Jackie Kallen: What Happened To “The Contenders?”


By Jackie Kallen

Boxing fans will occasionally ask me what happened to the 16 fighters who made up the cast of “The Contender” that first year on NBC back in 2005. I have kept in touch with some of them, but I was also curious what happened to the rest of the guys.

Here’s the update:

Sergio Mora: Known as “The Latin Snake,” Mora won the $1,000,000 and it was predicted that he would be the next big thing in boxing. He is now 31 year old and is 23-2-2. No longer undefeated, he suffered his first loss against the late Vernon Forrest in 2008 and then lost to Brian Vera last year. He had draws against Elvin Ayala and Shane Mosley and is due to fight Vera again on August 11 in Texas.

Alfonso Gomez, jr.: Also 31 years old now, Gomez is fighting up-and-coming prospect Shawn Porter on July 28 in San Jose. He is now 23-5-2 and lost his last fight (to Canelo Alvarez) last September. He was also stopped by Cotto. It may be getting time for Gomez to think about hanging the gloves up.

Peter Manfredo, jr: This likeable boxer is beloved by fans and fellow boxers. Known as “The Pride of Providence,” he will be 32 this fall and is retired after losing to Chavez, jr last November. He amassed a 37-7 record and decided to call it a day after Chavez, jr. stopped him in the 5th round.

Jesse Brinkley: Going on 36 years old, Brinkley, from Yerington, Nevada, hasn’t fought in over a year. He was stopped in both his last two fights (against Lucian Bute and Peter Quillin. His record is now 35-7.

Jeff Fraza: This story has a sad ending. Fraza was killed in February of this year. He was only 34 years old. Retired since 2006, his official record was 17-3 and he was never stopped in any of his fights.

Miguel Espino: At 32 years old, he is still in good shape but hasn’t fought since Kelly Pavlik stopped him in 2009 in Ohio. His record is 20-3-1. That was his only loss since the show aired.

Tarick Salmaci: From Dearborn, MI, Salmaci was pretty much retired when he did the show. Called “The Arabian Prince,” he is in the real estate field now and has done well since retiring. He is 40 years old now and left the sport with a 19-3 record. Like Fraza, he has never been stopped.

Anthony Bonsante: “The Bullet” was one of the older guys on the show and is now 41 and retired. From Minnesota, he was a solid club fighter who accumulated 47 fights in his career and retired with a 32-12-3 record.

Brent Cooper: This 38 year old fighter from Nashville was a sweet guy whom everyone on the show adored. Friendly and kind-hearted, he only fought twice after the show aired and has been retired since 2008. He ended up with a 20-6-2 record.

Juan de la Rosa: He was the baby of the cast and was predicted to be a sensational prospect. He is still only 26 years old, but hasn’t fought in five years. He lost three times after the show went off the air and he never developed into the boxer everyone thought he would.

Joey Gilbert: Now a practicing attorney in Nevada, boxing was never Gilbert’s only career choice. He is now 36 and ended his career with a 20-3 record. Unfortunately, he retired with the distinction of having been penalized for using steroids.

Jimmy Lange: Still boxing, Lange is scheduled to fight in October. He is 36 and has a 38-4-2 record. He is a huge draw in the Fairfax, VA area and still draws large crowds whenever he fights.

Ahmed Kaddour: The 30 year-old known as “Babyface” is still fighting. He just fought in June in Denmark and is now 25-2-1. He has never been knocked out and still has hopes of becoming the Jr. Middleweight Champion of the World. He is training now in Montreal.

Jonathan Reed: “Reid Dawg” is going to be 40 years old and is still fighting. His record is now 35-15 and his last fight was against Scott Sigmon in February. He is also a good R & B singer who has sung the National Anthem at fights.

Ishe Smith: Also still boxing, “Sugar Shay” is 34 and is has a 23-5 record. All of his losses were by decision. His last fight was an impressive win over Ayi Bruce in May.

Najai Turpin: “Nitro” came to “The Contender” with an 11-1 record and lost to Sergio Mora on the show. Before the show debuted on NBC, Turpin committed suicide. He was 23 years old.

Though the show did not discover the next Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquaio, it was a great concept and I hope another network will take the idea and run with it.

Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen

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