The Contender (TV series)

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The Contender
Created by Mark Burnett
Presented by
Theme music composer Hans Zimmer
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production company(s)
Original network
Original release March 7, 2005 (2005-03-07) – January 7, 2009 (2009-01-07)

The Contender is a reality television series that aired from March 3, 2005 to January 7, 2009 on NBC, ESPN, and Versus. Each season of the series follows a group of boxers as they compete with one another in an elimination-style competition, while their lives and relationships with each other and their families are depicted.

The series was created and executive produced by Mark Burnett. The show first three seasons of the show were hosted by Sugar Ray Leonard, who shared hosting duties in the first season with actor Sylvester Stallone. Leonard departed the series after season three and Tony Danza joined as his replacement.

On January 22, 2018, it was announced that the series was being revived by premium cable network Epix for a fifth season. Burnett is expected to return as executive producer and the new season is set to premiere in late 2018.[1]


The show takes the format of a gameshow, with the boxers divided into two teams based on their place of residence in the United States: East Coast or West Coast (or simply “East” and “West”). These teams live together in group living quarters, in Pasadena, California in the historic Royal Laundry Building on Raymond Avenue, and compete for the right to choose which of their team members fights that week, and who he fights against. Most of the second half of the hour-long episodes are devoted to that fight: the loser is eliminated.


The series’ tagline is “The Next Great Human Drama”, and its soundtrack was scored by Hans Zimmer. Before the show premiered, rival US television Fox network rushed to air a competing show The Next Great Champ, hosted by Oscar de la Hoya. The show performed very poorly, with the final episodes being relegated to cable FSN. In an effort to distance itself from the Fox disaster, NBC opted to hold airing its show until spring 2005.

On May 16, 2005, the series was cancelled. The first season cost NBC $2,000,000 per episode. Reruns were seen on CNBC. On August 11, 2005, ESPN announced that it was picking up the rights to a second season of the show,[2] which began airing on the network in July 2006, although special editions under the Contender title are currently airing as of March, 2006. ESPN also announced that it has options to renew the series for two additional seasons. However, on April 10, 2008, ESPN announced that it was canceling the series. Executive producer Jeff Wald maintained that the show would continue on another network.[3] It was later announced the show would move to Versus.

Najai Turpin suicide[edit]

On February 14, 2005, one of the 16 contestants, Najai Turpin, despondent over personal matters, committed suicide, shooting himself while sitting with his girlfriend in a parked car outside the West Philadelphia gym where he trained. In his memory, the producers set up a trust fund for his daughter Anyae. The show still aired in its entirety, but with a special tribute to Turpin.


Season Network Airdate Presenter Trainers Winner Runner Up
1 NBC March 7 – May 24, 2005 Sugar Ray Leonard & Sylvester Stallone Tommy Gallagher
Jeremy Williams
Dub Huntley
Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora Peter “The Pride of Providence” Manfredo Jr.
2 ESPN July 18 – September 26, 2006 Sugar Ray Leonard Tommy Gallagher
Jeremy Williams
Grady "Bad Boy" Brewer Steve "2 Pound" Forbes
3 September 4 – November 6, 2007 Sugar Ray Leonard Buddy McGirt
Pepe Correa
Carlos Vargas
Romnick Dongiapon
Sakio Bika Jaidon Codrington
4 Versus December 3, 2008 - January 7, 2009 Tony Danza Tommy Brooks
John Bray
Troy Ross Ehinomen "Hino" Ehikhamenor


The show ran for fifteen weeks through 2005 on NBC in the United States of America. The show ran in the UK on ITV2 and was repeated later in the week on ITV, and now airs on ITV4. It also aired on AXN in India, and on the Spanish language network Telemundo. The second season, featuring welterweight contenders, premiered in the U.S. on Tuesday, July 18, 2006, at 10 pm ET/PT, on ESPN. The third season, featuring super middleweight contenders, premiered in the U.S. on Tuesday, September 4, 2007, at 10 pm ET/PT, on ESPN. The fourth season, featuring cruiserweight contenders, premiered in the U.S. on Wednesday, December 3, 2008, at 10 pm ET/PT, on Versus.

International versions[edit]

Country Title Broadcaster Presenters Original run Trainers
Asia The Contender Asia AXN Stephan Fox & Jaymee Ong January 16, 2008 – April 23, 2008
 Australia The Contender Australia Fox8 Charlotte Dawson & Daniel Amalm 3 November 2009 Billy Hussien (Blue Team) & Paul Briggs (Gold Team)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]