Foreman joins reality skein

Throw another champ on the grill: Former heavyweight champ George Foreman has joined the cast of NBC’s “The Contender.”

Foreman, who had seemingly been attached to a competing unscripted boxing skein, has instead signed up for an on-air role on the Peacock’s pugilistic endeavor from exec producers Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester Stallone. Announcement of Foreman’s signing comes barely a week after Sugar Ray Leonard joined “The Contender” (Daily Variety, March 15.)

Burnett said Foreman would help with the selection of the 16 would-be champs, do some advising during the training episodes, and appear in the finale.

“The role he’ll play is as large as he likes and his time permits,” Burnett said. “We can benefit incredibly from his knowledge and personality.”

Foreman’s signing was the result of the fighter’s personal relationship with series producer Jeff Wald, a vet talent manager who has strong ties to the boxing community. In addition to his boxing success, Foreman has launched a lucrative career as a spokesman for the George Foreman Grill and a line of men’s clothing.

Just about anyone who’s stepped foot in a ring over the past two decades has been approached about doing their own boxing show. Other names are expected to be added to the “Contender” cast list in coming weeks.

Boxing promoter Don King is also said to be mulling the idea of a boxing competish; Paramount is also developing a show in the arena.

The Foreman announcement reps a serious setback for the rival boxing reality series being pitched by HBO boxing host Jim Lampley.

Lampley’s Crystal Spring Prods. and New Wave Entertainment announced last month that they had partnered with Foreman to produce a series revolving around heavyweight boxers who live together, train together and are instructed by Foreman (Daily Variety, Feb. 23).

That project came out of Lampley’s relationship with Foreman; the two have been teamed for 12 years to cover matches on HBO. The boxer’s daughters Georgetta Foreman and Cynthia Clark had even signed up as producers.

But a spokesman for Lampley said he and Foreman had a spoken agreement, but had never formally signed a deal. Lampley was unaware of Foreman’s departure until NBC announced the boxer’s deal Friday.

Lampley was unavailable for comment.

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