The Return of the Contender

While this Saturday’s mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya may be monopolizing fight fan’s attention the fact remains that other news abounds in the world of the sweet science.

Tim has been doing an excellent job of highlighting this year’s biggest event and given that we share many of the same opinions in regards to the fight there is no sense in providing you double the posts that basically state the same thing.

What I will provide you all is continuous coverage on the newest installment of the Contender series which airs this Wednesday.  Please, hold your excitment until after the show.  Sure, its no Pacquiao-De La Hoya but like it or not the Contender holds a special place in the sport of boxing.

Like it or not we live in an era where “reality television” is the hot ticket item in regards to our selection in televised entertainment.  The sport of boxing is no stranger to this phenomenon as the sweet science has had two separate reality shows based on the sport.  The first incarnation of a boxing reality show was delivered by none other than Oscar De Lay Hoya entitled The Next Great Champ.  The put it mildly, the show was horrible.  NGC suffered from its desire to be the first on the scene and the resulting product lacked polish or intrigue.  As a result the Fox network dumped the show midway through the season and those few who actively searched for it your reward was witnessing Otis “Triple O.G.” Griffin claim the title of The Next Great Champ.  Apparently such a title means you sport a record of 19-4, 7 KOs and losing three out of your last four fights.

While The Next Great Champ was simply gawd-awful, the NBC network was waiting in the wings to unveil their own boxing reality show.  The Contender aired in 2005 and with reality TV demigod Mark Burnett as the series’ creator teaming up with actor Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard expectations were high on the series resonating with audiences.  If NBC did anything right it was humanizing the fighters by showcasing their interaction with their families.  Sure the team tasks were pretty lame and the edited fights left a lot to be desired but in the end NBC presented a polished product that went a long way in bringing boxing back into the public consciousness.

But ultimately the ratings were abysmal prompting NBC to pull the plug after one season.  ESPN swooped in to air the following two seasons of the show but they too eventually opted out of picking up a fourth season.

Enter the Versus network.  While many struggle to find it on their cable menu, Versus should be given mad props for making a commitment to showcasing the sport we love so much.  Sure the exclusive contract with Top Rank resulted in one Tye Fields fight too many, lately Versus has been good for showing name fighters on free TV.  Now Versus picks up where NBC and ESPN left off by televising the latest installment of the Contender series.

The newest installment of the Contender airs this Wednesday and while some can’t stand the show, I for one am a fan.

(Tomorrow we will showcase this season’s fighters.)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.