The Contender (TV series)

The Contender (TV series)

Infobox Television
show_name = The Contender

caption =
format = Reality/Sport
runtime = Varies
creator = Mark Burnett
starring = Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone/Floyd Mayweather
country = U.S.
network = NBC
current network = ESPN
next season = Contender Season 2
first_aired = March 7, 2005
last_aired = Present |

"The Contender" is a reality television series that 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. Produced by Mark Burnett, the show is hosted by Sugar Ray Leonard, who shared hosting duties in the first season with actor Sylvester Stallone. Leonard also serves as a trainer on the show, along with Tommy Gallagher. During the first season, boxing manager Jackie Kallen also served as counsel to the boxers.

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 ITV1, 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 10PM ET/PT, on ESPN.

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. Both series came about after the success of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV.

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.

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.

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, 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. [ [ The Contender: Boxing Series Cancelled for a Second Time — Will It Return for Round Three? | TV Series Finale ] ] It was later announced the show would move to Versus.

eason 1


The West Coast wear yellow, and the East Coast blue. Much of the equipment is being provided by Everlast.

Episode guide

Week One

The boxers arrive, and are split up into their teams, before moving into impressive living quarters in which each boxer shares a room with a team member.

After winning the challenge, an event which involved carrying logs up Hollywood Hill, West Coast are given the choice of fight.

Alfonso makes the controversial choice to fight Peter, who had a 21-0 (21 wins and 0 loss) record prior to the show. The pre-fight press conference saw the start of a long running feud between Ahmed and Ishe develop. Alfonso wins on a unanimous points decision, having punched more regularly and efficiently over the five rounds and although Peter had sustained a big cut to Alfonso's brow in Round Two, and looked good in Round Four, he was eliminated.

Week Two

A dispute between Ahmed and Ishe continued from last week's episode, such that Stallone had to give the pair a dressing down. The West Coast Team were also rewarded for their victory with a visit from George Foreman.

The week's challenge took place at the Rose Bowl, and involved the teams running around the stands, retrieving flags and then assembling a large puzzle on the main pitch. The West Coast team won again, amidst assumptions that Ahmed would be fighting Ishe, although Ishe refused the opportunity to fight.

Jesse offered to fight Jonathon, which was a surprise, Alfonso having warned against it. The pre-fight press conference saw Jesse accusing Ishe of "“punking out”", for his refusal to fight.

Rounds One and Two of the fight were reasonably even. In the third round, Jesse landed a strong uppercut, and although Jonathon did better in Round Four, in Round Five he got pushed onto the ropes, which heralded his loss to Jesse.

Week Three

Ishe admitted that he had gone through last week's fight willing Jonathon, not his team-mate Jesse, to win. The West Coast Team's reward this week was being decked out in new designer suits, a particularly emotional experience for Sergio, who had never owned a suit, but who had always wanted one.

Ahmed, who had just promised to beat Ishe, found himself at the center of a dispute with Juan, who accused him of “showing off” while sparring with Leonard. Meanwhile, Ishe re-charged his batteries at home and seemed to benefit - he stopped feeling under so much pressure to fight Ahmed.

This week's challenge was a game of dodgeball. Joey was the hero for a victorious West Coast Team, although he later complained of a hamstring injury. Ishe stepped forward to fight, but he surprised everyone by calling up Brent, his "“Christian brother”", as if to fight him. But in a cringeworthy move, he instead whispered in Brent's ear that he should pray for him, and called up a psyched Ahmed.

Pre-fight, the atmosphere was tense, with a lot of mud-slinging. The pair barely shook hands or even made eye contact as they prepared to fight. Ahmed lost an explosive first round, and Ishe eased into control of Round Two. Ahmed pushed his luck at the end by pushing his opponent in Round Three, and landing blows after the bell in Round Four. Ishe controlled the final round, and won. Ahmed promised revenge, but was still eliminated.

Week Four

The start of the episode saw a chicken-pox infected Jeff, who had complained of feeling ill on a family visit, withdrawn from the competition. The competitors were allowed to vote for who could replace him, and Peter won with eight votes, against Jonathon's four and Ahmed, who didn't receive a single vote.

West Coast's reward for Ishe winning was a VIP dinner in downtown Los Angeles.

