It was the bloodiest fight yet in the Contender Arena. The medical officer called it off in the middle of the fifth round. The judges handed down a split decision. But after all the gore, peril, and controversy had subsided, it was clear that Peter Manfredo Jr. was the victor over Joey Gilbert. “I feel like a world champion,” he smiled. “One fight closer to a million dollars.”
Back at the loft, the fighters marveled over the bout-ending gash Joey suffered over his right eye. “I don’t wish that cut on no one,” Sergio Mora said. Jesse Brinkley agreed. “I wanted the kid to feel what it was like to be professional fighter tonight, but I didn’t want it that extreme,” Jesse said.
Ahead of his upcoming fight with Anthony, Joey’s ordeal seemed to form a cloud of doubt over Jesse’s mental fortitude. “After seeing that, I almost quit boxing I think,” he said, only half joking. His usual laid-back confidence had become a little subdued. “I guess Jesse just got kind of, maybe scared, or freaked out,” Peter said.
The next morning, Jesse did not feel any better. “I have to lose ten pounds, I have a hurt hamstring, and I’m an emotional mess today,” he said in an interview, after struggling to get out of bed. “I don’t feel like a fighter right now. I feel like I’m ready to go out to pasture.” The pressure to make weight was hanging over his head. Before every fight, both boxers agree to keep their weight within certain restrictions. With one day before his bout against Anthony, Jesse weighed well over the agreement.
During daily training, Sylvester Stallone collected the fighters near the sparring ring. “Well Peter, you prevailed again. So obviously, you deserve this. Congratulations,” Sly said. Sugar Ray Leonard bestowed upon Peter the “IV” medallion, symbolizing his secure place in the final four. His reward for his victory over Joey would be a special, one-on-one training session with legendary boxing genius Angelo Dundee. “He will critique your fight, and you will have the rare opportunity to learn from the best,” Sly said.
Meanwhile, with his pre-fight weigh in rapidly approaching, Jesse was still eight pounds too heavy. “Brinkley has a really good work ethic, but his lifestyle doesn’t reflect how hard he works,” Contender cornerman Jeremy remarked in an interview. Jesse now faced the challenge of dropping eight pounds of water weight in one day. He strapped on a special heat retenti retaining suit to maximize his sweat rate, and went jogging in the hot Southern California sun with his buddy Peter. “I’ve never had to lose this much weight in one day in my whole life. Not even my whole career,” Jesse said.
When the weigh-in ceremony finally arrived, Jesse tipped the scales at 161.5 pounds. He was a half-pound too heavy. Anthony was not going to let Jesse off easy: “We’re friends, but when it’s contract time, and it’s fight day, I’m not your friend. I’m your worst damn enemy.” The official informed Jesse that he had an hour to lose the extra half-pound, or the fight would be forfeit, and Anthony would automatically advance to the final four. “Psychologically, I put him at a disadvantage,” Anthony said in an interview. “He’s pissed off now. Totally going to take him out of his game.”
After a menacing five rounds, the medical officer called off the fight, and Jesse was awarded victory by technical knockout. After four rounds of being battered by Anthony, Jesse’s savage headshots decimated his opponent’s ability to continue. “I really wanted to stop him,” Jesse said in an interview. “I really wanted to knock him out. Not because I hate him, but because a style like his, you should knock those kind of fighters out.”
“Granted, I lost tonight, but I didn’t lose the war,” Anthony said from his locker room. “I can go home to Shakopee, go back to my job, hold my head high and be proud of what I’ve accomplished. My kids think I’m a winner. That’s all that counts.” The fighter from Minnesota packed up his belongings, hung up his gloves, and left the Contender Gymnasium. “I’ll be back, because I’m not a quitter,” he promised. “I’ll be back.”