The Contender to Return to ESPN September 4
Third Season of Boxing Series from Mark Burnett Productions & Dreamworks Television; Sugar Ray Leonard to return as Host
Uncut Versions of Each Fight To Air on ESPN2
Los Angeles, CA -- The third season of The Contender, the successful boxing series from ESPN, Mark Burnett Productions, and DreamWorks Television will premiere Tuesday, Sept. 4 on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET. The Contender's second season finale, which featured Grady Brewer and Steve Forbes, was viewed by 2.3 million people and was the highest-rated boxing telecast on ESPN in nine years. Boxing legend and five-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard will return as host and mentor, guiding the boxers through the most intense training of their careers and the most challenging experience of their lives.
The Contender is an unscripted drama about the lives, fears and hopes of 16 professional boxers as they compete for the chance to forever change their lives and the lives of the people they love. The Contender will be aired under the ESPN Content Development banner and be executive produced by Mark Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The third season of The Contender will also feature several enhancements including a different weight class (Super Middleweight); special guests Oscar de la Hoya and Adam Corolla and more; a total purse this season is raised to $1 million (a 50% increase from last season) and for the first time, true boxing fans will be able to see the entire fight each week on ESPN2.
Joining the show this season are world class trainers James "Buddy� McGirt, a two-time welterweight World Champion, and Jose "Pepe� Correa who has worked as a trainer in boxing for over 40 years. McGirt has trained Antonio Tarver, Laila Ali, Arturo Gatti and McGirt's son and hot boxing prospect James McGirt Jr. Correa has trained some of the sport's greatest fighters including Sugar Ray Leonard and Lennox Lewis.
"The Contender has grown into a global brand that has come to represent world-class action inside of the ring, and compelling human interest outside of it,� said Ron Wechsler, vice president scripted content, ESPN. "This season, we look towards the stacked Super Middleweight division to continue to bring the most entertaining fights and dedicated fighters to our audience."
The series is co-executive produced by Jeff Wald, Eric Van Wagenen, Page Feldman, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, and Brian Edwards.
"Contrary to a recent article on the perils of boxing, The Contender is a show that highlights what is good and right about boxing,� said Sugar Ray Leonard. "We provide the absolute best platform for these boxers to have every level of support they need, from medical assistance and nutrition to the training necessary to become a champion. The truly educated fans of the sport acknowledge that The Contender has brought integrity and excitement back to the world of boxing.�
Mark Burnett, Executive Producer of the series said "The Contender has found a terrific home on ESPN and we're proud of the fact that we are able to give a new group of boxers the chance for world-wide exposure,�
The sixteen Super Middleweight boxers vying for this year's title of "The Contender� include:
MAX ALEXANDER � Age 26 � Camden, NJ � Pro Record (14-1), 2 KO's
As the self proclaimed most competitive guy of the group, Alexander amassed an impressive 47-3 amateur record and maintains an undefeated record as a professional. Alexander is not only accomplished in the ring, he recently obtained a degree in criminal justice from Montclair State University.
DAVID BANKS � Age 24 � Portland, OR � Pro Record (14-2-1), 2 KO's
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon Banks has been fighting professionally for only three years. Banks considers himself an upset specialist and likes coming in as the underdog.
SAIKO BIKA � Age 28 � Cameroon/ Sydney, Australia � Pro Record (22-3-2), 14 KO's
Bika represented his native country of Cameroon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, while there loved it so much he has since decided to live and train in Sydney. This accomplished fighter has several title bouts on his resume including the Australian Middleweight Title and New South Wales State Middleweight Title.
HENRY BUCHANAN � Age 28 � Capital Heights, MD � Pro Record (14-1-0), 11 KO's
The supremely confident Henry "Sugar Poo� Buchanan was born and raised in Capital Heights, Maryland. Buchanan has impressed boxing experts with his power, uppercut from the inside and ability to slip punches.
