Exclusive Interview: Jeff Wald

By G. Leon


Exclusive Interview: Jeff Wald

Jones-Manfredo Jr on HBO PPV January 20

GL: Can you give us some thoughts on the recent Contender Season 2 finale? "Just as a boxing fan, I had a great time. There was something so exciting about walking into that place and looking up and my wife pointing out that we were up to the rafters and they were turning people away. There wasn't a single seat in the place and it was just an exciting event. It was very, very gratifiying for all of us involved with The Contender."

GL: Were you surprised by Grady Brewer taking the title in Season 2?

Jeff Wald: "Actually I had a feeling he was going to win and I'll tell you why. He's the kind of guy the show is all about. He suffered a really bad decision loss to Sechew Powell. I watched him win that fight and they gave it to the other guy. He fought Jermain Taylor and Jermain would tell you that was one of his three hardest fights. He's never had a trainer, he's always worked 12 hours a day in a tire factory and he always took fights at the last minute. He was the opponent, but now he finally got a chance to not be the opponent and to be the guy and he made the most of that chance, he really did. Now we got him a trainer and I think he's going to surprise a lot of people now because he's going to have a late blooming career."

GL: Although he didn't win the title, what do you have planned for Steve Forbes?

JW: "Steve will move down to 140. Remember Steve won his championship at 130 and he moved up in weight. He was fighting larger men the whole time in the tournament. He stepped up and he did a terrific job with that. My sense is that he'll go down to 140 and do very well. He's one of the most skilled boxers we've had on the show and he's a gentleman."

GL: Will there be a Cotender Season 3?

JW: "Absolutely."


JW: "Absolutely. When I say absolutely, we haven't closed with them yet but they've been a great partner and the executives over there, Ron Wexler. What was really nice, was the chairman of ESPN George Bodenheimer was there. The President of ESPN John Skipper was there, they showed up to support us and they've been an incredible partner to us. What a difference a year makes when it comes to network partners."

GL: And obviously they were pleased with their ratings.

JW: "They've been thrilled. The finale was the highest rated boxing show to take place in eleven years on ESPN. We've got great reviews and this was nearly a flawless season. We tweaked it from last season and we'll tweak it again from this season. I can't tell you how much fun it was this time on every level. People like Noberto Bravo, who is another guy like Grady Brewer, and he's going to have a great career. Freddie Curiel is the youngest 31 year old fighter in the world. Nick Acevedo has a great family and he's a former Golden Gloves champion. Walter Wright fought his ass off and K-9 is going to have a tremendous career as well. We're just looking to match our guys against the best there is and it's looking like we're going to have a PPV with HBO with Roy Jones Jr and Peter Manfredo Jr on January 20 and it would be supported by our partners at ESPN and we've got plenty of other big plans for our kids."

GL: Tell us about the October 14 event.

JW: "On October 14 you got Manfredo versus Spina. Spina has been popping off that he's the real Pride of Providence. He's saying that Manfredo is a pretender and he's the real deal. I think you'll see an old type neighborhood rivalry settled in the ring. We've got a great undercard between Alan Green and Jerson Ravelo and we're expecting a sellout. The Dunkin Donuts Center will host the action, the last time Manfredo fought there we did 8,800 in a horrible blizzard so Providence is a great fight town and there were also some great fights in the audience by the way."

GL: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

JW: "The fun I've had doing this in working with Mark Burnett, Lisa Hennessy and Brian Edwards. We've got one of the best producing companies on the planet. I've been producing TV for a long, long time and this guy is the goods. Lisa Hennessy has been with Mark since Eco-Challenge and Survivor and she's an incredible producer. Brian Edwards from Dreamworks...it was also a great thrill to get a call from George Foreman talk about the Contender finale and how people are always asking him about The Contender everywhere he goes. We're just thrilled about bringing a new audience to boxing.


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