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New 'Contender' host Tony Danza not a fan of original host Sly Stallone

By Steve Rogers and John Bracchitta, 12/03/2008 

Tony Danza apparently has some fighting words for former The Contender host and executive producer Sylvester Stallone.

Danza, the former boxer turned actor/singer/talk-show host who will serve as the host of The Contender's fourth season that will premiere on Versus tonight, says he didn't like a couple of aspects of the show -- both of them involving Stallone -- when its first season debuted to poor ratings on NBC in 2004.

"There were a couple things I didn't like, [and one was] I didn't like the host," Danza told the New York Daily News.

Danza also added that hadn't been a fan of the first season's focus on the fighters' families, which both Stallone and The Contender producer Mark Burnett have previously repeatedly boasted was inspired by the format of the Rocky boxing movies Stallone wrote and starred in.

"[Stallone told me] 'You need to understand it's Adrian's story as much as it is Rocky's story,'" Burnett told reporters at a 2005 news conference announcing ESPN's decision to pickup The Contender after NBC passed on ordering a second season.

"I [also] didn't like the fact that the families were so prominent," Danza told the Daily News, adding that he didn't like the idea of a child sitting in the stands and watching their father get beat up during the reality competition's boxing matches.

According to Danza, although it took him four seasons to actually become The Contender's host (legendary boxer and first-season mentor Sugar Ray Leonard handled the show's hosting duties for the show's second and third seasons on ESPN, which canceled the show earlier this year), he had actually been in line to host the show's first season.

"I was supposed to be the host, but they decided the big movie star would be a better host than me," Danza told the Daily News referring to Stallone.

Danza added that he was excited about The Contender's fourth season, which will consist of 11 episodes that culminate with a live two-hour finale which will feature the tournament's final two boxers fighting for the season's championship title on February 19.

"This year, we're in Singapore, and the families aren't present," Danza told the Daily News. "The guys' stories are still filled with [family] stuff."

"For fight fans, these 16 guys are a really interesting group, very diverse, and I just think are fun to watch if you're a reality show fan," Danza said. "For the non-fans, you really get an insight into what it is, at this level, that makes you want to do it."

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