Mark Burnett, MGM TV and Digital and Paramount TV are reviving the boxing competition series that ran on NBC from 2005 to 2009. The show revolves around an elimination-style competition among 16 boxers as they train and fight in the hopes of winning a six-figure purse and the title of “The Contender.” Several pugilists from the earlier incarnation went on to compete in world championships, including Sergio Mora, who took the WBC Super Welterweight Championship title in 2008.
Eric Van Wagenen is executive producer and showrunner alongside Burnett, who is now president of MGM Television and Digital. Van Wagenen worked on the original series with Burnett. Sylvester Stallone was also on board the NBC version but there’s no word if he’s back again this time.
“Boxing belongs on premium pay television and there is no better home for ‘The Contender’ than Epix.” said Burnett. “We will tell stories of the fighters, the families and their difficult journeys in the emotionally compelling ‘Contender’ style, so that viewers get to vicariously ‘walk a mile’ in the boxers shoes.”
The original series was produced as a partnership between Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks. It was among the DreamWorks assets that were eventually acquired by Paramount. Epix has ordered 12 episodes.
“This is not only real boxing, but real, raw human storytelling from the best unscripted television production team in the world,” said Epix president Michael Wright.
The launch of the original series sparked major verbal sparring between Burnett, Katzenberg and Fox after that network whipped up a quick knock-off program called “The Next Great Champ,” which was fronted by boxer Oscar de la Hoya.
(Pictured: Sergio Mora)