Episode number five on season two of ESPN’s “The Contender” was broadcast on Tuesday, August 8.
The well-traveled 35-year-old veteran Grady Brewer of Lawton, Oklahoma, survived a badly cut right eye and a few anxious moments to win a five round decision over the 31-year-old Vinroy Barrett, a native of Negril, Jamaica, who now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
Brewer raised his record to 19-11 (12 KOS), while Barrett’s dipped to 21-5 (11 KOS).
Although both fighters seem extremely laid back and down to earth, it was obvious that they didn’t like each other one bit.
Barrett seems like the kind of guy who never says anything bad about anyone, but he had no problem hurling verbal haymakers at Brewer.
Thinking Brewer would be easy pickings, he selected him as his opponent, prompting Brewer to say, “He made his own mistake.”
While viewers observed their verbal sparring over the past few weeks, I can’t help but think that there is more than meets the eye here.
Because both guys seem so humble, modest, polite and hardworking, the sniping seemed totally out of character for them.
They each had lovely, supportive families and were chasing their own version of the American Dream the hard way. For at least one of them, boxing just might be the easiest part of his day.
Barrett is both a fitness trainer and a housekeeper, but Brewer works alternating 12-hour shifts hoisting and loading tire molds onto a press at the Lawton Goodyear Tire and Rubber Factory.
After enduring a backbreaking shift there, he heads to the gym and then home to his family.
Because of his grueling work schedule, he also alternates his training between mornings and evenings. Coupled with the fact that Lawton is not exactly a fistic hotbed, Brewer found himself relegated to the unenviable role of a traveling opponent.
“I do what I have to do to make a living,” said Brewer a few months before the show aired. “I’ve lost a bunch of fights, but truly believe I could have won them all with better preparation. But it’s hard to prepare properly with my schedule.
“That is why I’m looking forward to going on the show,” he continued. “For a few weeks, I’ve got nothing to think about but boxing. And missing my family.”
While on the road Brewer has lost to current middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in Miami, and Peter Manfredo Jr., who was a finalist in season one of “The Contender,” in Mashantucket, Connecticut, which is a stone’s throw from Manfredo’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.
He has also been stopped by the hard-punching undefeated prospect Kelly Pavlik in Wisconsin and Marco Antonio Rubio in Odessa, Texas.
He dropped and nearly knocked out Sechew Powell when he was still a hot prospect in Laughlin, Nevada, but wound up losing a decision on ShoBox that most observers thought he won.
(Kassim Ouma exposed Powell as not being ready for primetime on an HBO televised show from Madison Square Garden on August 5).
“It is obvious that Brewer, whose nickname of Bad Boy is a misnomer if I ever heard one, has not received many breaks during his career.
He realizes that at his relatively advanced age, “The Contender” represents what is most likely his last hurrah at boxing’s brass ring.
No one can ever accuse him of being a quitter, nor can they say he does not have the heart of a lion. Brewer makes clear that he did not just come on the show to be a participant. He came on the show to win.
If he was the cowardly malingerer that Barrett, as well as some of Barrett’s teammates, intimated, there were plenty of opportunities for him to quit against Barrett. Although winded and bleeding badly, Brewer refused to take that route.
When trainer Tommy Gallagher told him to, “Bring it home, this is fate,” I got goose bumps. This just might be the well-deserved break that Brewer has been looking for his whole career.
If he winds up walking away with top honors, he would be a real-life Cinderella Man. As hard-driving as Gallagher’s message to Brewer was, the message that Brewer had for the viewers and his children said even more about what kind of a man he is.
It is important for him to set a good example for his wonderful children, he said, because they have to know that nothing worth attaining ever comes easy.
“It might have taken me 35 years to do it (fulfill my dream),” he said. “But (they’ll know) I did it.”
That he insists is more important to him than any other rewards he might receive from emerging victorious in such a challenging competition.
He also had strong words for Barrett that should serve as a lesson for us all, not only in the sport of boxing but in the game of life.
“Next time he calls somebody out, he better do his homework,” said Brewer.