In February 2004, Mark Burnett, Sylvester Stallone and co-founder of Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced that they were teaming up for a new boxing reality series titled The Contender that would initiate a nationwide search for a ‘new boxing superstar’. Bulldog Media and Entertainment is now bringing the series to India with Olympics and World Championship bronze medallist Vijender Singh stepping into Stallone’s shoes as host-mentor.
“Vijju will bring authenticity to the show. Apart from boxing, it will tell the stories of these boxers most of whom come from below poverty line. Since Vijju’s father is a bus driver, he’s the original Rocky, the real action hero,” asserts Akash Sharma, vice chairman and MD, Bulldog.
Shailendra Singh of Percept, which will be co-producing the show, describes it as “50 per cent sport and 50 per cent entertainment”, with “plenty of aggression, unscripted drama and a climax every five minutes”.
Even though this will be a first-of-its-kind reality series on boxing in India, a show on wrestling that was flagged off recently hasn’t yet grabbed the TRPs. “That show is in a different space; besides it’s fiction while ours is non-fiction. Also, Vijju has a lot of female fans,” says Sharma.
Vijender Singh says, “It’s high time we realised the enormous talent India has to offer in other sports as well. Contender will be another vehicle for boxers to drive right into the heart of international competition.”
Shailendra Singh concludes, “While Dhoni plays for India, Vijender fights for India.”