This "Contender" is actually a contender

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

History has shown that most of the fighters who competed on the first two seasons of the boxing reality series, The Contender, were at best C-level fighters who had a personal story that made for good television.

But Jaidon Codrington may be about to change that. There may soon be a Contender fighter who really is a living, breathing in-his-prime contender.

Yeah, this is the guy who was once knocked out in 18 seconds.

Of the first round.

But there's little resemblance between the guy who was decimated on national television by Allan Green and the guy who will on Tuesday fight Sakio Bika in the finale of the Contender Season Three on ESPN at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.1 "When you get knocked out like that, you never get over it," said Codrington, who is 18-1 with 14 knockouts. "But you have to move on. You have to look at it and say, 'Is that it for me?' or 'Am I better than this and do I get up and figure this out?' Losing was a difficult experience for me, but, ultimately, it made me better."

Former world champion Sugar Ray Leonard, the host of The Contender, said he had few doubts Codrington would be able to regroup. He had watched Codrington from afar for a long time and was impressed by his combination of quickness and explosiveness.

Before fighting Green in a bout that was televised nationally on Showtime, Codrington was 9-0 and had won every bout by knockout. He was half of a tandem being billed in New York as "The Chin Checkers."

He made a decided step up in class to fight Green on Nov. 4, 2005, and barely had gotten his robe off before the fight was over. It was almost as if he were hit before he was looking.

"It's not a crime to get knocked out, first," Leonard said. "But it's especially not a crime to get knocked out by Allan Green. The kid can punch and he caught Jaidon. It's not like he was getting beaten round after round and then finally went down. This was a knockdown that just – boom came out of nowhere. The fight hadn't started."

And when producers of The Contender made the decision for Season Three to use super middleweights, Leonard's mind drifted to Codrington.

Of course, he remembered the dramatic knockout. But he also remembered the skills that Codrington had shown and the untapped potential he felt was lying inside that wiry body.

"I knew Jaidon because I'd seen him fight," Leonard said. "But what was more important to me was, I had seen him work out. And I knew from what I had seen that this kid hadn't put all of his product on the table. He still, even now, hasn't shown what's in the bag. He has a lot of ability.

"He's a legitimate prospect. He has good hand speed and a lot of power and a lot of skills to go with that power. He's a young guy still putting it all together."

Every bit of what he's learned will be put to the test against Bika, an awkward fighter who has already been in with three world champions since 2006. Bika, 28, fought to a four-round technical draw with Markus Beyer in a WBC super middleweight title bout. He then gave Joe Calzaghe a run for the money in an IBF-WBO super middleweight title match.

Earlier this year, Bika lost a title eliminator to Lucian Bute, who went on to win the IBF 168-pound belt.

Bika definitely has been in with the better competition, but Codrington is unconcerned. He believes he's a different fighter than he was on the night that he faced Green.

"Skill-wise, I've changed a lot of little things, but mentally, I think that's the biggest difference in me now," Codrington said. "I feel I was a little overconfident going into that (Green) fight. The whole Chin Checkers thing, that was going on and I didn't think it was possible I could have that happen to me.

"I thought I had a granite chin. I had been training hard, but I just never believed that would be me. I was expecting a competitive fight, even very competitive at times, but I just felt I would win. But when that happened, it made me look at everything I was doing."

And now Codrington gets his second chance. There were other athletes at higher levels who have overcome worse.

In the 2002 British Open, Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer ever, shot an 81 in the third round only to come back with a 65 in the final.

Codrington's chance at his version of a 65 is on Tuesday. And to hear Leonard tell it, he wouldn't be shocked if Codrington were to do something equally as spectacular.

"The kid has the ability and he puts the time in and there's going to come a day when you say, 'I remember seeing him when,'" Leonard said. "When he puts it all together, people are going to be stunned by how good he can be."

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