“The Contender” Season 5: Recap & Finale Preview

By Caryn A. Tate on November 8, 2018
“The Contender” Season 5: Recap & Finale Preview
The finalists both earned their place the hard way, by defeating everyone in their path.

The producers of the show pulled out all the stops for its fifth outing, which sees its finale airing this Friday…

The reality series The Contender has seen its winners go on to capture multiple world titles: Sergio Mora and Sakio Bika, in particular, went on to achieve a good deal of success in their careers after winning The Contender championship in seasons one and three, respectively.

The producers of the show pulled out all the stops for its fifth outing, which sees its finale airing this Friday. The season features Andre Ward as its host, and a better mentor to the fighters they couldn’t have found. The retired world-class boxer has sparred with a few of the contenders, given boxing and life advice that has clearly been hard-earned, and seems to truly care for the fighters competing on the series. When they’re preparing for a bout, or when they’ve just lost and are struggling with the disappointment, Ward has visited them in the dressing room and offered motivation and comfort.

The coaches this season are two of the world’s best: Naazim Richardson and Freddie Roach. The wisdom and guidance provided by these experienced trainers has been tremendous, at times cinematic in delivery and timing. Roach, in particular, seemed to have a tremendous bond with the blue team of fighters earlier in the season. Richardson’s connections with the boxers seemed to gain intensity as the episodes went on and the more experienced fighters began working with him.

The boxers, listed in alphabetical order, numbered 16 in the beginning. The 16 middleweights were broken up into two teams, Blue (trained by Freddie Roach) and Gold (trained by Naazim Richardson):

Blue team:
● Brandon Adams
● Morgan Fitch
● Marcos Hernandez
● Devaun Lee
● Michael Moore
● Gerald Sherrell
● John Thompson
● Eric Walker

Gold team:
● Tyrone Brunson
● Quatavious Cash
● John Jackson
● Ievgen Khytrov
● Malcolm McAllister
● Shane Mosley Jr.
● Lamar Russ
● Daniel Valdivia

Early in the season, there was a lot of personal drama between fighters: squabbles erupted, borne out of 16 hungry, excited, competitive, and anxious fighters living in close quarters with those they may have to fight later. Some, like Michael Moore and Devaun Lee, tried to intimidate and get into the other mens’ heads. Sometimes it worked, but it also backfired: Lee hounded Shane Mosley Jr. from the moment the season began, trying to force Mosley to question his ability, toughness, and his merit as a fighter. When Lee finally got his wish and faced Mosley in episode six, it didn’t go the way Lee expected it to. While it was a competitive match, it ended with a flurry of punches from Mosley that caused the referee to stop the contest in the final seconds.

The show has done a tremendous job of helping the audience get to know the fighters as people. There’s Lamar Russ, who detailed the struggles he’s faced since being hit by a drunk driver on the road. Ievgen Khytrov revealed that despite his 500 amateur fights and having the distinguished title of Olympian, he learned in the amateur ranks that he couldn’t trust the judges and their poor scoring nearly derailed his illustrious career. Eric Walker learned to box in the prison system in his native Louisiana and vowed that, once he was released, he’d make a success of his boxing career, and has wowed the audience with his skills and no-nonsense attitude. Mosley, forever dealing with being underestimated and misunderstood, is in the shadow of his father’s legendary name—most of the other contenders assumed he was soft simply because he had a good upbringing and is a nice guy. All of the 16 athletes are likable, have intriguing and often unforgettable personal stories, and they’re all legitimately talented fighters to boot.

Quite simply, season 5 of The Contender has given boxing fans the best of what we really want: evenly matched fights and the ability to get to know the boxers better as individuals. Every Friday, the show has delivered the most consistently good boxing out there with none of the politics that often bogs down the fights that are being televised elsewhere in the traditional format. Another big plus is the fact that the bouts on The Contender don’t have commentators, except for host Andre Ward and sometimes the season 1 Contender champion Sergio Mora, who give periodic insight into what they see happening during a fight. It’s refreshing not to have the bias fans often get when watching boxing via the standard platforms.

The series also provides unique insight into the challenges professional fighters face. We see the heartbreak following a loss, both for the boxer and his family. We get an intimate look at how brutal the sport can be, whether physical or mental, and how frightening it is for an athlete, his team, and his family if he takes a few too many punches. It’s also clear how much a fighter’s mindset can affect his performances, and the value of a good coach who knows what to say and when.

This Friday, November 9, the season finale will be streamed live on the show’s Twitter page (https://twitter.com/TheContender) at 7pm PT/10pm ET. If you’ve missed the season thus far, Epix offers a free two-week trial on their website (https://www.epix.com/).

The main event finale will be 10 rounds rather than five, adding to the difficulty. The drama surrounding the climax couldn’t be better if it had been scripted: the two finalists, Brandon Adams and Shane Mosley Jr., are close friends. Each seems genuinely happy for the other that he made it to the end, while of course struggling a bit with the difficulty of having to fight a friend.

Also streaming will be the co-main 8-round bout: Eric Walker vs. Michael Moore, a match-up that could steal the show. Walker’s activity and Moore’s intensity should add up to a highly entertaining fight.

Several of the other boxers from the season will appear on the non-televised undercard, all in six round bouts: Quatavious Cash vs. Marcos Hernandez; Morgan Fitch vs. Gerald Sherrell; Ievgen Khytrov vs. Malcolm McAllister; and Devaun Lee vs. Tyrone Brunson.

The finalists both earned their place the hard way, by defeating everyone in their path. Adams is a highly skilled fighter who, he revealed during the season, was unfairly put on the shelf by his promoter three years ago after suffering a knockout loss and hadn’t fought once during that time. Because of that, everyone was unsure how he would look once he got in the ring on The Contender. When he finally fought in episode seven, defeating Tyrone Brunson in convincing fashion, it was perhaps the most impressive performance yet this season. The way Adams so impressively came off of a lengthy layoff showed the level he’s performing at. Adams is athletic, has good feet, and utilizes timing and ring smarts to lay traps for his opponent.

Mosley has more than proven he belongs here. He’s not skating by on his father’s name; he has made it his mission to build his own legacy and make his own name matter. While most people underestimate him because he didn’t grow up on the streets or in poverty, the truth is Shane is fighting for his manhood. It’s different from the situation most boxers are in, but no less motivational for him, as he’s already proven.

Mosley has an unorthodox way of fighting that seems to throw his opponents for a loop. While Adams is the slicker fighter, Mosley has a way of tricking his foes and catching them with shots they didn’t see coming. Add to that his uncanny ability to come on in the later rounds and flurry with power, often hurting or dropping his opponent in the process, and it’s been a recipe for success.

It remains to be seen how much Adams’ and Mosley’s friendship will play into the finale. They’re both professionals who seem to have their heads on straight, so perhaps they’ll be able to set their relationship aside fully until the final bell. Regardless, their styles and deep desire to make something of themselves will doubtless result in a thrilling bout.

Check out more of Caryn’s work at http://www.CarynATate.com and follow her on Twitter@carynatate

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