Fight game oldsters will tell you that purses for lower level boxers, far from increasing with the times, have decreased or stayed the same since the 1950s.
A four-round fighter might make less today than he did when Truman, the man who popularized the saying “The Buck Stops Here,” was in the White House. Yes indeed, the bucks have, to an extent, stopped the correct direction of flow in an ideal world.
Ideally, the fighter would, could and should get a healthy cut of the proceeds from a fight, since, duh, he’s the one putting his ass on the line. But as regular Joes in this nation can tell you, the ones that see their bottom line getting weaker year after year since 2001, wage stagnation isn’t just a theory that can be spun by political B.S.meisters.
So it is with pleasure that I relay to you that the winner of tonight’s two-hour Contender finale, be it 29-year-old former IBF super featherweight champion, Michigan resident Forbes (32-3, 9 KOs), or 35-year-old Oklahoma Goodyear tire plant worker Grady Brewer (21-11, 12 KOs), will take home a nice chunk of change.
The victor gets $500,000 minus Uncle Sam’s greasy-handed grab, and payouts to management and corner personnel. The loser will make out with $75,000, minus IRS and support staff deductions.
And beyond the victory payday, which will represent the largest pot of gold for either man, will come a monstrous uptick in recognition. Either man, after the Tuesday showdown, which kicks off on ESPN at 10 PM Eastern (and is preceded by an undercard webcast featuring Wright/Barrett and Clark/Curiel on ESPN.com at 8:15 PM), will get stopped on the street 1000 times more than they were before, and will be able to parlay that into more earning power in future fights.
The favorite coming in to tonight’s scrap is conclusively Forbes. While he debuted as a 130-pounder in 1996, Forbes has looked solid as a welterweight in this second season of the Mark Burnett-created reality show. (Note: the fighters in the final will be allowed to weigh up to 150 pounds at scaletime). He’s an accurate, busy puncher, who doesn’t move quite like he did in his heyday, when he beat John Brown for the vacant IBF super feather belt, but does dance well enough to steer clear of Brewer’s busy hands.
For Forbes, he pegs this bout as by far the most monumental of his successful career.
“This is my biggest fight,” he told TSS. “The exposure…a lot of people who are not boxing fans will be watching this.”
Almost everyone tried to dissuade Forbes from signing up for the second season of The Contender, he says, telling him he would be undersized.
But Forbes hasn’t felt truly comfortable at 130 pounds for some time, and would probably have been better suited for a step up in weight class years ago. He isn’t worried that Brewer, who has campaigned at middleweight since turning professional in 1999, will be able to bully him.
“I’m not worried at all,” Forbes said. “I beat the biggest guy on the show, K9 Bundrage. I made him back up. I’m a throwback to the Henry Armstrong era.”
Forbes has had success, winning the title, and been decently compensated (he took home $112,000 to fight David Santos in 2002, in what would have been a defense of his title had he been able to make weight), but this is a brand new ballgame for him if he wins. He is ultra confident that he will.
“Brewer will be punished,” he says. “I have the smarts and the speed.”
For this bout, Forbes will be joined in the corner by the Contender elder statesman Tommy Gallagher. The two hit it off famously on the program and will continue their association. Forbes has been coached by the Mayweathers throughout his career, but Jeff Mayweather is working with Shannon Briggs for his November go with Sergei Liakhovich. Floyd Sr., Forbes said, has given his thumbs up to Gallagher.
“I talked to Floyd Senior Saturday morning,” he told TSS. “He gave Gallagher a compliment. He said…he calls him ‘the old guy,’ [and said] ‘he’ll get you through the fight.’”
Furthermore, the bond shown on the show between the two was legit, Forbes said.
“I’ve hung out with his family,” Forbes said. “His whole family. He’s old school. He’ll tell you straight. I want it straight, no hidden signals.”
And while Brewer will tell you that Gallagher is most useful as a motivator, Forbes says he brings ample technical expertise to the table. “We’ve been in camp for five weeks,” Forbes said. “He has a lot of technical knowledge, and about stuff like spacing. He’s a dying breed, a great cornerman and trainer. You don’t see so much of that anymore.”
Fewer than 1/3 of Forbes’ wins come from KO, so, we asked, will he be able to show enough pop to put off Brewer?
“About punching power, that’s why it’s called boxing,” he said. “But if he does what he says he’ll do, try to stop me, he’ll be punished.”
Before the finale, by the way, K9 Bundrage (23-2, 13 KOs), the 33-year-old Detroit resident, will take on Norberto Bravo, the 35-year-old Arizonan with a 22-11-3 (12 KOs) for the bronze.
Brewer, for his part, thinks Steve Forbes has had his time in the sun. He soaked up the rays, and its time for him to find a hammock in the shade, and give Brewer a shot.
“He already had a shot,” Brewer told TSS. “I don’t think he deserves it.”
Brewer is well aware that his 11 losses are a rather eye-popping number on his resume. But, he says, he’s had to work full-time since he turned pro, often working 12 hour shifts at a tire plant in Oklahoma. Now, he’s been able to step up his game to realize his full potential.
He basically managed himself on the way up, taking fights against more heralded opposition (like Jermain Taylor, Sechew Powell, Marco Rubio) for OK money (he made $10 Gs for each bout). Plus, personal issues took their toll on his mental strength.
“I cheated on my ex-wife and I was divorced in 2001,” he said. “I wasn’t doing the right things in life. No drugs, but now I feel right about my decisions.”
He’s remarried now, and feels like he’s got a lot more to give, even at 35 years old.
Brewer has a solid trainer, Shadeed Suluki, in his corner for the last few months. “I improve in each fight,” he said. “I’m at a different level now.”
“I’m gonna beat Forbes down,” he promised. “It’s going to have to be stopped. I’ll be too much for him.”
Of course, Brewer isn’t known for being a one-punch fight finisher, but he says, his power has improved.
Sugar Ray Leonard said that he’s heard through the grapevine that Brewer’s pop is improved, but overall, he’s leaning toward Forbes in the finale.
“I think he wants it the most,” SRL told TSS. “He talks about that. When and if he wins, he knows there will be more to come. He says we’ll get to see the true Steve Forbes. This will propel him to stardom, he feels.”
“I give the edge in experience and talent to Forbes,” said Leonard, who came off as a trusted confidante and mentor to the gang of 16 that started the second season. “Grady is very fast, with an unorthodox style. He’s a tough cookie. But Forbes has great hand speed. He has it all.”