The week's challenge saw the teams having to drag a 5,000 lb (2,000 kg) truck along a riverbed, and then constructing a phrase from the letters in the bags they picked up along the way. East Coast led from the front to win their first challenge.

Najai choose to fight Sergio, despite their huge height disparity. Pre-fight, both boxers said that their families gave them something to fight for.

In the ring, Sergio edged out a win in Round one, and in the second the tide turned to an advantage for Najai. Round Three looked similar to Round One, with Sergio the better fighter, although he eased ahead to victory with some effective flurries in Rounds Four and Five. Sergio won and notably the post-fight atmosphere for Najai and his family looked bleak.

Week Five

Peter began the episode by suggesting that he might not be ready to come back and fight, despite Miguel pledging to fight whoever got reintroduced. While sparring Peter did look tired, giving Miguel a boost.

As their reward for Sergio winning, West Coast donned their new suits and were taken to meet boxer Antonio Tarver. Sergio won a poker game at this meeting, and was awarded plane tickets to go anywhere in the world.

The next challenge was an “urban obstacle course” taking place in LA, in which the teams collected tires to place into Dumpsters, before assembling a ladder to reach up to victory. West Coast exploited their numerical advantage into victory. Miguel parlayed this victory into the promised line up: himself versus Peter.

Peter and those around him lacked confidence, while Miguel predicted a knock-out. In the ring, Miguel started well in both Rounds One and Two, though in the first, Peter was able to peg him back. Miguel retained his upper hand pushing Peter onto the rope in the third, but Peter bounced back in the final two rounds and landed some huge blows. Peter was awarded a close victory. In the locker room, Miguel cried, stating that he had failed his family and that his sister “will still have to take the bus to school and my mother would still have to ride the metro to work”.

Week Six

Having finally felt the sting of loss, West Coast were demoralized, though no one felt any bittermess towards Peter, least of all Alfonso, his initial opponent, who had beaten him in the series premiere. Peter said that the next three fights’ lineups had been decided: this week would be Jimmy (E) would fight Anthony (W). Anthony said that he actually didn't want to fight Jimmy at all, but would rather face Brent. He kept this secret, except to the cameras of course, and indeed had to test his acting skills.

East Coast enjoyed their first reward, going to see "The Tonight Show" and meet Jay Leno, Jimmy saying he hoped to return one day as a guest.

While this seemed to make the challenge unnecessary, it still proceeded. The challenge involved the teams dragging medicine ball. West Coast won, coming from behind. Anthony ended his charade, and picked Brent instead of Jimmy, to everyone's surprise, including Jimmy.

Anthony said he had picked the fight that was best for his family, having felt pressured into picking Jimmy, but Joey and Jesse still were upset. Through the following evening, it became clear that everyone wanted Brent to win. At the pre-fight press conference, Ishe started to squabble with Anthony. In his dressing room, Anthony broke down in tears as his children visited him - but said he felt even more determined to win.

The fight's first round was a draw. The second was more in Anthony's favor, as he hit a shot to Brent's eye that made it swell up. Ishe pleaded for the fight to be stopped in the uneven third, and it was. He had not stopped the fight to see his teammate win, but because Brent was in trouble, and this anti-Anthony sentiment was echoed around the camp, though not in the crowd, who cheered strongly for the victor.

Week Seven

Ishe, incensed by Anthony's actions, vowed that he would not take part in his team's reward and Joey felt he could no longer be his roommate. Tarick did congratulate Anthony though, saying he had done nothing wrong - but he had done enough wrong to not see eye to eye with Ishe.

Tarick revealed that he had suffered scheduling problems with his career, once being ranked as number ten in the world, and being scheduled to a fight against the world champion, but having to withdraw.

Juan managed to rub Joey up the wrong way, implying that he was the weakest fighter. Stallone claimed that Brent held no grudge against Anthony though, who appeared to be losing his status as a hate figure, except in Ishe's eyes, despite what his friend Alfonso wanted him to feel.

As a reward, West Coast spent a night at a club with Ja Rule, who presented them all with new watches - Ishe excluded. Sergio opined that Ishe had let his pride get in the way. Sergio enjoyed the night especially, and much of the team looked to have forgiven Anthony.

