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Sixteen boxers strive to be the next boxing superstar, as they try to harness their emotional backgrounds into a lesson in the sweet science.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN

Sylvester Stallone & Sugar Ray Leonard
Den Mother: Jackie Kallan
Head Trainer: Tommy Gallagher
Ring Announcer: Jeff Connor
Creators: Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg
EP: Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sylvester Stallone
Packager: Mark Burnett Productions, Dreamworks SKG, Rogue Productions
Sundays at 8pm ET on NBC

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Web design by Jason Elliott. Logo by Chico Alexander. 

"Random Acts of Courage" - March 10

Last time, the 16 contenders arrived in LA for the fight of their lives: a shot at a title bout for $1 million. But they have to prove themselves in the ring every round. For example, after West Class won the first challenge, Alfonso Gomez was chosen to call out Peter Manfredo, Jr., who was risking an undefeated world ranking for a shot at the top. In the end, Alfonso gave Peter a hard lesson in humility, as he became the first to be eliminated.

After the fight, East and West return to the gym, as Ishe asks if the members of East would like to sit down with the members of West to discuss the night's events. Not present: Alfonso, who's celebrating somewhere no doubt, and Peter, who is gone. Without even saying goodbye.  Ishe tells the other fighters how much it hurt to see Manfredo lose, especially in front of his wife and daughter. "Peter's done."

Jonathan agrees, saying that watching Peter's family almost brought him to tears. Trainer Tommy gives the fighters a collective slap to the backs of their heads and promises that Peter is not as despondent as they are. Turns out that Tommy was asked for another shot. "That's what I like to hear," the trainer says. He tells the boxers a story about a fighter who was beaten so badly he needed to be carried out of the ring. As he lay in the stretcher, he looked up at Tommy and asked for a rematch.

All together now... HARDCORE!

From that we go to the Reid house, where Jonathan's family is being highlighted (if this is any indication, then Jonny's dead meat). Jonathan and his wife Anna have four children with one on the way... and looking to pop any second now. As Jonathan says goodnight to the children, he finds one of his sons hiding under the covers in his bed and plays with him for a few minutes.

Jonathan asks after his wife and suggests that she should rest more often at this late stage in her pregnancy. Big mistake. Trust me.

Next day, we head back to the gym, where it's training as usual. Sugar Ray notes that he loves imparting his knowledge and experience to younger fighters. While he's imparting, Jesse's proving, with a lethal uppercut. Seeing this, Jonathan makes a mental note: "no cotton-pickin' games."

Jesse, meanwhile, joins Ishe in watching Jonathan spar, both in awe of his talents. Meanwhile, who should strut into the gym than the Pretty Boy Floyd of the group, Ahmed. He's keeping a book on the boxers, he says, but Ishe is "too ugly" to grace his magnum opus. Speaking of which, Mr. Ugly is sending a message to East Coast: if you want him... come and get him. "But you better bring it."

Ahmed proceeds to argue with Ishe... "Don't talk to my friends, talk to me." "I'm serious, man. I beat your ass." "You're a chicken." "Oh, I'm such a chicken! Who you fought?" "Your mother, your brother, your sister." "I'll kill you, man." "Do it then."

Enter Sly, who tells Ahmed that he needs to calm down. "Instead of being 200 degrees, I want you to be 100 degrees, then normal," Sly cautions. Wait.. isn't 100 degrees slightly normal?

After Sly and Ahmed return from their love-in, we have news from the high and mighty. Sly calls Alfonso out and gives him a symbol of his victory: a golden glove... on a chain. That bling is more than just stylin'. That symbolizes that he is now in the final eight, meaning that he won't have to fight against until seven other fighters win their bouts.

Not only that, but we have... George Foreman (he of the famous grill) wanting to know who the fastest on the speed bag is. Jesse steps up to the plate and gives it his all, as if to say "Gee, I haven't kissed his ass yet." So while the West-siders tour the gym with George, Jeff from the East watches from the upper deck. Broken.

And if THAT wasn't enough, we get a barbeque with George with a non-George Foreman grill. While chefs do all the work, George gets to know the boxers a little better. Jesse (of course) tells him that he has two children and a girlfriend he's never married. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Enter awkward "The Office" pause (hey, did we mention that "The Office" starts this week?). George begs to differ: "I tie the knot so tight...!" Jesse seems to be lost on the concept.

Back with the East-siders, as Jonathan calls a meeting... without Ahmed? Oh yeah, he's getting massaged. Why? Because he's Ahmed... and there's no known cure. Jonathan says that it's important to win the next challenge, encouraging his team not to get up on the argument from earlier.

George, meanwhile: "Plan your work, and work your plan." No better person takes this more literally than Ishe, who only hears "your" and thinks that he's caught up in team versus team politics and factionism and not knowing why he isn't looking out for his own interests.

That said, we go to the next challenge at the Rose Bowl. You may recognize this place as a) a college football mecca and b) an "American Idol" audition spot. At the top of the stadium are planted 14 flags, 7 for each team. The teams must run to the top of the stadium, retrieve one flag, bring it back on the field and plant it. After planting the flag, they leave a man behind.

