ESPN has announced that rather than debut in April as was originally planned, its new season of The Contender will premiere on Tuesday, July 18 at 10PM ET/PT.

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.

According to The Contender star Sugar Ray Leonard, now that the show is airing on an actual sports network, the new season will feature more boxing action than its initial NBC edition. "This time around, we’ll be more boxing-specific," Leonard told reporters attending the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. The heavier boxing focus will also extend to editing of the boxing matches themselves, where, in an apparent attempt to ensure that the match's focus remains more on what's going on in the ring and less on the crowd reactions of those around it, The Contender 2 will no longer allow a boxer's young children to attend the fight.

Although The Contender proved to be a ratings failure for NBC, ESPN is confident that since the show's biggest ratings weakness was its inability to attract female viewers, the boxing series will prove successful on the male-skewing sports cable network.

"Being more sports related than the NBC audience, we think that the audience is terrific," ESPN executive Ron Semiao told the Hartford Courant. "Being on our network will really be able to build The Contender brand and it will be very, very successful for many years to come."

As part of its second season agreement, ESPN also received options to renew the series for two additional installments. After its premiere, The Contender 2 will air weekly in ESPN's Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT time period through September 26.