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Jackie Kallen joins NBC's 'The Contender' as "den mother" for aspiring boxers

By Wade Paulsen, 06/28/2004 

Well-known boxing manager Jackie Kallen has joined Mark Burnett's production team for the upcoming NBC series The Contender.

Kallen, a one-time journalist who became the real-life manager of four world champion fighters, most notably James "Lights Out" Toney, will serve as "den mother" to the sixteen aspiring boxers, making sure that they keep up with their training while being filmed constantly during the competition for the $1 million first prize. She brings with her a little knowledge about the distortions of filming, having served as the real-life model for Meg Ryan's character in the movie Against the Ropes.

Kallen has been less active in the boxing world recently, the result of her divorce (after 30 years of marriage) and a heart attack. Instead, she has been working as a motivational speaker -- perfect for encouraging her amateur charges on The Contender.

Mark Burnett will add Kallen's on-air presence to that of Rocky star Sylvester Stallone and former world champion superstars Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman. By contrast, the only star lined up for Fox's ripoff of The Contender, entitled The Next Great Champ, is host and co-producer Oscar de la Hoya.

"Once again, we've landed another great addition to our all-star team," Burnett said. "Jackie has established herself as a well-respected force in the world of boxing and will bring the perfect touch to this show as a mentor, den-mother and care-taker to our contestants."

So far, it looks like Mark Burnett is trying to live up to his stated intention to produce the better of the two boxing shows by lining up the best cast possible. We'll wait to see Fox's next counterpunch.

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