Contender Four, Week 10, Round Two -Ehikhamenor and Hoye Advance Into the Semi-Finals

By Barbara Pinnella

We had another double-header this week, as round two came to a close. There are no members of the Blue Team left. Now the fighters must face off with men that they have lived in the same room with over the past several weeks.

Fight number one on the card had Hino Ehikhamenor meeting up with Deon Elam. These were two of those fighters who became friends, but now it becomes all business.

The first three rounds went to Hino. It was hard to tell at times if Hino was that much in control, or if Deon was just not doing anything, and by being that passive, making Hino look better than he was. Don’t get me wrong, Hino was the definite aggressor.

Round four, and Elam got tough. He looked as if he could finish Hino off, but did not do so. He should have. In the last round, the men went back and forth, both showing tenacity, but for Deon it was too late. In a five round fight, waiting for the fourth to show what you have won’t work.. The scores were the same, 49-46 all around, all for Hino. He will move on along with the winner of the Joell Godfrey/Rico Hoye fight.

Elam had gone into the fight undefeated. Now his record is 10-1. “You know, when you go into a fight undefeated you want to protect that record. You’d like to retire undefeated, but that rarely happens. I didn’t think I should have lost that fight, but when I watched it back last night I could see that I started off way too slow. I know what to do next time. In a five round fight, you can’t come out that slow, you’ve got to go from the get-go.

“Watching the fight last night, I would block a punch, but I wouldn’t come back with a counter. I’d block it, but nothing would come back. My first fight I came out with guns blazing. In this one I didn’t want to come out reckless like that because in the first fight I got caught with punches that I never should have been hit with. I wanted to come out like I normally do. I was more relaxed, but I never pulled the trigger.”

Deon continued with his explanation. “In the fourth round I had Hino hurt bad, and I couldn’t finish him. I didn’t get him out of there. When I got Hino hurt I got too excited and I jumped the gun instead of relaxing a little bit. When you see your opponent is hurt you should settle down a little bit, but I didn’t do that. I just started going crazy throwing punches. That gave him a chance to grab and hold. But things happen and I lost. I’ll just move forward.”

By being in Singapore alone, Elam took time to reflect on how he has handled himself with loved ones and people back home, the things he was doing right and wrong. “I would think of things I could do to better myself not only as a fighter, but as a man period.

“Unless you have been around fighters you don’t realize how you change before a fight. You change as a person, even the way you carry yourself. You get a little mean, because you know you’re going into combat and your life is on the line every time. Sometimes I might be a little too mean, or say the wrong things to my girl friend. She takes the brunt of everything. So some things I might be able to change. I’m the nicest guy in the world, but when it comes to fight time, things change.”

Elam really had a good time on The Contender, but one thing was a bit strange to him. “Living with the guys; it was kind of like sleeping with the enemy,” he laughed. “You form a bond, but in the back of your mind you have to know that we are all here for business, it’s nothing personal.”

He had one thing to add. “Everyone who put the show on, the producers and all, I’m a guy who appreciates the opportunity they gave me.. I thank them all the time for letting me be one of the fighters that they chose to come out there, and hopefully we can move forward and I continue on with The Contender. Yes I had a loss, but that loss is not going to stop my career from moving forward.”

A few weeks ago Deon suffered an injury to his shoulder. He has to do therapy on it two days a week for the next five weeks – he has already been in therapy three weeks. “The doctors don’t want me to do any power training, like hit the bags or push-ups, pull-ups, or weights or anything, so it has set me back a little bit.”

The timing was really bad, though. Elam was supposed to fight on the undercard in the finale. Obviously, that can’t happen now. But Deon will not push things, and is hoping for a fight as soon as he is able.

The second fight found Godfrey getting a second chance in the tournament after being brought back to face Hoye. “I was a little bit surprised,” he told me, “and I was happy to be called back. I wanted the chance to redeem myself.”

Actually, this fight was similar to the first one with regard to command. Hoye easily controlled the first two rounds, his experience showing through. But toward the end of round three, Godfrey started to fire back. In round four Joell really got busy, controlling most of the action throughout. In an exciting round to watch, Joell connected with punishing body shots that Rico had no answer for.

But in round five, Hoye made it clear he was not going to let that happen again. He came back stronger than ever, and just before the bell, one blow caused Godfrey to take a knee. In a fight scored 50-44, 48-46, and 49-45 the unanimous decision went to Hoye, and he moved into he semi-finals.

Obviously, Joell was a lot happier with his overall performance in this fight than the first one he had with Felix Cora, Jr., but he was still not as sharp as he could be, since his time in the tournament was supposedly over. “I could have had a lot more training – I did nothing for two weeks straight. But I was more relaxed and mentally prepared than I was for Felix.

“But Rico did surprise me as far as his counter-punching and movement were concerned. I didn’t expect him to be that quick and his punches were very crisp.”

In his first fight, Joell did not seem to listen to trainer Tommy Brooks much at all, but for this fight he really seemed to focus on what John Bray was telling him. “Tommy and I talked about that after my first fight. I really wasn’t listening to him. Tommy was telling me to do the same things for that fight that John was telling me for this one, but I came in more mentally prepared, which was why it was easier for me to listen to John.”

A better last round might have made a difference, or at least made the fight closer. But Godfrey was realistic about it. “It could have been better but at the same time I was still gasping for air. He gave me some good body shots and they wore me down. Before the last bell rang I took a knee because he busted my eardrum with a right hook. That’s automatically a 10-8 round so it could have been closer.”

Godfrey is very excited about what is happening now with regard to his boxing career. “I’m here in Los Angeles now, training with my new coach Shadeed Saluki. I’m working on basic things as far as the jab, putting more power behind my punches on the right hand, the left hooks, and working the body more. That right there is going to take me a long way. Rico and I are training with the same coach over at 360 gym. In fact, I’m with Rico now as we speak. He’s the one who got me out here to train.

“It’s good surroundings,” he explained. “there’s one-on-one teaching, and being around the competition will take me a long way. Now that I really have a teacher with me you will see a whole new Joell. I have a real trainer and I give him a lot of praise. I didn’t have one before, and now I’m with an elite trainer.”

I am excited for Joell and wish him all the best, and thanks to both he and Deon for talking with me.

Good luck to Hino Ehikhamenor and Rico Hoye as they join Troy Ross and Akinyemi Laleye in the semi-finals

Be safe and God Bless,

Viva La Raza,