ESPN renews The Contender for a third season; unedited fights will air on ESPN2

The new season debuts Sept. 4 at 10 p.m. ET and will be “the first to feature the full, uncut fights that will air on ESPN2,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The 16 boxers will compete for $1 million, a $500,000 increase (although ESPN says the prize is $750,000). Also increasing will be the contestants’ weight class, the paper reports. The 16 new boxers will be super-middleweight, up three notches from last season’s welterweight class. (Earlier this year, a report suggested the series would leave ESPN for HBO and switch its focus to heavyweights.)

Executive producer told ESPN that they are “a combination of experienced guys who have fought for world championships and very good prospects who will wind up fighting for world championships.”

They include two Australians, Sakio Bika and Sam Soliman, who may “have a rematch [on the show] following their controversial 2002 battle in Melbourne,” the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Production started two weeks ago, the SMH says, and Bika told the paper, “The last two weeks has been constant testing, interviews, psychology tests. It’s been a bit hard for me to get used to, there are about 10 cameras filming us every time we train.”

While Sugar Ray Leonard returns, Sylvester Stallone will remain missing in action, even though he’s done filming Rocky Balboa.

There’s no quit in ‘Contender’ [Hollywood Reporter]
“Contender” returns for third season [ESPN]
Bika, Sam get shot at being contenders – and a rematch [Sydney Morning Herald]