Recently, I have been riveted by the amazing reality show "The Contender". The show started with 16 boxers who have fought each other every week until last week only 4 boxers were left. These were Alfonso Gomez, Jesse Brinkley, Sergio Mora and Peter Manfredo Jr. The story of the first semi-final fight between Gomez and Manfredo contains several powerful success lessons for everyone.
Alfonso had defeated Peter in the first fight of the competition but Peter had been voted back when another boxer had to leave because of injuries. Peter Manfredo Jr. was desperate to avenge his loss against Alfonso. He described his feelings as follows: "That loss (against Alfonso) keeps bothering me. That was one of the worst nights of my life. Until I get that rematch and beat him that'll keep bothering me."
The four boxers were told: "One more victory and you're fighting for "The Contender Belt" and one million dollars at Caesar's Palace. Your destiny is in your hands."
In the meantime the rematch was on: Alfonso Gomez v. Peter Manfredo Jr.i.e. World War Two. Peter was relieved to get his second shot at Alfonso: "I just can't wait until tomorrow night!"
He asked his little daughter if he would win. "Yes" she replied simply. Young kids believe their parents can do anything even if they have failed before.
The series is not just about boxing. It is about the moving relationships which the boxers have with their own families and with each other. It shows how people of different backgrounds and national origins are basically the same underneath. They love their families and are motivated by them to do well.
The boxers also have growing respect for each other. In fact every fight in this series has been an all out war. They are all true warriors. Alfonso commented: "The group are not resenting each other but are growing close together and will keep in touch when all this is over."
Peter wanted his revenge but had no hostility to his opponent: "Alfonso is a great warrior. I took him lightly when I fought him. You can only respect him."
Alfonso's mum told him: "Don't get into heavy exchanges, please! Your opponent hits hard and you must protect yourself at all times." Alfonso replied that he did not go looking for heavy exchanges. They just came to him. His mum was not convinced!
Peter explained how he felt when training: "There's times you feel great and there's times you feel scared. It took that loss for me to wake up and become a man."
On the wall of the training area at the Contender Gymnasium is a saying which is worth remembering:
"If you want to box, train; If you want to win, train harder."
Alfonso reflected on his achievements at the Gym: "I'm the underdog here. No body expected me to be in the final four. I'm the lightest. I have the worst record. Here. So when I make it to the final, I'm going to be happy because I did the impossible." He also looked ahead to the imminent fight. Visualisation techniques had worked for him in previous fights. He tried to see and feel himself winning:
"You see yourself fighting and at the end I visualise myself winning. If you can see it, it can happen. I see it; I feel it. This is my night I can feel it."
Peter's dad felt that his son had got his confidence back and was ready to win. The trainer, Tommy, told Peter to prepare for war and death or glory: "You got to box, but you got to fight. This is your shot and if you've got to go out, you go on your face. This is it. Next a million dollars."
Both boxers were confident but realised that the other might win. Peter commented: "If he can beat me then he belongs in the final but if he doesn't I'll be there."
Alfonso knew he had to produce the goods on the night of the fight or not at all: "This is it; there is no tomorrow. Tonight's the night! I feel like I'm holding the million dollars with me right here." Alfonso hugged an imaginary million dollars to his chest. Alfonso was great at visualisation. He continued:
"And no one is going to take it away from me. Seven rounds. I'm going to give it all. Itís going to be World War II out there. If Peter beats me, he deserves a million dollars. When I came here I had no confidence but after beating Peter he raised my confidence level. When I beat Ahmed it went through the roof. So here I am fighting a rematch."
Peter again explained his motivation: "What's driving me tonight is definitely not the money. It's the loss. That's what is going to drive me to victory tonight. My hand's going to be raised at the end."
Alfonso was hit with a great uppercut in Round 1 and lost the first round. His corner man told him: "Your output needs to come up a little bit." His mum told him to keep his hands up. So did his dad: "Put your hands up, son."
In Round 2, Alfonso got in a good body shot forcing Peter down on one knee. This round went to Alfonso but his dad told him not to get overconfident. His dad was right. Round 3 went to Peter who showed some good boxing skills.
Before Round 4, Alfonso's corner man was getting worried: "We need to dog fight this guy." Peter's wife told him: "You got him!" She was wrong. Alfonso won Round 4.
Alfonso's mum was getting aggressive: "Hit him up and down," she urged. Alfonso took her advice and won Round 5. Peter's dad was suffering whenever his son was hit hard but kept urging him on and fighting the fight with him. He was throwing some powerful punches in the air outside the ring.
Peter won Round 6 with a great uppercut. Victory was in sight.
Alfonso's corner man told him: "You need to work, son. It's the last round of your life, son. It's either here now or never. You need to go out there and fight like you never fought before." Peter's dad told him to 'suck it up'.
In Round 7 Peter caught Alfonso with a great cross but the fight was very even as they battled it out toe to toe like true warriors. Alfonso's Mum, realising the danger, told him to move.
"Hell of a fight! Hell of a fight!" said the referee.
Peter won by unanimous decision. "I fought the fight of my life. I am extremely happy. Vegas baby. Time to go to Caesar's palace - my dream!My wife was so happy and my father was so happy. You know I was the first one out of here. I felt like I washed my loss away and that's the best feeling in the world. Alfonso had a chin of iron and has the heart of a champion. He belongs here. He made me fight the best fight of my life twice. I appreciate him for it."
Alfonso was desolate but put a brave face on his loss: " He had his hands full against me tonight. He didn't walk all over me. I never gave up and I stood toe to toe. I didn't lose against a nobody. He is a great fighter. I banged it out with big guys and I came to the final four. This is not the end for me. It is just another step towards reaching my goals of becoming world champion. I came short tonight and Peter gave it all and deserves it. He has a great heart Maybe he lost against me in the first fight but on the day that counted he won. His punches connected better. Maybe sometime in the future we will meet again. Viva Mexico!"
Alfonso's mother told him: "You made it this far; very far. The whole world knows you are a great boxer." His father too offered words of cheer: "You have nothing to be ashamed of. There are better things to come. Don't worry."
Sugar Ray commented: "Peter couldnít wait to avenge that loss. I lost to Duran and it hurt me bad."
Stallone replied: "Duran made you a better fighter. That which does not kill you, makes you stronger. Peter Manfredo became a better fighter because of Alfonso."
There are many success lessons from this episode of The Contender. The advice on the gym wall is one great lesson for a start. "If you want to win, train harder!" Peter showed how you could use a humiliating defeat to motivate you to a victory. Sugar Ray had done the same thing when he had been beaten by Duran. That which does not kill you makes you stronger. Great competition improves your skills and your character. Both Alfonso and Peter believed they would win. This belief made them both try amazingly hard and made them create a memorable fight. Victory could have gone either way but Peter was a little sharper on the night.
The power of family support both in defeat and victory was clearly demonstrated. Alfonso showed clearly how to take defeat and still be ready to move ahead with your life goals.