The week's challenge was a case of demolishing walls and seeing who could get the most rubble into a truck. Joey was instrumental in a West Coast win. Tarick chose to fight against Juan. This meant Jimmy and Joey would fight next, which Jimmy said he had no problem with.

The fight, which was billed as youth (Juan) against experience (Tarick), was free of pre-fight tension. When it began, Juan manically punched in the first round, but Tarick held his own. The second round allowed Tarick to take advantage of this, with a more measured approach. Juan continued frenziedly, but Tarick remained punching through Rounds Three and Four, resulting in Juan being examined by the ringside doctor at the end of the fourth. After Juan’s eye was deemed okay, the two exhausted men slugged out the final round, and Juan was declared the unanimous winner.

Juan quit and was then sent home from injuries sustained in his fight with Tarick.

Week Eight

Juan's victory was not as sweet as it could have been - declaring his injuries from the fight might mean he would withdraw from the competition and he would have to assess any risk. This was baffling for the others, who did not perceive the cut above his eye to be that threatening.

The reaction to Juan’s victory was not overwhelming - the increasingly outspoken Ishe calling him “over-hyped”. Juan's health began to deteriorate, with an infection rendering him largely immobile.

Joey, who was about to fight, got a visit from his father, who had spent a large period of time posted in Afghanistan.

There was no weekly challenge, as the match was already decided.

Jimmy started well, and after some time on the back foot, Joey fought back to dominate the second round. A huge missed punch from Joey in the third strained his hamstring, which limited his movement and reduced him to playing defensive. He was able to recover during the fourth, and win the fifth from the exhausted Jimmy. This surprising twist in the tail actually saw a unanimous decision for Joey, whom everyone said had lost before the end of round three.

Joey was lavished with praise back in the living quarters. Juan however was severely criticized for allowing a doctor to take him out of the competition with little complaint.

The seven remaining boxers traveled to Las Vegas, where two of them would eventually fight in the fight at Caesars Palace. Sergio added to his poker prize by winning a new truck – a thrill for him, given that he currently had no car, and had never owned one first hand. The boxers voted for which of the previously eliminated (but fit) boxers –Jonathan, Ahmed, Miguel, Tarick and Jimmy—would take Juan's place, with the decision revealed in the following episode.

Week Nine

Ahmed was announced as Juan’s replacement—thanks to a group of Anthony, Jesse, Joey and Peter teaming up in an attempt to get under Ishe's skin and eventually eliminate him. Ishe started an argument with Jesse and Peter—although it may have been heightened by the fighters’ sleep deprivation following the Vegas day trip. Sergio reacted to the camera by suggesting that the fighters felt threatened by Ishe because he was the best fighter there.

Ahmed declared himself back as “someone's nightmare”. A number of boxers commented that he was “no bum”, but a good fighter. The next challenge, a medicine ball-based obstacle course was won by Jesse, giving him the power to match Ishe and Sergio in the next fight. This was a surprise, as everyone foresaw Jesse and Ishe as the participants in the next bout.

In the first fight as individuals, Ishe appeared in gold as “Sugar Shay”. Sergio opted for a more refined all-black robe and shorts. The fight's first round went to a tie, with the second edged by Ishe, before Sergio overpowered him in the final two. An absorbing fight was won by the Latin Snake, who claimed he had allowed Ishe to beat himself.

Week Ten

Peter said that Ishe's absence was like an exorcism of the groups' demons. Ahmed, a Lebanese who grew up in Denmark, had Sergio read a letter from his girlfriend, as he couldn't read English - although Sergio added that he was a bright kid - knowing five languages. Ahmed was then the only boxer not to be impressed by a sparring Alfonso, criticizing the boxer’s lack of definition in his abdominal muscles, and saying that Alfonso was “nothing” to him.

Sergio took Alfonso on his reward - a trip to a golf club with Stallone and Leonard, which both enjoyed, having never played before. Joey, back at the living quarters, began to enact a conflict with the volatile Ahmed, but to his credit the latter kept cool.

The challenge involved the boxers pulling carts round the Santa Anita Racecourse - which were loaded up with the boxers' wives, mothers, girlfriends or children. Anthony carried on through a pain in his leg, and was eliminated half way through. He had carried on so as to avoid quitting in front of his kids. Joey stopped on the line to let Peter take the victory, and the accompanying Toyota.

