The Contender boxing competition series started its run on NBC back on March 7, 2005. Produced by Mark Burnett and hosted by Rocky veteran Sylvester Stallone and boxer/trainer Sugar Ray Leonard, the reality show followed 16 middle-weights as they competed for a million dollar prize. The show garnered low-ratings and viewership wasn’t likely helped by the suicide of one of the eliminated competitors. the series was cancelled after one season.
A few months later, ESPN picked up the series. The cable channel dropped most of the show’s extraneous elements and focused on the boxer training and matches. The Contender has aired on ESPN for two seasons but now the sports channel says that they’re finished with it as well.
ESPN vice president of series development and production Ron Wechsler tells ESPN.com, “It was a hard decision to make. We were talking to [promoter Tournament of Contenders] about a renewal but we couldn’t come to terms.” He added, “We have the greatest respect for TOC, Jeff Wald, Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks and we stand by the quality of the show. But it’s a very competitive marketplace and the ratings weren’t as strong as they were the year prior.”