LA FARRELL BUNTING � Age 27 � Las Vegas, NV � Pro Record (16-3-1), 16 KO's
Bunting's only focus once in the ring is winning and doing the best he can. His title bouts include vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas Light Heavyweight Title and World Boxing Organization (WBO) NABO Super Middleweight Title.
JAIDON CODRINGTON � Age 23 � Queens, NY � Pro Record (16-1-0), 12 KO's
Former national Golden Gloves Champion, Codrington, possesses the perfect mix of speed, power and flash that has captivated audiences since his 2004 professional debut. With Sugar Ray Leonard as one of his idols, Codrington feels truly fortunate to be a part of the Contender.
MIGUEL HERNANDEZ � Age 32 � Chicago, IL � Pro Record (20-5-0), 10 KO's
This popular fighter didn't start boxing until 27. Hernandez has earned the respect of many very quickly both inside and outside the ring. Touted as one of Chicago's favorite fighters, Hernandez is a straight forward fighter with a reputation of putting on a great show.
WAYNE JOHNSEN � Age 29 � Lyndhurst, NJ � Pro Record (16-1-0), 9 KO's
Born and raised in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, Johnsen is a standout athlete in several sports. While on a football scholarship for the University of New Heaven, Johnsen blew out his knee and turned to boxing to stay in shape for football. Johnsen was soon recognized in the boxing community as a rising star.
DONNY MCCRARY � Age 24 � St. Joseph, MO � Pro Record (23-5-2), 13 KO's
Born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, McCrary dreams of becoming a world boxing champion. With titles such as North American Boxing Association (NABA)and North American Boxing Council (NABC) Midwest Super Middleweight he is on his way to fulfilling his dream.
LES RALSTON � Age 25 � Buffalo, NY � Pro Record (16-2-0), 9 KO's
Ralston is managed and trained by his father, Jimmy Ralston, who was a top 10 rated light heavyweight in the sixties. Ralston is more focused than ever and can hurt opponents with either hand.
DANNY SANTIAGO � Age 34 � Ocala, FL � Pro Record (29-3-1), 19 KO's
A native of New York, Santiago is a former New York City Golden Gloves Champion as well as competed for World Boxing Organization (WBO) Light Heavyweight Championship. He is an aggressive fighter who tries to knock his opponent's head off.
PAUL SMITH� Age 24 � Liverpool, UK � Pro Record (20-0-0), 12 KO's
Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Smith comes from a boxing family; in fact he and his three brothers are the first brothers that have all won Amateur National Championships. The confident Smith welcomes the chance to show what makes him a true Contender.
SAM SOLIMAN � Age 33 � Melbourne, Australia � Pro Record (33-9-0), 13 KO's
Soliman began his boxing career after studying several forms of martial arts including Tae Kwon Do, Karate and Kick-Boxing. The super fit Soliman's proudest moment as a fighter was winning the Commonwealth Title in 2001. Soliman also works as a motivational speaker in Australia.
BRIAN VERA � Age 25 � Austin, TX � Pro Record (14-0-0), 9 KO's
Brian Vera possesses the heart of a champion. Two-time International Boxing Association (IBA) Champ, Vera, comes from a long lineage of professional fighters. The heavy-handed Austin favorite puts on a great show in the ring.
RHOSHII WELLS � Age 30 � Las Vegas, NV � Pro Record (18-2-2), 10 KO's
Inspired by Rocky movies as a kid, Rhoshii Wells, begged his father to take him to the gym and teach him to box. Nic-named "The Great One� Wells began his professional career in 1997 after winning the bronze medal in the middleweight division at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
RUBIN WILLIAMS � Age 31 � Detroit, MI � Pro Record (29-2-1), 16 KO's
Growing up in Detroit wasn't always easy according to Williams, the self described bully turned accomplished fighter. With title bouts such as International Boxing Federation (IBF) Super Middleweight and NBA Super Middleweight on his resume this confident fighter is ready for any challenge.