A tearful Anthony was told he might not be able to carry on in the show, but said that he'd only be pulled out in a bodybag. Sergio and Jesse began to speculate about Joey's motives. Peter then stepped up to pair up Ahmed and Alfonso. Anthony was impressed that Joey didn't take advantage of an injured man and choose to fight him - admitting that he himself would have.

Alfonso said that now was time to pay his family back for their sacrifices. He did so effectively, dominating most of the rounds, albeit with strong flurries of punches from Ahmed in between. Alfonso won on a unanimous points decision, and Ahmed was seen by Stallone to have lost because he couldn't hold his nerve. But he still promised to “be back”.

Week Eleven

Rumors circulated that the final fights would probably be Joey-Peter and Jesse-Anthony, whose hamstring was still problematic - this probably fuelled Joey's secret desire to fight him, not Peter. Jesse said that this wasn't going to happen, although the possibility of backstabbing worried him.

Alfonso's reward for winning was shared with the man who took him golfing last week, Sergio - the men went on a shopping spree. Anthony chose not to compete in the baseball-esque challenge, which Jesse won, making the matches he had promised.

Joey said that it would be an honor to fight Peter, and pre-fight was swamped with support from his family. Peter appeared in a fashionable pair of shorts - Italy's flag on the front and America's on the back. Peter dominated the first two rounds and Joey then started to shift his weight - rallying somewhat. He was then head-butted by Peter, and as it was accidental the fight would go straight to points. Peter won by SPLIT decision and Joey was taken to hospital - although he refused to be stretchered out of the arena, insisting on walking - much to the paramedics' dismay.

Week Twelve

Jesse admitted to having been shaken by the previous fight, while Anthony continued to spend time posing with his children and telling anyone who would listen that he was going to be The Contender. Jesse was 10 lb (5 kg) over fighting weight (161 lb) and as he put it, “an emotional mess”. He would have to lose the weight or be disqualified.

Peter got a visit from Angelo Dundee as his reward. He was chuffed to bits by the pointers and experience he got. Jesse went to drastic measures to lose his weight, going jogging in a suit designed to make him sweat. He was 0.5 lb (200 g) over the weight at the weigh-in, and managed to lose the weight on a treadmill with his sauna suit. Anthony said he felt he could gain a mental advantage by enforcing the rule on fighting weight. This left Jesse looking weak in the eyes of Peter.

Anthony started to cry as he read a good luck card from his children, and admitted this was his last shot at boxing. Jesse admitted that his confidence could have been higher, and his girlfriend was concerned for his health. Jesse was sluggish in the first two rounds, taking a lot from and giving little back to Anthony. Jesse frustrated his opponent in the third, and in the fourth Anthony went on the offensive. By the fifth round, Jesse's last hope was a knock-out. He did knock Anthony down, and even though he got up, he was unable to defend himself. Even Jesse's girlfriend called for the fight to be stopped. It was, to Anthony's horror. An unsurprising list of clichés came out from Anthony, that his kids thought he was a winner, that he could go home with his head up here.

Week Thirteen

Rather than getting a reward for his win, Jesse found he had a cut above the eye which he would rather take a number of months to let heal. Stallone let the contestants know the rules for the final rounds - fights would be seven rounds long, and the boxers would have to agree on the matches made.

Quickly, it was agreed that there would be a Peter-Alfonso rematch, and that would be the first fight. The boxers were given a day on the beach with their families as a reward for getting that far.

Peter dominated most of the fight, but Alfonso was game and fought back valiantly throughout. Peter won his rematch against Alfonso by unanimous decision, beating Alfonso 5 rounds to 2, 4 rounds to 3, and 6 rounds to 1 on the judges' three respective scorecards. In a show of mutual respect and admiration, the fighters embraced after the fight.

Week Fourteen

Jesse, having recently fought, realized he would be tired for his bout with Sergio, who saw the impending hazard of having never fought someone he had been so close to. He re-affirmed his dream of winning, and allowing his mother never to have to work another day again in her life.

The three remaining boxers, Jesse, Sergio and Peter, paid tribute to the eliminated boxers. Another legend, Tommy the trainer, kept everyone amused over breakfast. Peter told the slightly pessimistic Jesse that he believed in him.

