By: Jeandra Lebeauf
The fifth season of television’s boxing tournament/reality series The Contender premieres Friday night on EPIX with an updated look, new trainers and a new host.
Hosted by former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, the Contender examines the lives of 16 boxing hopefuls competing for the chance to win a six-figure purse and the title of ultimate Contender. Divided into two teams of 8, the fighters will live together in close quarters while being guided by world-renowned trainers Bro. Naazim Richardson (trainer of former champions Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Shane Mosley)and Freddy Roach (trainer of Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto)with Ward stopping in from time to time to impart wisdom.
This season, the participants will compete at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, the weight class led by WBC/WBA/IBF champion Gennady Golovkin (fighting Canelo Alvarez September 15 in Las Vegas) and WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders (fighting Demetrius Andrade October 20 in Boston). While a Contender win doesn’t guarantee a title shot once the outcome is determined, it could prove to be decent sized bargaining chip to entice other fighters into the ring.
Here’s a look at who will be competing this season via TV Insider:
Ievgen “The Ukranian Lion” Khytrov, Age: 29, Rank: 20, Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.-
A Ukrainian immigrant, Olympian, Ievgen Khytrov recently relocated to America to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion and to create a better life for his family. A dedicated, quiet, religious man. He’s also the one to beat.
Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker, Age: 34, Rank: 68, Hometown: Plaquemine, La. –
Incarcerated at 15 years old and spent 14 years behind bars for robbery and attempted murder, Eric “Babyface Assassin” Walker learned to box while in prison. He is now fighting for a second chance at life, living proof that it’s never too late to live out your dreams.
John “Apollo Kid” Thompson, Age: 29, Rank: 70, Hometown: Newark, N.J. –
After losing his mother to AIDS at six years old, this married performing artist, painter and fighter, John “Apollo Kid” Thompson is here to prove to the world that he can’t be boxed into a single category despite holding impressive titles including the 2015 WBA-NABA Super Welterweight, WBO Inter-Continental Super Welterweight and Boxcino Tournaments.
Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister, Age: 27, Rank: 172, Hometown: Long Beach, Calif. –
Always at the center of schoolyard fights growing up, Malcolm “The Punisher” McAllister now channels his energy into helping others rebuild outside of foreclosure and his young, growing family. In boxing has built an impressive KO record and the 2014 Golden Gloves title on his journey to take the title of The Contender.
Brandon “The Cannon” Adams, Age: 28, Rank: Inactive, Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif. –
A bold fighter in the ring, Brandon “The Cannon” Adams knows firsthand what it means to push through adversity and step up to care for his family when there’s no one else around to. Coming from a poverty stricken neighborhood, this larger than life father of two marks his return to boxing after a three year hiatus, initiated by a loss to fellow competitor, John Thompson.
Quatavious “Cash” Cash, Age: 26, Rank: 161, Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev. –
This Atlanta native is the current record-holder for fastest KO in Georgia, a four0time Golden Gloves state champ and Bronze medalist. Quatavious Cash is fighting for his late mother and for the chance to prove that a life of fighting street gangs can be channeled for good.
Shane “Sugarman” Mosley, Jr., Age: 27, Rank: 149, Hometown: Santa Monica, Calif.-
The lone single contender, son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Shane “Sugarman” Mosley Jr. is fighting to step out of his father’s shadow and carve out his own legacy.
Daniel “El Chapulin” Valdivia, Age: 25, Rank: 116, Hometown: Tulare, Calif. –
A natural salesman and real estate agent by day, nicknamed “El Chapulin” (“Grasshopper”) for his boundless energy, Mexican immigrant Daniel Valdivia was born to step into the ring. With several titles including the NABF Super Welterweight Champion as an underdog, he’s chasing fame to prove giving up college for boxing was the right move.
Michael “The Silverback” Moore, Age: 31, Rank: 252, Hometown:Cleveland, Oh. –
Reformed from a hard life on the streets, fraught with drugs, death and family suicide, Michael Moore is a natural hustler and leader. Married with two kids, Moore is constantly moving from state to state with his family in tow in pursuit of the boxing dream.
Gerald “G5” Sherrell, Age: 24, Rank: 216, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. –
A fan of the original Contender series growing up, Gerald “G5” Sherrell is an undefeated and explosive fighter with a level of unrivaled and self-proclaimed swagger.
Hailing from the projects, this multiple time Golden Gloves, Silver Gloves and Junior Olympic competitor, this local zoo security guard by day, and young father by night, is looking to bring boxing glory back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch, Age: 34, Rank: 154, Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. –
Injury-plagued throughout his career, the Native American hailing from Southern Louisiana is a married father of three. Knowing that he’s old for the sport, Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch has one last shot at making his boxing dreams come true.
Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez, Age: 24, Rank: 104, Hometown: Fresno, Calif. –
Having been bullied from a young age after an accident left him with burns on 30 percent of his body, Marcos “Mad Man” Hernandez is fighting for his young autistic son, in hopes that he won’t be bullied the same way he was. With Junior Olympics, 2012 Blue and Gold titles and “Mexican-go-forward” style fighting he may be overlooked and underestimated.
Tyrone “Young Gun” Brunson, Age: 33, Rank: 39, Hometown: Philadelphia, PA –
At a time when he needed to sell drugs to support himself at the age of 13, a stepfather’s ultimatum: be grounded or go to the boxing gym was his saving grace. Now a humble father of two, and sitting with one of the best rankings in the competition, his 24 KO’s send a signal that he will not fight silently but his cocky attitude has beat him more than just once.
Lamar “Omega” Russ, Age: 31, Rank: 115, Hometown: Wilmington, N.C. –
One of four kids raised by a single mom and the first person in his family to graduate college, Lamar “Omega” Russ takes pride in being the underdog, and beneath the loud exterior is a boxer that needs to prove he can put his money where his mouth is.
HBO, ESPN and a first round KO on Showtime do all the talking.
John “The Rock” Jackson, Age: 29, Rank: 63, Hometown: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin
A divorced father of two, this slick and agile boxer, Virgin Islander John “The Rock” Jackson started fighting at 12 years old, following in his world champion father Julian Jackson’s footsteps at the Pan American Games and 2008 Olympics. He comes from wealth but cares for the underprivileged and dreams of making his island proud bringing visibility to those struck by recent natural disasters.
Devaun “Unique” Lee, Age: 30, Rank: 82, Hometown: Jamaica Queens, N.Y.
When one of his friends was shot and killed at 16, Devaun “Unique” Lee knew he needed a way out from the mean streets of Queens. Boxing keeps him straight. So do long hours fueling airplanes and caring for his five year old daughter. The real love of his life. Fatherhood and the sport are the motivation to take his NY State Middleweight championship to the next level.
Previous winners of The Contender include: Sergio Mora (ex-WBC super welterweight champion), Grady Brewer, Sakio Bika (ex-WBC super middleweight champion), and Troy Ross.
The Contender Airs on EPIX at 9/8c.