Season Three of ‘The Contender’ Begins

By Tom Donelson
Updated: September 9, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — ” The Contender” takes a new twist as six of the original 16 were eliminated by using modern technology to judge the athlete skills. The Sparq Group tested the fighters’ power, skills, endurance and reaction.

Old timers will ask, what does this have to do with boxing and will argue what occurs in the ring is what counts. Certainly that is true but these skills, when mastered, builds a more complete boxer.

If nothing else, what Sugar Ray Leonard is attempting to do is bring boxing into the 21st century and many of the skills required in boxing may be better developed through new training technology.

These tests showed that some fighters simply did not come in shape or near peak shape. As Leonard noted, this was golden opportunity for these fighters, why not show up in shape?

One fighter eliminated was Ruben Williams, who admitted in his post interview that he needed more time to get in shape. Daniel Santiago came in over 30 pounds overweight, with one week to get to 168 pounds, so he was sent home as well.

In other cases, it was time and rust. Rhoshii Wells, a former Olympian, had over two years off and his quickness appeared gone.

In the final Sparq test that’s designed to test quickness in the later round, Wells perfomed poorly.

The test is done after a long work out and shows how much a fighter has left. Wells showed no speed and Leonard along with the trainers feared that the lack of quickness made him vulnerable in the later rounds. Maybe the test showed that Wells career may be close to over.

Is Wells suffering the effect of ring rust or maybe something more serious, the erosion of skills that only age can produced? If nothing else, this particular test can show if a fighter is over the hill or simply too rusty to fight top flight competition.

With trainers Buddy McGirt and Jose “Pepe” Correa on board, this tournament includes step up in competition.

With solid title contenders peppered with young up and coming fighter, The Contenders series is giving these fighters new opportunities.

For the contenders, it means future bigger pay day and another shot at a title and for the younger ones, a big pay day now plus future career advancement. For all of these fighters, fame may follow.

Past Contender champions have become house hold names and given opportunity to fight big fights including championship bouts.

The Contender has created past boxing personalities and for many of the fighters in the Contender series hope for is lightening strike back.

What makes this series different is that six of the boxers were eliminated before the first fights began.

In addition to the Sparq tests, individual sparring determined who was to be eliminated.

La Farrell Bunting suffered a cut during the sparring and the injury eliminated him.Others were eliminated for other reasons but after the first show, ten fighters remained.

The series will have some interesting match-up potential and at least two fighters, Sam Soliman and Sakio Bika had fought for titles recently, but most interesting fighter may be David Banks, a self managed and self taught fighter. With natural talent, Banks will be working with some of the trainers in boxing and it will be interesting to see how he progresses.