Category:The Contender (TV Series)

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The Contender was an American reality television series that followed sixteen aspiring boxers from training camp through a series of ring challenges and boxing matches in an elimination-style competition. The driving force behind the series was the pursuit of the American dream and the natural trials, tribulations and heartbreak inherent in that quest, combined with the drama and tension of the sweet science. The show was much broader than boxing and gave viewers a first hand look into the real life hopes, triumphs and defeats of the contestants.

The series’ tagline was "The Next Great Human Drama."

Produced by Mark Burnett, the show was hosted by Sugar Ray Leonard, who shared hosting duties in the first season with actor Sylvester Stallone. Leonard also served as a trainer on the show, along with Tommy Gallagher and Jeremy Williams. During the first season, boxing manager Jackie Kallen served as counsel to the boxers.

The show took the format of a gameshow, with the boxers divided into two teams. In the first season, the teams' living quarters were located in the historic Royal Laundry Building on Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, California. The teams competed for the right to choose which of their team members would fight that week and against whom they would fight. The hour-long show was broken down into two parts, with most of the second half of the episode being devoted to the fight. The loser was eliminated and the winner's team was rewarded with a prize.

In the fall of 2004, before The Contender premiered, FOX, a rival U.S. television network, rushed to air a competing show hosted by Oscar De La Hoya called The Next Great Champ. The show performed poorly and after only four episodes, the final six episodes were relegated to a smaller cable network called Fox Sports Net (FSN). In an effort to distance itself from the poor showing of The Next Great Champ, NBC opted to move the debut of The Contender to March 2005.

The preliminary fights occurred in the summer and fall of 2004, and the fighters signed agreements stating that if they lost, they would not fight again until after the series finale aired. On February 14, 2005, several weeks before the series debuted, Najai Turpin, one of the eliminated boxers, committed suicide.

The first season finale aired live on NBC on May 24, 2005, with Sergio Mora defeating Peter Manfredo Jr. by a seven-round decision to win the $1,000,000 prize.

The Contender was named The Ring magazine Event of the Year for 2005.

The first season reportedly cost NBC around $2,000,000 per episode, and they cancelled the series on May 16, 2005. On August 11, 2005, ESPN announced that it was picking up the rights to a second season of the show and it began airing on the network in July 2006. ESPN also announced that it had options to renew the series for two additional seasons.

The second season saw the living quarters moved to a new facility in downtown Los Angeles. Another change for the second season saw the elimination of the challenges. Not only did the tasks have nothing to do with boxing, but the fighters also exposed themselves to injury: at least two fighters pulled muscles during challenges. Eliminating the challenges allowed the show to devote more time to fights and behind-the-scenes activities and the training fighters go through.

ESPN canceled The Contender after the third season. The show moved to the Versus network for the fourth season, and Tony Danza replaced Leonard as the host.


Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone
Tommy Gallagher
and Jeremy Williams
Jackie Kallen


Sugar Ray Leonard
Tommy Gallagher and Jeremy Williams


Super Middleweight
Sugar Ray Leonard
James (Buddy) McGirt, Pepe Correa, Carlos Vargas and Romnick Dongiapon

The Contender (Season 3)


Tony Danza
Tommy Brooks and John Bray

The Contender (Season 4)