Yep. Mark Burnett is making suicides into a challenge (no offense, but having played rec football, I know, that's what they're called)

The challenge continues until the team/last man retrieves the last flag and brings it back on the field. At that time, the teams will unwrap puzzle pieces found on the flagpoles and construct a puzzle-banner on the field bearing the inscription "No Pain, No Gain."

It's pretty simplified, as we instantly go from six to two. East takes the early lead to the first flag, but West retakes the lead and they don't look back. But both teams plant their flags on the pedestals below, and it's time to figure out the puzzle (remember, half of the game is 90% mental). In the end, it's West with the option. Again.

In the locker room, everyone thinks about Ishe and wonders, "Who he's gonna fight is the question." Most of the West-siders think it's a rhetorical question since Ishe has been itching for a fight with Ahmed and has been quite vocal about it. When Ishe stays silent, Tarick asks, "We thought you were gonna fight...?" But Ishe doesn't see the point, as Jesse points out that "if there's one thing he doesn't appreciate, it's a man not of his word."

But Ishe would rather talk the talk, so it's Jesse who'll fight. "I want the guy that suits me," he says. "I want Jonathan Reid." Alfonso is wary: "I think Reid could outbox you." Ishe's thoughts: "Reid is 33-1. He's never lost to nobody but a champion."

Back in the gym, Jesse toes the line with... Jonathan Reid. "I don't think it was a wise decision. Jonathan Reid will be helping the East Side get even with the West Side."

Yes, Jonathan Reid refers to himself in the third person.

That night, both fighters talk with their families. Jesse's girlfriend, Colleen, is in love with his fatherhood skills. She shaves his head in the kitchen as he wonders how their daughter will react to watching him fight for the first time. Only their son has seen Jesse box.

Meanwhile, Jonathan tries to get some sleep as Anna tries talking to her. Good luck with children bickering in the background... and the foreground. After giving them a severe ribbing, Jonathan thinks about what he's fighting for and, instead of ribbing some more, he goes to pray with them.

Next day... the weigh-in...

28 Age 32
5'10" Ht 5'11"
160 Wt 160
23-1, KO 16 Rec 34-1, KO 20

Press conference, Sly asks Jonathan what his prediction will be for the outcome of the bout. He thinks that this match will even the score. Jesse was tired of the whole "Ishe/Ahmed thing" when asked about the outcome of the pick. To which Ishe just says, "Let's make this about you, not about me. You fightin' tonight." A spar between the two ensues as Ishe only walks with "Gimme a break."

A reporter from Access Hollywood (never one to toot their own horn, NBC is) notices that Jonathan seems awfully quiet. He's saving the energy for the fight.

Jonathan leans in, and Ishe tells Jonathan that he doesn't care about the team, he would rather see Jonathan win.

Jesse admits to being a little frightened. "I'm just a young man...with a big heart," Jesse says as he tapes his hands (once shattered in a fight). Meanwhile, Jonathan is praying.

Tonight's Main Event: Brinkley vs. Reid

Your ring announcer tonight is Jeff Connor. The card is set, the gloves have been touched. Now.... llllllllllllLET'S GET READY TO RUM-BLLLLLLLLLE! (Wolvie-style disclaimer: obviously, because this is pretaped television, some of what goes on is edited. What follows is a televised-move-by-televised-move account).

Round 1: Jonathan draws first blood by landing a haymaker at Jesse. Sees and opening and goes for it.  Jesse answers back with fast glove work. He wasn't just kidding with the speed bag earlier. Jesse caps it with a hard upper that makes Jonathan's head pop like a rock'em sock'em robot. Jonathan also sees an open charge and goes to the chin of Jesse. It's pretty even matched, with Jesse in a world of hurt...  Time up.

Round 2: Neither fighter takes the initiative as the round starts. But Jesse gives Jonathan some distance... Big mistake, as both come with combos. Remember Jesse's hard upper? Here we go again! Time up...

Round 3: Some footwork... Jesse fakes left and hard uppers again! Jonathan is not going to forget that move. At the clutch, Jesse delivers another hard right! Jesse clearly the aggressor. Jesse's right shoots forward with the force of a freight train, throwing Jonathan back. Hard.

Round 4: Jonathan enters with a few body blows followed by a left jab,  managing to drive Jesse back, but will it be enough? That might be. He lands a heavy left body blow, forcing Jesse back a bit, but Jesse answers with a clinch combo. And another. Both are wincing in tiresome agony. And another hard upper! Jesse won't quit!

Round 5: Jesse catches air with is 1-2 to begin, so he goes back to what works... short combos, followed by a freighter to Jonathan's face. But Jonathan has a freighter of his own! A few more punches and... that's it. No mas. Fight's over.

This one goes to the judges, who turn in a unanimous victory for.... Jesse Brinkley! Tarick brings Brinkley's children into the ring to see their father as the two pugilists embrace.

So it's Jonathan Reid going home, as he notes that it hurts to lose in front of his family. He asks his son how he thinks he did, and the little boy tells his father that he won.

As the family leaves ahead of him, Jonathan can only say that it wasn't his time or his season.

Well, it soon will be. Next time, factionism heats up further.

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