Friday, January 9, 2009

The Contender: Episode 5 Review

Through the rest of The Contender: Season 4, we'll be doing a weekly story on the show. I know it's not a popular thing to admit among hard-core boxing fans, but I'm a fan of the show and have watched every episode from each season. While the fights are edited, and we don't get to see all the action - it's still boxing - and with only five rounds to win or go home, these guys really lay it on the line.

On to this week's show...

Ehinomen “Hino” Ehikhamenor (Gold) 12-3-0 vs Darnell “Ding-a-ling Man” Wilson (Blue) 23-7-3

As the rounds went by, the more ragged and sloppy Darnell Wilson looked – and the more Hino Ehikhamenor (pictured) grew in confidence. It wasn’t long before Hino was doing a little showboating, and while I desperately wanted him to pay for such audacity, Darnell just didn’t have it in him to connect. One desperate lunging attempt after another failed to find the mark. Darnell was just too spent from the rigors of making weight.

It was Hino’s choice to fight Darnell, thanks to the Gold Team’s win in Episode 4 - and it was a selection that came as a bit of a surprise. Even though the show had focused time on Darnell’s struggle to make the 200 pound cruiserweight limit, Hino’s expected choice was Ryan Coyne.

Back in episode 2, Ryan had caused a stir in the gym by wearing a bandana with Hino’s name on it. The meaning was clear – I’m calling you out.

Ryan seemed like a more obvious choice of opponent. Not because Darnell was unbeatable, but with only 39 career rounds under his belt against non-descript opposition all in his home state of Missouri (thank you, – Ryan looked like he might be in a little over his head.

Nobody takes kindly to being called out, but Hino decided not to take the bait. He said he wanted to take the tougher fight, but it’s possible he believed that Darnell was the more vulnerable opponent.

Making weight is one of the less talked about aspects of the sport, but when it’s a factor it can override everything else. When the body has been taxed to the max cutting pounds – all the experience and skills in the world can become meaningless.

Darnell’s weight had been an issue since the show started, and in the previous episode he’d tipped the scales at 210 pounds, prompting his trainer John Bray to say, “Darnell’s going to have problems if he’s called out.” John put Darnell on a strict diet, but early scenes from this episode indicated that Darnell was still struggling to lay off snacks.

On the day of the fight – only 10 hours before he was to step into the ring - John checked on Darnell’s weight. He was still heavy. Darnell didn’t seem bothered, and said he would do what he needed to do. That meant hitting the gym, wearing a sauna jacket, and melting off those last few pounds.

Darnell made weight – barely. Thanks to all his late efforts, he came in right at 200 pounds. He said he felt strong. There’s a difference though between feeling strong in the gym, and feeling strong when the bell rings – and Hino confidently predicted Darnell would tire quickly.

He was right – and from watching Darnell’s desperate efforts, it looked like Darnell knew it too. From the start, he fought like he felt he needed to end the fight as quickly as possible. He tried to force everything, loading up with bombs instead of working with the jab.

Only having to worry about big right hands, Hino easily avoided getting tagged. He consistently beat Darnell to the punch with his superior hand speed and danced out of the way of Darnell's lunging efforts. Hino was winning the rounds, and looked comfortable doing so, but clearly his trainer Tommy Brooks felt he could be doing more. During the break between the fourth and fifth rounds, Tommy tried to offer some instruction, only to have Hino argue with him – at which point Tommy just stepped back and said, "Alright, I got nothing to say, man. This is your fight."

That kind of cockiness didn’t matter in this case, as Darnell just didn’t have it - but if Hino’s to go anywhere, he might want to pay attention to his corner.

The scores were 50-44, 50-45 and 50-44.

After the fight, Darnell shouldered the blame for what happened. He said he fought as hard as he could, but his body just wouldn’t respond. “I will not let myself go into a fight like that again. I cannot do this sport being unprepared. It’s too dangerous.”

For Hino, the second round awaits.

I imagine he won't choose to fight Gold Team teammate, Deon Elam. That means either a match-up with Felix Cora Jr., or slotting himself into the empty final slot in the second round and leaving the choice up to the winners of the fights still to come.

- By Andrew Fruman (


Michael Nelson said...

Very nice. I didn't watch it, but sad to see Ding-A-Ling Man go out like that, he used to be one of my favorites.

Might have to start checking this out.

Lee Payton said...

The Contender is good for boxing, but I can't say I've seen a single episode of the show.