NBC announced Saturday that five-time world champion fighter Sugar Ray Leonard has signed on to star in The Contender, the network's new upcoming unscripted series that will launch a competitive search for the next boxing superstar. Additionally the network also announced the program's first audition dates.

"We’re thrilled to have another legend, this time Sugar Ray Leonard, become a part of the all star team that is putting this project together. With Sugar Ray Leonard, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Burnett and Jeffrey Katzenberg (DreamWorks SKG) at the helm, we are confident we are about to find the next great television drama and help someone fulfill the American dream," said NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker in making the announcement.

"We are so glad to add Sugar Ray Leonard to our team. Our aspiring contenders will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to train with and be mentored by one of the greatest champions of all time," said reality uber-producer Mark Burnett. "His presence will give these 16 hopefuls added incentive to really challenge themselves as they work towards their dream of one day being a champion just like Ray."

"Mark, Sly and I believe the addition of boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard further cements our determination and commitment to bringing boxing back to its glory days," Katzenberg said.

The Contender will follow boxers from training camp through an evolving series of ring challenges over 16 episodes - the finalists will compete live for 1 million in prize money. The driving force behind the series will be the pursuit of the American dream and the natural trials, tribulations and heartbreak inherent in that quest. The canvas of the show is much broader than boxing - it will give viewers a first-hand look into the real life hopes, triumphs and defeats of the contestants.

Grabbing widespread public acclaim after winning the gold metal at the 1976 Olympic games, Hall of Fame boxer Leonard went on to capture the welterweight title four years later by defeating Wilfred Benitez. He was named "fighter of the decade" for the 1980s. Leonard entered the decade a champion and left a champion, winning an unprecedented five world titles in five weight classes -- and competed in some of the era’s most memorable contests with Thomas Hearns.

To aid in the national casting process, Prentiss Bryd has joined the team as a boxing expert with 27 years of boxing experience. He has been involved with 20 world champions and 60 world championship fights and has worked with such fighters as Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kentey, Milton McCrory, Leon Spinks, Michael Moore and numerous others.

The search for The Contender will begin next month as NBC and DreamWorks launch nationwide open casting calls in the following cities. Additional application information will be released in the coming weeks.


• Tulsa, Oklahoma: April 9,10,11,12
• Tunica, Mississippi: April 14,15,16,17
• Dallas, Texas: April 19,20,21,22, 23
• Miami, Florida: April 25,26,27,28,29
• Washington DC: May 1,2,3,4
• Boston, Massachusetts: May 6,7,8,9
• Detroit, Michigan: May 11,12,13,14
• New York, NY: May 16,17,18,19,20
• Seattle, Washington: May 22,23,24,25
• Los Angeles, CA: May 27,28,29,30,31

The Contender will be a joint production of Mark Burnett Productions, DreamWorks Television and Rogue Marble. Stallone, Burnett and Katzenberg are the executive producers.