few months, via the phenomenon of reality television, gives me an appreciation for the sport of boxing that I’ve never had before. Having a growing connection with each athlete also increases the emotional stakes each week. Sergio talks about buying a house for his family if he wins the $1 million prize, Peter Manfredo Jr. (who reached the finals already by defeating the tough, rugged Alfonso Gomez) talks about spending more time with his family. Jesse, who has always been a bit of a mystery, a bit of a wildcard, is more vague, though he gives the appearance of someone who just can’t stomach the thought of losing.

While I know full well that my emotions are being set up by the music, the lighting, and the reality-savvy editing, I can’t help but be swept away by these dreams of greatness. In the end, I don’t care about the set-up because these fighters represent the American Dream: fighting for something better against obstacles both physical and mental, as well as the unfair realities that life often brings.

But to see hard work, talent, and that intangible quality known as heart succeed is to bring hope that you can succeed in life by throwing your all against some greater goal, some greater good.

This week, Sergio Mora used his slithery and elusive tactics to defeat a talented, tough, and resilient fighter in Jesse Brinkley. Because Brinkley had fought recently against Anthony Bonsante, I believe he was not at his best and therefore did not put up his best possible showing in the seven-round match against Mora. Nonetheless it was a good fight, but not up to the magnificent standards we’ve seen over the past several weeks.

Mora versus Manfredo in the finals is everything we could have asked for. Both fighters exude heart, toughness, class, and determination. Mora is a charismatic guy from the mean streets of East LA. He’s a thinking man’s fighter, a reader of philosophy and a believer in outthinking the opposition to win. He has even professed his desire to become a full-time writer (to prove that the pen is truly mightier than the glove, perhaps?).

My heart is with Manfredo, however. Although I now live outside of LA, I’m an East Coast guy at heart. And Manfredo, from Rhode Island with a New England accent to match, screams East Coast and heart all at once. After losing to Gomez in the first week of the competition, he was voted back in after another fighter was disqualified. His comeback trail culminated in his rematch victory over Gomez, a triumph of skill and fortitude and boxing savvy.

The finals are going to be a sight to behold. I honestly don’t know who will win, but I’ll be there with my own personal weapon – my words – to take it all down. The final bout will be televised live on Tuesday night from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. I’ll be blogging along with the fight, and will have my thoughts and analysis published as soon after all is said and done as I can.

The Contender is a special show: a reality program about real professional athletes going after a dream. I hope NBC sees its value and returns it for next season.

No comments: