After its initial two-hour season premiere, The Contender 2 will air weekly in ESPN's Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT time period through September 26. Similar to the show's first season, The Contender 2's September 26 finale will air live and feature the second season's final two boxers competing in a fight broadcast from Los Angeles' Staples Center.
Although critically acclaimed, The Contender's initial Spring 2005 season proved to be a ratings flop for NBC, which canceled the Mark Burnett reality boxing show after only a single season. Reports that the show might return on another network began emerging immediately, and ESPN formally announced it had reached an agreement to become the show's new broadcast home in August 2005.
Like The Contender's first edition, each The Contender 2 episode will culminate in a five-round professional bout in which the winner will move one step closer to the show's $500,000 grand prize and a shot at the title of Contender Champion. Unlike its first season, The Contender 2 won't feature middleweight fighters -- instead the show's second season (which includes, Jeff Fraza, a first season boxer who was eliminated due to contracting chicken pox, among its cast) will shift down to the welterweight weight class.
Also gone from the second edition are the show's hokey Survivor-style "challenges" and first season co-host Sylvester Stallone. Instead of allowing the winners of the weekly challenges -- which were dropped in a creative decision -- to determine which boxers will compete in each episode's concluding fight, the team of each early round fight's winning boxer will get to determine which boxers will face off in the next fight (like the first season, the boxers will still be initially be divided into two teams of eight.) Stallone's absence is due to scheduling conflicts -- while he remains one of the show's executive producers, he was off working on Rocky Balboa, his upcoming sixth Rocky film, when The Contender 2 was being filmed.
With Stallone unavailable, boxing legend and The Contender mentor Sugar Ray Leonard will serve as the second season's sole host. "This group of 16 contestants is the strongest group of fighters I have seen in a long time," Leonard gushed about The Contender 2 boxers. "They have the heart, determination, and will to do anything. I think that the battle to become the next Contender will be a fight to the finish."
The sixteen welterweight boxers vying for The Contender's second title -- and their ESPN-supplied descriptions -- are:
Nick Acevedo - Age 30 - New York, NY - Pro Record (15-1), 9 KO's
A former International Boxing Association (IBA) Intercontinental titleholder, Acevedo retired succumbing to the pressure of his rising status. Now back after three years, he sees The Contender as his shot to redeem himself.
Gary Balletto - Age 30 - Johnston, RI - Pro Record (29-2-2), 25 KO's
A former International Boxing Union (IBU) Champion, Balletto witnessed the death of his friend Bobby Tomasello in the ring more than five years ago. This caused him to help unionize the sport so fighters gain benefits, health insurance, and future jobs outside of boxing.
Vinroy Barrett - Age 30 - Negril, Jamaica/Nashville, TN - Pro Record (21-4), 11 KO's
Vinroy "Slick" Barrett was born and raised in Jamaica. Since turning professional, Barrett has made a name for himself, garnering the World Boxing Federation (WBF) Americas Welterweight title.
Norberto Bravo - Age 34 - Tucson, AZ - Pro Record (20-10-3), 12 KO's
Norberto Bravo was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Also known as "El Gallito" ("The Fighting Rooster"), Bravo describes himself in the ring as unrelenting and willing to fight till death, if necessary.
Grady Brewer - Age 34 - Lawton, OK - Pro Record (18-11), 12 KO's
Born and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma, Grady "Bad Boy" Brewer started boxing at age 11 and went on to become a state Golden Gloves Champion and win 40 of his 45 amateur fights.
Cornelius Budrage - Age 32 - Detroit, MI - Pro Record (21-1), 13 KO's
Cornelius "K-9" Bundrage was born and raised in Detroit. As his alias suggests, Bundrage has a reputation of being a dog inside the ring, mauling his opponents with ferocious combinations and vicious uppercuts. In 2005, Bundrage won the United Boxing Association (UBA) Intercontinental Light Middleweight title.
Rudy Cisneros - Age 24 - Chicago, IL - Pro Record (8-1), 7 KO's
Chicago native Rudy "El Cachorro" Cisneros has traveled the world, garnering an extensive record with more than 100 amateur fights. He was the two-time Chicago Golden Gloves Champion, winner of the silver medal at the United States Championship and bronze medal recipient at the 2004 Olympic Trials.
Michael Clark - Age 32 - Columbus, OH - Pro Record (35-3), 16 KO's
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Michael "Cold Blood" Clark is a former International Boxing Council (IBC) World Champion. Clark credits his self-described versatility to his distinctive upbringing.
Freddy Curiel - Age 30 - Vernon, NJ - Pro Record (15-5-2), 6 KO's
Born in Vernon, New Jersey, Freddy Curiel, a.k.a. "Furious Freddy," started boxing at age 14. After a lucrative amateur career, Curiel entered the professional level at age 17. In 2002, Curiel decided to temporarily leave boxing but after a four-year absence, The Contender marks his comeback to the ring.
Andre Eason - Age 30 - Brooklyn, NY - Pro Record (15-4), 6 KO's
Growing up on the tough streets of Brooklyn, Andre "Daredevil" Eason found himself in fights at school and on the street. During his brief time as an amateur, Eason earned the New York Golden Gloves title.
Ebo Elder - Age 27 - Atlanta, GA - Pro Record (22-2), 14 KO's
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Ebo "The X-treme Machine" Elder followed in his father's footsteps and started boxing at the age of eight. He enjoyed a long, illustrious amateur career with 139 wins before turning professional in 2000. Elder is currently ranked as a top 10 contender by all major boxing organizations.
Jeff Fraza - Age 28 - Boston, MA - Pro Record (17-2), 10 KO's
Massachusetts native Jeff "HellRaza" Fraza is back for season two of The Contender. Having become ill with the chicken pox in season one, Fraza was forced to drop out of the competition. This time around, Fraza is ready for his shot and eager to use this second chance to prove his worth.
Steve Forbes - Age 28 - Las Vegas, NV - Pro Record (29-3), 9 KO's
Currently ranked 11th in the world, Forbes holds an International Boxing Federation (IBF) title and sports a record of 29 wins with three knockouts and three losses. With his ranking making him a target in the tournament, Forbes welcomes the chance to show what makes him a true Contender.
Micheal Stewart - Age 28 - New Castle, DE - Pro Record (38-4-2), 22 KO's
Originally from Columbia, Tennessee, Micheal "No Joke" Stewart distinguishes himself from the pack with his thick, raspy voice and blue-collar appeal. He is a building aficionado who works as a union construction laborer by day and has aspirations of becoming a general contractor.
Aaron Torres - Age 26 - Philadelphia, PA - Pro Record (14-2), 6 KO's
Aaron Torres grew up on the rough streets of Philadelphia. As an amateur, Torres maintained an impressive career, having fought in more than 100 fights and winning all but 10. Turning professional in 2000, he describes his boxing style as "moving poetry": graceful with his footwork and intense with his jabs.
Walter Wright - Age 24 - Seattle, WA - Pro Record (10-1), 5 KO's
A native of Seattle, Walter "2 Guns" Wright possesses the heart of a champion and a positive outlook on life. An alternate for the United States boxing team at the 2000 Olympics, Wright boasted a successful amateur career, winning ninety of his 102 fights.