At a time when a month-long teachers' strike is polarizing the community, Anthony "The Bullet" Bonsante is generating positive publicity for Crosby-Ironton.
The 1989 C-I graduate will make his second appearance on NBC's reality series "The Contender" at 9 p.m. Thursday. The series will air at 7 p.m. Sundays thereafter.
Bonsante is one of 16 pro boxers in a series that features five-round fights. Losers leave the show. Two finalists will duke it out May 24 with a chance to win $1 million in a live bout in Las Vegas.
"What's interesting is I haven't really watched reality TV," Bonsante said from his home in Shakopee. "I'm not interested in it. Now I've lived it. I know what happens. You see how it's cut, edited, how it makes us look and sound. I think the first show basically was how it was."
The 34-year-old is sworn to secrecy about the series, which debuted Monday, and was taped in August and September in California.
"Everyone wondered where I was," he said. "I told them I went to L.A. for a training camp. I wasn't lying, but it was for 'The Contender.' There were rumors I was in jail, that I was doing a movie, that I was doing a reality show.' I denied every one.
"I instructed everyone to say I was out there for a training camp. They knew where I was, they just couldn't say anything."
Each episode opens with East and West coast teams trying to beat the other on an obstacle course. The winning team gets to select its fighter and his opponent.
On Monday's premier, unheralded Alphonso Gomez of the West surprisingly selected third-ranked junior middleweight Peter Manfredo, who beat Bonsante in a May 2004 title fight. Gomez scored an impressive decision.
What: Crosby-Ironton High School graduate and former Central Lakes College student Tony Bonsante is one of 16 boxers in a reality series competing for a chance to fight in a $1 million bout in Las Vegas.
When: 9 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Sundays through May 22, and May 24.
Meet the Bullet: Bonsante will be at the Town Tavern in Ironton beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday for the third show in the series.
"If you give Peter six weeks to train nobody's going to beat him," Bonsante said. "It was perfect strategy. It worked to our advantage. It was a gutsy call on Alphonso's part."
Bonsante was selected as a participant from about 7,000 applicants. He underwent several auditions, psychological testing and interviews before being selected one of the 16 finalists.
The series is hosted by former champion Sugar Ray Leonard and actor Sylvester Stallone of "Rocky" fame. It is produced by Mark Burnett of the reality shows "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."
Finalists lived with other contestants above the gym where they trained for the series.
"There was some drama, we had some arguments, which is to be expected," Bonsante said. "I made some friends, but I couldn't get too close to them because the next day I may have to try and beat the crap out of them. You kind of got attached but not so much that it hurt me to beat them up."
Bonsante took a three-month unpaid leave from his job as the 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift supervisor at a Kmart warehouse in Shakopee. His children, 11-year-old Brittany and 7-year-old Derek, are reveling in the fact their dad is in a TV show and was featured on the front page of Monday's Star Tribune.
"My daughter and son went to school Tuesday and were asked for autographs," Bonsante said.
Following the series Bonsante hopes to resume his boxing career. He is 24-3-3 with 13 knockouts, boxing between 154 and 160 pounds.
"I still have some good years left," he said. "I'm still in good shape. I have the heart, determination and drive. My inspiration is my two kids. I don't see myself stopping unless I get hit too much, and that's not going to happen."
Bonsante hopes the series opens career possibilities other than boxing. He's considering a career in broadcasting, a run for school board and possibly for political office.
"Broadcasting is something I've always wanted to do," he said, "but I've never had the avenue to do it. And, I've always been interested in sports, either journalism or broadcasting.
"I hope this opens the door for a political career. I'll start with the Shakopee School Board and work my way up. I've got some high goals. Eventually, I'd like to be a U.S. senator."
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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