'The Contender' to begin second season on ESPN

"The Contender," the reality television series about professional boxers, will begin its second season in April 2006 on ESPN.

The network, Mark Burnett Productions, and DreamWorks Television made the announcement Thursday.

"The Contender" is an unscripted drama about the lives of 16 professional boxers as they compete for the chance to change their lives. The show will air as part of ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE) programming and be executive produced by "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sylvester Stallone. Casting and production on the series, which will air in primetime beginning April 2006, will begin immediately.

" 'The Contender' has all of the elements that make it the right fit for ESPN: compelling storylines, dynamic characters and suspense over the outcome," Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production, said. "This series speaks to our viewers' love for competition and their appreciation for triumph over adversity, and it goes without saying that the track record of Mark Burnett is exemplary -- a perfect match for the critical and ratings successes EOE has delivered in both scripted and unscripted drama."

Said Burnett: "Our vision from the onset was to improve the entertainment experience of televised boxing for the fans. What better platform to achieve that vision than on the network that pioneered sports television programming."

After being introduced to the contestants in the first episode, subsequent shows will see one or more boxers eliminated through ring competition. Viewers will see contestants training in the ring, living together in one house and witness their personal interactions, while learning the details of these men's lives and what led them to pursue their dreams.

ESPN has options to renew the series for two subsequent seasons.