U.S. Beats U.K. In The Contender Series

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 16, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Cornelius Bundrage stopped Colin McNeil in the seventh round and the Contender international competition ended with a bang. Bundrage knocked McNeil down three times before the referee stopped the fight and this victory gave the Americans four wins in six fights.

The Contender series has been a plus for boxing and this series provided yet another stage to promote the sport.

The International aspect of the competition adds sizzle to the fights and Leonard instinct to have the Americans fight in front of a hostile crowd added drama to the whole event.

There were six eight round fights and for the most part, the fights were evenly matched with some dramatic surprises. Freddy Curiel knock out of Ross Minter may have been the most dramatic moment of the series and the key to the Americans’ overall series win.

Curiel was behind on points and getting pummeled by Minter. Minter needed just to keep standing and this would have given the Brits a two fight lead with four fights left.

Instead, Curiel stopped the tough Brit and gave the Americans an unexpected victory.

Anthony Small began the series by out boxing Walter Wright and surviving the American all out attack in the final round as Wright nearly did to Small what Curiel did to Minter.

The rest of the fights went as predicated but yet the fights proved entertaining and the Contender did what they did in previous shows; combine young prospects with old veteran.

For me, the most intriguing was Robin Reid. Reid was a former Super Middleweight champion and had not fight since his lost to Jeff Lacy. His victory over Reid set the stage for Lacy challenge to Calzaghe as Lacy knocked Reid all over the ring.

Reid needed to win just to keep the British in the hunt for the Sugar Ray Leonard trophy and needed an impressive victory to keep his career alive.

His opponent was Jesse Brinkley, a tough brawler. Reid out boxed Brinkley easily but he did not look impressive. Yes, he won but Brinkley was not a fighter with anywhere near Reid accomplishment but he managed to stay in the fight.

A few years ago, Reid would have easily stopped Brinkley and maybe Reid was suffering from ring rust.

He had only two weeks to prepare for the fight and he basically squeezed in two months of training in two weeks and it showed.

His jab missed its target but his experience proved the deciding factor but there was nothing here to suggest that he is still an elite Super Middleweight.

The real winner may have been Sugar Ray Leonard for he put together yet another successful Contender series and more importantly, proved an adept matchmaker as he put together a competitive program.

The choice of Great Britain proved correct as the British fans provided enthusiasm that made the bouts even more exciting.

Fans appeared excited for each fight and contrast this to a typical Vegas bout in which the fans show up for the main event and leave quickly after to hit the gambling tables.

The foreign competition and team concept adds to the drama and it something that boxing should do more of.

Leonard showed that a good card can fill an arena. And the Contender have allowed young fighters to develop and improve their skills as well as putting the best that boxing has to offer on display.