Breaking down The Contender
The popular reality television series, The Contender, returns for its fifth season, finally. Mark Burnett, in association with EPIX, producer Mark Van Wagenen, will look to retrieve the series after 9 years. The execs will be joined by respected trainers Freddie Roach and Nazeem Richardson as well as the host of the show, boxing great, Andre Ward.
The previous series produced a handful of fighters who became well known contenders like Peter Manfredo Jr and Alfonso Gomez. It also produced two former World Champions in Sergio Mora and Ishe Smith Jr.
The show begins airing August 24th and will follow the paths of 16 fighters vying for the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance at opportunity, fame and fortune. I’ll preview my eight fighters who will likely steal the hearts of the viewing public with their stories, heart and fighting spirit. Journey with me as I breakdown, ‘The Contender‘.
The Favorite- Ievgen Khytrov
The Ukrainian was on the fast track to stardom. After 14 fights he was being compared to Gennady Golovkin. People were actually wondering if Khytrov was up to the challenge of facing GGG sooner rather then later.
That was a short-lived brain fart.
Khytrov was stopped by Imannuwel Aleem in January of 2017, bringing to an end his undefeated record and beastly aura. He responded by racking up back-to-back victories to end the year and now has his sights set on winning ‘The Contender’.
Khytrov is highly skilled and a big puncher which usually leads to a lot of one-sided knockouts. Khytrov will have to beat out a list of fighters who are veterans or have faced competition better than Khytrov. Khytrov surely has the skills and pedigree to defeat any of the fighters on the show.
The Money Bet – John Thompson
John Thompson has the ring experience and quality of opposition needed to win a tournament of this format. Thompson has competed at the highest level, losing to Liam Smith for the vacant WBO Junior Middleweight title. He also dropped a decision to fringe contender Willie Monroe Jr.
Thompson has to understand that this is probably his last opportunity to gain momentum and footing as he makes one final crawl towards the mountaintop. The bright lights and cameras shouldn’t effect him and the opposition shouldn’t scare him, but is he ready for a reality TV type atmosphere and format style? We’ll see but Thompson surely should be a favorite heading into the show.
The Name – Shane Mosley Jr
When your father is a future Hall of Fame inductee and one of the best fighters of his generation, the expectations will probably be too lofty to exceed. Mosley was fed your typical gimme opponents but every time he’s stepped up the competition, he’s lost. Mosley Jr will need to use this platform to prove he’s a good fighter and to try to shed some of the shadow his father has cast over his career.
Mosley is probably a long shot to win the tournament. He’ll need a good opening draw and a few upsets along the way or he’s probably going home early. With his name recognition and charming looks, Mosley will surely get his share of the camera.
The Sleeper – Brandon Adams
Brandon Adams is no stranger to the win or go home aspect of The Contender as he was the runner-up in ESPN’S Boxcino tournament in both 2014 and 2015. However, he was knocked out by John Thompson in the 2015 final and it was the last time he fought – a long 3 years ago. There’s no telling how Adams feels both mentally and physically but ones thing for sure, he’s your prime example of a fighter with a puncher’s chance.
People are going to fall in love with his story and he’s going to be a fan favorite for as long as he’s on the show. But make no secret about it, this is his last chance at resurrecting his career. An early exit for Adams and he might as well hang up his gloves because his phone won’t be ringing anytime soon.
Feel Good Story – Quatavious Cash
After seeing his brief intro for the show’s promotion, I can’t help but to pull for the fighter from Atlanta. Unfortunately like many fighters with no promotional backing, Cash has been inactive for 14 months. However, he didn’t sit on the couch and let it affect him, he relocated to Vegas and has been sharpening his skills. Cash will see a lot of fighters on a level he’s never seen before. Fortunately for him, the underdog role usually comes with less stress and expectations. Like I said, I’ll be rooting for him and the viewing audience might find them a new favorite fighter to root for.
Redemption Story – Daniel Valdivia
Valdivia had it all, the looks, the skills and a promoter that has molded and created the most champions in the history of sport. Than he ran into Vladimir Hernandez and his career momentum was brought to a screeching halt. He dropped back-to-back decisions to Hernandez, unanimously, and was dropped from his promotional contract.
Valdivia is a very skilled fighter and is the former NABF Super Welterweight champion. There’s a reason why a company like Top Rank invested time and money into him. With his back now against the wall, Valdivia needs to show up and show out.
Surprise Surprise – John Jackson
Jackson has been to the base of the mountaintop three times and he’s fallen short all three times. In his fight with Andy Lee, Jackson was cruising through four rounds and really putting a beating on Lee. It all changed in the fifth round when Lee viciously knocked out Jackson.
Jackson received another high-profile fight in 2016 when he challenged Jermell Charlo for the vacant WBC Junior Middleweight title. It ended in Jackson losing by stoppage and disappearing from the spotlight since. Now Jackson, equipped with the experience, has all the tools and ring savvy to beat anyone in the tournament.
The Veteran – Tyrone Brunson
Brunson has seen it all, traveled all the roads by car and plane and now his journey takes him to a place rarely seen by an ‘Opponent’, a career changing opportunity. He’s faced your typical Midwest tomato cans, blue chip prospects and former World Champions. For Brunson, this should be just another day at the office.
Brunson should be the most relaxed fighter in the tournament. Win or lose, Brunson’s phone will continue to ring in regards to fights until he chooses not to answer the call anymore. Whoever draws Brunson, they better bring their lunch box and be ready to receive that work.
Get to know the fighters on their Instagram feeds ahead of The Contender’s Aug. 24 preview: