The Contender, the ESPN reality show helmed by Survivor crafter Mark Burnett, is back for a third season.
The show, which will feature super middleweights this time around, kicks off on Sept. 4 on ESPN (10 PM Eastern).
Sugar Ray Leonard returns to center stage as host, while two new trainers, Buddy McGirt and Pepe Correa, replace Tommy Gallagher and comebacking fighter Jeremy Williams.
One complaint from fight fans has been addressed, and interested parties can see the entire fight each week on ESPN2.
The sixteen super middleweight boxers gunning for this year’s title of “The Contender” include, in alphabetical order:
MAX ALEXANDER – Age 26 – Camden, NJ – Pro Record (14-1), 2 KO’s
As the self proclaimed most competitive guy of the group, Alexander amassed an impressive 47-3 amateur record and maintains an undefeated record as a professional. Alexander is not only accomplished in the ring, he recently obtained a degree in criminal justice from Montclair State University.
DAVID BANKS – Age 24 – Portland, OR – Pro Record (14-2-1), 2 KO’s
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon Banks has been fighting professionally for only three years. Banks considers himself an upset specialist and likes coming in as the underdog.
SAIKO BIKA – Age 28 – Cameroon/ Sydney, Australia – Pro Record (22-3-2), 14 KO’s
Bika represented his native country of Cameroon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, while there loved it so much he has since decided to live and train in Sydney. This accomplished fighter has several title bouts on his resume including the Australian Middleweight Title and New South Wales State Middleweight Title.
HENRY BUCHANAN – Age 28 – Capital Heights, MD – Pro Record (14-1-0), 11 KO’s
The supremely confident Henry “Sugar Poo” Buchanan was born and raised in Capital Heights, Maryland. Buchanan has impressed boxing experts with his power, uppercut from the inside and ability to slip punches.
LA FARRELL BUNTING – Age 27 – Las Vegas, NV – Pro Record (16-3-1), 16 KO’s
Bunting’s only focus once in the ring is winning and doing the best he can. His title bouts include vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas Light Heavyweight Title and World Boxing Organization (WBO) NABO Super Middleweight Title.
JAIDON CODRINGTON – Age 23 – Queens, NY – Pro Record (16-1-0), 12 KO’s
Former national Golden Gloves Champion, Codrington, possesses the perfect mix of speed, power and flash that has captivated audiences since his 2004 professional debut. With Sugar Ray Leonard as one of his idols, Codrington feels truly fortunate to be a part of the Contender.
MIGUEL HERNANDEZ – Age 32 – Chicago, IL – Pro Record (20-5-0), 10 KO’s
This popular fighter didn’t start boxing until 27. Hernandez has earned the respect of many very quickly both inside and outside the ring. Touted as one of Chicago’s favorite fighters, Hernandez is a straight forward fighter with a reputation of putting on a great show.
WAYNE JOHNSEN – Age 29 – Lyndhurst, NJ – Pro Record (16-1-0), 9 KO’s
Born and raised in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, Johnsen is a standout athlete in several sports. While on a football scholarship for the University of New Heaven, Johnsen blew out his knee and turned to boxing to stay in shape for football. Johnsen was soon recognized in the boxing community as a rising star.
DONNY MCCRARY – Age 24 – St. Joseph, MO – Pro Record (23-5-2), 13 KO’s
Born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, McCrary dreams of becoming a world boxing champion. With titles such as North American Boxing Association (NABA)and North American Boxing Council (NABC) Midwest Super Middleweight he is on his way to fulfilling his dream.
LES RALSTON – Age 25 – Buffalo, NY – Pro Record (16-2-0), 9 KO’s
Ralston is managed and trained by his father, Jimmy Ralston, who was a top 10 rated light heavyweight in the sixties. Ralston is more focused than ever and can hurt opponents with either hand.
DANNY SANTIAGO – Age 34 – Ocala, FL – Pro Record (29-3-1), 19 KO’s
A native of New York, Santiago is a former New York City Golden Gloves Champion as well as competed for World Boxing Organization (WBO) Light Heavyweight Championship. He is an aggressive fighter who tries to knock his opponent’s head off.
PAUL SMITH– Age 24 – Liverpool, UK – Pro Record (20-0-0), 12 KO’s
Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Smith comes from a boxing family; in fact he and his three brothers are the first brothers that have all won Amateur National Championships. The confident Smith welcomes the chance to show what makes him a true Contender.
SAM SOLIMAN – Age 33 – Melbourne, Australia – Pro Record (33-9-0), 13 KO’s
Soliman began his boxing career after studying several forms of martial arts including Tae Kwon Do, Karate and Kick-Boxing. The super fit Soliman’s proudest moment as a fighter was winning the Commonwealth Title in 2001. Soliman also works as a motivational speaker in Australia.
BRIAN VERA – Age 25 – Austin, TX – Pro Record (14-0-0), 9 KO’s
Brian Vera possesses the heart of a champion. Two-time International Boxing Association (IBA) Champ, Vera, comes from a long lineage of professional fighters. The heavy-handed Austin favorite puts on a great show in the ring.
RHOSHII WELLS – Age 30 – Las Vegas, NV – Pro Record (18-2-2), 10 KO’s
Inspired by Rocky movies as a kid, Rhoshii Wells, begged his father to take him to the gym and teach him to box. Nic-named “The Great One” Wells began his professional career in 1997 after winning the bronze medal in the middleweight division at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
RUBIN WILLIAMS – Age 31 – Detroit, MI – Pro Record (29-2-1), 16 KO’s
Growing up in Detroit wasn’t always easy according to Williams, the self described bully turned accomplished fighter. With title bouts such as International Boxing Federation (IBF) Super Middleweight and NBA Super Middleweight on his resume this confident fighter is ready for any challenge.
Solimon is the best known of the late, and probably starts the proceedings as the favorite, with Wells and Bika. Weigh in, readers…who's going to take the crown this season? Me, I have to root hard for a fighter who answers to the nickname “Sugar Poo.”