Commentary

Alexander outhustled by more experienced Soliman

Australia's Sam Soliman did the "Contender" house a huge favor by sending home fast-talking Max Alexander.

Originally Published: September 19, 2007
By Michael Woods | Special to ESPN.com

Don't say he didn't tell you, "Contender" programming executives.

If the ratings start dipping from this point forward, don't say Max Alexander didn't clue you in as to why.

The fighter described by a fellow "Contender" crib resident as "Don King without the hair" got the boot because he lost to the most experienced member of the cast, Sam Soliman, via decision, on Tuesday night's episode.

We can't be sure that his fellow housemates will miss the 26-year-old New Jersey resident's mischief-making -- he was instrumental in stirring up last week's Jaidon Codrington-Brian Vera almost-physical beef in the house -- but Alexander's antics were certainly tailor-made for the reality TV era.

And he knows it. If you're dubious, just ask him. He chirps and chatters more than boxing's main Max, Kellerman.

"I'm a fun guy, I like to have fun, and I was always out-thinking people in the house," he told ESPN.com. "I was trying to make a good TV show, if the show is going to be good, you have to have differences."

Alexander sometimes had a hard time being his jovial self when his gut started growling at him, which occurred most of his time on the program.

The fighter, who turned pro in 2004 and had a 14-0-1 mark coming into "The Contender," fights at the light heavyweight (175 pounds and under) limit.

He agreed to give the 168-pound, super middleweight class a shot on "The Contender" because he knew full well that the TV time could give his career an adrenaline shot.

Alexander's daily caloric intake in the crib would look proper for a Wilhelmina model, but for a fighter, well, it was a wonder he was able to go five rounds with Soliman.

In the morning, Alexander would eat half an egg white before working out. Then, he'd treat himself to a piece of dry wheat toast. For dinner, he'd have a piece of fish. That paltry portioning would weaken a sofa surfer, let alone someone hitting the gym and running a few times each day.

"I lost weight so fast, my body was like, 'No, buddy, not going to let you do this.' I walk around at 194 pounds. I burned good fat and muscle; I burned away a lot of my power."

His power was in evidence intermittently when he took on the 34-year-old Soliman after the Aussie, who opened eyes when he went 12 rounds in a 2005 loss to Winky Wright, called him out. The problem was, Soliman most often pressed the action, and swayed the judges with his activity and desire.

Before the match, the shy-free Alexander shared one of his methods for pumping himself up.

In his mind, he imagines his opponent "taking food off my family's plate." With this catalyst buzzing in his brain, he said, "I can't lose."

But, in fact, there were two varieties of hunger on display in this bout, and while Alexander trumped Soliman in the foodstuff department, in the hunger-for-victory scenario, the American lagged.

In the opening round, Alexander got Soliman's attention with a stiff counter right. He caught the awkward Aussie, whose chief attribute is his conditioning, lunging in.

In the second, an accidental clash of heads miffed Alexander, and opened a slice over his left eye. (He told ESPN.com the wound took 10 stitches to close.) At this point, Alexander began to lose focus. He became fixated on the referee's actions, rather than his own, or Soliman's.

In the third round, Alexander spit out his mouthpiece after Soliman landed a tremendous uppercut. He did the same thing later in the round after a Soliman head butt, again sending the wrong message to the judges.

In the fourth round, Soliman was credited with a knockdown, but it wasn't clear if it was caused by a punch or a push. Regardless, Soliman started going to the body, negating Alexander's will to trade. He also landed a stiff uppercut with Alexander backed up against the ropes, the wrong place for the man with the smoother movement, technique and accuracy to be.

In the final round, Paul Smith and Sakio Bika, both ringside at the Contender Arena, agreed that it looked as though Alexander didn't have the same desire to win as Soliman. The New Jersey resident did land a right-hand crack that wobbled Soliman ever so slightly. But again, it was too little, too late, at least in the eyes of the judges, who awarded the fight to Soliman.

During the bout, when he had Soliman in trouble, Alexander's brain told him to step on the pedal. His body, he said, rebelled.

"My body was saying, 'C'mon, bro, that's a lot of weight you lost. At 6-3, I'm too tall,'" he said. "Unless you're somebody like [6-1 WBO welterweight champion] Paul Williams, an anorexic … I'm a thick kid. I love to eat, I love food."

So, Max, will the crib and the show be as lively without you?

"I believe the show will miss me," he said. "I believe the show goes down. Who else in the house is bringing it like Don King? It will be boring. Sam Soliman, you can't understand a word he says; Bika and Smith, either. I think the ratings slide."

OK, Mr. Nielsen Meter, apart from predicting a ratings crash, what's next?

"I need a manager to throw me a lump sum so I can box full-time," the talkative fighter said, "and if someone does that, you'll get a champion. Because if I had money, I wouldn't have gone on 'Contender.' It wasn't my weight class."

Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and The New York Observer.

Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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