A cagey opening round was won by Sergio, but Jesse got the Judges and the crowd on his side in round two, although he was unable to hold onto this, as Sergio pounded him in Rounds Three and Four. Jesse fought his way back, cutting Sergio above his eye, although this did not give pause to Sergio. By the sixth round Jesse's corner knew he needed a knock-out. Sergio won on a unanimous points decision.

Week Fifteen

Staged some months later, from a packed Caesars Palace, the episode began with three “Fans Favorites Fights”: Jeff beat Brent, Ishe won a grudge match against Anthony and Jimmy beat Tarick. Jesse then fought Alfonso for the position of third place. Alfonso bagged a nice prize in a confident victory.

In the early rounds of the main event, everything got heated. Peter held the upper hand early, but Sergio ultimately pulled through to win the fight.

Tournament Tracker

While "The Contender" is a reality TV show, it does contain a serious competition with a proper format - a 16 man knockout tournament.

Preliminary Round

:1. Alfonso (W) beat Peter (E) on points.:2. Jesse (W) beat Jonathon (E) on points.:3. Ishe (W) beat Ahmed (E) on points.:4. Sergio (W) beat Najai (E) on points:5. Peter (W) beat Miguel (E) on points.:6. Anthony (W) beat Brent (E) by knockout. (Brent was declared unfit to continue.):7. Juan (E) beat Tarick (W) on points.(Juan was injured making him unable to continue in the tournament.):8. Joey (W) beat Jimmy (E) on points."(Numbers refer to the episode in which the fight took place.)"

Quarter finals

Quarterfinal bouts are determined by the individual winner of each challenge. The winner can choose whom he wants to fight, or become the “matchmaker” and select two fighters to compete against each other.:9. Sergio beat Ishe on points.:10. Alfonso beat Ahmed on points.:11. Peter beat Joey on points. (Fight stopped in 5th due to accidental headbutt.):12. Jesse beat Anthony by knock-out. (Although Anthony was still conscious.)"(Numbers refer to the episode in which the fight took place.)"

emi finals

These two matches will take place between the four remaining boxers, Sergio, Alfonso, Peter, Jesse.:13. Peter beat Alfonso on points.:14. Sergio beat Jesse on points."(Numbers refer to the episode in which the fight took place.)"On the final night in Las Vegas, Alfonso Gomez took on Jesse Brinkley for 200,000 prize.Alfonso was in better shape and connected better punches.

The Finale

For $1,000,000, from Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.:15. Sergio beat Peter on points.:(For third place, Alfonso beat Jesse on points.)"(Number refers to the episode in which the fight took place.)"

Fans Favorite Fights

These three bouts were staged as warm-up events for the final.:Jimmy beat Tarick on points.:Ishe beat Anthony.:Jeff beat Brent.:Sergio beat Peter(Rematch.)

Guest Appearances

*Cedric Ceballos
*Tony Danza
*Angelo Dundee
*Matt Stone and Trey Parker
*George Foreman
*Mel Gibson
*Ja Rule
*Dr. Drew
*Jay Leno
*Chuck Norris
*Burt Reynolds
*William Shatner
*Meg Ryan and Omar Epps to promote Against the Ropes
*Bill Goldberg
*Lewis White
*Tom Bei
*Mr. Met
*Mr. T
*Danny Green
*Vic Darchinyan
*Jason Sehorn

Weekly Results

:colorbox|navy Navy means the boxer won the team challenge and the match.:colorbox|cornflowerblue Cornflower blue means the boxer lost the team challenge and won the match.:colorbox|lightblue Light blue means the boxer won the match.:colorbox|cyan Cyan means the team won the challenge.:colorbox|tomato Tomato means the boxer lost the match.:colorbox|red Red means the boxer won the team challenge and lost the match.:colorbox|#C00000 Dark red means the boxer lost the team challenge and the match.:colorbox|gray Gray means the boxer quit the competition.

Later Seasons

*The Contender 2
*The Contender 3


External links

* [ Sergio's official website]
* []
* [ Contender Guide]
* [ Yahoo TV Contender Guide]
* [ CBS News article on Najai Turpin's suicide] (February 15th, 2005)

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