Will a reboot of ‘The Contender’ appeal to a new generation of fight fans?
There will be 16 boxers taking part in “The Contender” reboot, which started a six-week shoot in Los Angeles last week. Again, middleweights will be front and center, looking to get that career boost and moolah upgrade, which some of the fighters from the 2005-2008 series enjoyed.
Mark Burnett, the “Survivor” creator, got into the boxing waters with the Sylvester Stallone-attached reality TV offering and that program came as something of a surprise because boxing wasn’t a popular subject for network TV. NBC grabbed the first season of the franchise and then ESPN snagged it before it slipped down the ratings ladder and ended up on Versus. This time around, there’s no Stallone or Sugar Ray Leonard involved, and the world of television is even more niche-ified than it was. EPIX, the pay cable entity which is part of MGM’s holdings, will be the screening platform, when the 12 episodes come out in late-summer or early-fall.
Obviously being this is episodic TV, producers aren’t keen to let the world know who’s taking part, and who will win and lose the bouts, which haven’t yet kicked off.
Producers haven’t put out a release revealing the cast but we’ve asked around and rumor has it that the following boxers are among the participants. Some might not make the cut to the final 16, however.
Vaughn Alexander (12-0, 8 knockouts, Missouri,), Aaron Coley (15-1-1, 7 KOs, California), Kyrone Davis (13-2, 5 KOs, New Jersey), Denis Douglin (20-6, 13 KOs, New Jersey), Mark Hernandez (11-1-1, 3 KOs, California), Devaun Lee (10-3-1, 5 KOs, New York), Malcolm McAllister (9-1, 8 KOs, California), Ievgen Khytrov (16-1, 13 KOs, Ukraine), Kenneth McNeil (11-4, 8 KOs, Alabama), Lamar Russ (17-2, 8 KOs, North Carolina), Danny Valdivia (14-2, 10 KOs, Mexico) and Eric Walker (15-1, 8 KOs, Louisiana).
The original Contenders were seen by 180 million viewers, according to a Deadline article, so fair to say that the sport itself enjoyed an eyeball surge above and beyond the usual now-and-again uptick.
The rebooting surprised some of us but maybe it shouldn’t have, as reboots are all the rage these days. See the success of the reborn “Roseanne” show on ABC. Suits have decided that successful concepts don’t go bad; they just get stale. Give people a break and then trot the rebooted shows out to a generation unfamiliar with them. Since it worked once, chances are good that it’ll work again.
If you look back where boxing was in 2004, when companies were bidding for rights to the concept, then look at it now, it’s amusing to note that the sport is arguably seen in better shape today than it was then. Golden Boy Promotions founder Oscar De La Hoya (who, interestingly enough, countered The Contender with his own reality competition show, “The Next Great Champ,” aired by FOX, then FOX Sports) was once the gleaming centerpiece of the sport, though he’d run into a Bernard Hopkins hook and he’d only have four fights after this loss. Manny Pacquiao had yet to become “Pacman,” so Burnett and company probably thought/hoped their show would prove to be an adrenaline shot into the corpse, er, body of the sport.
According to Variety, the series would focus on a search for a “new boxing superstar” who could “breathe life back into the troubled sport.” And you probably don’t recall but the creators hoped to birth a new boxing federation that would be “independent of current pugilistic organizations.”
Being that the program was the most expensive first-season reality show ever – and more expensive than most first-year scripted dramas and comedies – it’s fair to say it didn’t quite pan out like some hoped. Will this updated version succeed? Well, expectations are lower and I believe it will be hard to convince hardcores that a superstar will emerge from the 2018 pack, though casuals might be lured in.
Follow Michael Woods on Twitter @Woodsy1069.
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