Of the batch of contestants on the third season of The Contender, there is no fighter with a goofier fighting style than Sam Solimon.
The Aussie who opened eyes with his effective performance in a 2005 loss to Winky Wright is herky jerky hitter who frequently leaves himself open to counterpunches by squaring up to his target and winging looping shots.
But Solimon, age 33, is also the most experienced and best conditioned of The Contenders, and those attributes carried him to the next round, as he took a unanimous decision win from the mischievous New Jersey native Max Alexander on the most recent episode of the ESPN fightgame reality show.
The episode kicked off with a look back at The Don's win over Texan Brian Vera. Codrington's win gave his gold team control over who fights who.
SRL told Jaid he was impressive, “a force to be reckoned with.”
The Gold Gang started an annoying chant of “Go gold team go gold team, go gold team go.” We heard it a few times and familiarity bred contempt…
The 26-year-old Max and Sam got their game on during a game of pool, talking pace. Sam was winning on the table, would he be able to translate that into the ring? Oh shoot, I already established that in my lede…Moron…
Donny McCrary calls Max the Don King of the house, and we see the man at work, stirring up S%$&.
Wayne Johnson tries to beg off training, saying he didn't get a good night of rest and has a cold. Pepe Correa won't hear of it, and demands he get his butt in gear.
Max tells us he has a degree in criminal justice and that he wanted to be a cop, but he's doing the boxing thing for only the last four years. He's come a long distance in that time, for sure.
Back at da crib, Max and David Banks play pool, and swap game-talk. Paul Smith doesn't care for Max's wordplay and crap-stirring ploys. Banks craves a shot at Smith, it seems. But the two teams convene separately and determine who'll get it on.
Sam is the rep for the gold squad and he calls out Max, saying, “I want to fight the best.” Max misspeaks, and says, “This is my breaking point,” when in fact he meant to say that this was his prime opportunity.
By the way, that Alexander made it to this point is impressive enough. His mom and dad were both into drugs and such in Jersey, and he was in foster care from age 7-12. His mom, however, has lifted herself up, and is working and living a life. Dad, though, is locked up, still not able to walk the straight path. He's already spurned the more well trod path, so we tip our cap at TSS to Max.
Max talks with his wife, Denise–they got married on March 7, and have a little boy, Max III, age 20 months– and he tells us that he was put on this Earth to box. He wants to get his family set money-wise by boxing, he says. Word is that Max was ultra-weak trying to keep his 6-3 frame at 168, so we'll have to gauge his energy level during the bout.
In the first, Solimon is his usual pesky, sloppy self. Max hurts SS with a counter right, and it looks like he carried the round. He looks so dry, though, so his body may be drained of liquid. Buddy tells SS to move his head, and keep the pressure on.
In two, SS does. There's a butt, and a cut opens over Max's left eye. He still delivers some solid rights, but gets distracted with Sam's tactics. He spends time pressing the ref to do the right thing instead of concentrating at the task at hand. Max hits smartly off the ropes and maybe won the round. SRL thinks it's 1-1 at this time. Pepe tells Max to land uppercuts. Buddy tells SS not to be so wide.
In the third, Max spits his mouthpiece twice and it's the beginning of the end for him, energy wise. He does though land uppercuts and Sam has to hold on. Max gets warned for spitting the bit again, and you have to think the judges are frowning on this. But he almost has SS out here, and won this round. The judges wouldn't and didn't agree though so I guess we'll have to watch the entire round later…
In the fourth, SS gets a knockdown on perhaps a push. Pepe yells that wasn't a knock. Sam presses the issue, rushing forward, but Max still picks him off coming in. Max still isn't getting a sweat! Apart from the “knockdown” maybe Max won that one too…on some cards, mine maybe, but not the ones that matter. Buddy told SS to stay low and not get whacked by the uppercut.
In the fifth, Sam pressed with good energy but the lefty Alexander still has enough in reserve to keep moving. And, if he isn't as busy, he lands the more telling blows. That still is the point of the exercise, no? No, if you're judges 48-46 Mendoza, 48-45 Rochin and 50-44 Jen-Kin. We must remember, we only saw the excerpts so who knows. But Sam after says Max was the toughest man he's faced, and that includes the undefeateds on his ledger. “He's got such a huge future ahead of him and one day he'll get another crack,” Sam said.
“I lost the fight myself,” said Max after. “I blame myself, Sam was an easy victory for me.”
Denise asked him what happened after so perhaps onsite, the fight looked plausibly like Sam's.
Pepe came in after and reamed Max. “You're too busy being defensive minded,” he told him.
Max told TSS that he thinks Pepe overtrained him and believes he won the fight, but says he's not bitter. The ref, he said, favored Solimon, the more well known boxer.
This appearance, he said, will open doors for him. He took an acting class at school and liked it. “Getting punched in the face is not an easy job,” he said. “Maybe I can act like I'm getting punched in the face.”
He plans on going from 175, to cruiser, and then making some noise at heavy. He works as a mentor to juvies in Jersey, and is hoping a manager will stake him some dough so he can concentrate fully on the sport. From the excerpts I saw, and from what Solimon said, and based on the fact that he only picked up the sport four years, I'd say that manager might be making a good investment.
FYI: ESPN2 is showing the entire fight each week Thursday at 12:30 AM.