The Contender, a competitive boxing docuseries, returns to television tonight (on EPIX at 9p ET/PT). Former WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine title holder Andre “Son of God” Ward hosts as 16 middleweight fighters live together, train together and compete in the ring for a six-figure prize and the title of The Contender. JohnWallStreet had a chance to sit down with the undefeated champion on Monday afternoon to discuss the latest season of The Contender, the sport of boxing’s resurgence and why he signed with Jordan Brand.
JWS: Beyond the prize money, what’s the goal for the 16 fighters competing in The Contender? Are there any championship-level fighters in the group?
Andre: So, for the guys that won’t get to the semifinals and finals, you are going to know their names and if they perform well on the show, if their personalities matched with their performances, they’ll get opportunities. And that’s all these guys can really ask for is an opportunity to showcase themselves and to be put in a position where they can be successful, but the semi-finalists and the finalists, the history of The Contender shows that those guys go on to fight for world titles and or win world titles.
JWS: The UFC has stolen a lot of boxing’s thunder over the last couple of years, but it now seems as if boxing undergoing a resurgence. Why is that?
Andre: I don’t know if it’s a resurgence. I think boxing goes through highs and lows, ebbs and flows. That’s just the nature of the beast. The structure is different than what the UFC does, so you’re going to see more volatility with boxing than you do with the UFC; it’s more of a steady thing because you got one guy that’s in charge, he’s controlling all the match-ups. So, boxing gets a bad rap. I mean, of course we have things in the sport that we need to change, things that are outdated, but as a whole I think boxing is going to be fine. And I think that everything that’s going on from ESPN and HBO, just all the players that are involved, boxing will win in the end.
JWS: How do you get more sponsors involved in the sport?
Andre: It’s tough to say, it really is. I mean, you know, boxing is the wild wild west and the old adage is that you don’t want to touch a fighter because you never know with these guys; they are reckless and this and that. It’s tough. I had a lot of major sponsors that people didn’t really know of because we didn’t really (promote them), we broadcasted (our sponsors) the week of the fight or whatever, but it wasn’t really something that I wore on my sleeve. So, there are people aligning with fighters. Floyd had big sponsors. So, they’re (sponsors) going to get behind big fights.
Howie Long-Short: The Contender is produced by MGM Television and Paramount Television. MGM Television is a division of MGM Holdings (OTC: MGMB); Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (owner of EPIX) is not the same company as MGM Resorts International (MGM).
Back in May, MGMB reported that despite a slight increase in Q1 ’18 revenue (to $271.5 million), net income declined from $35.2 million in ’17 to just $858,000 in ’18; a $15 million severance paid to former CEO Gary Barber contributed to the large drop.
Paramount Television is a subsidiary of Viacom (VIAB). The division posted another strong quarter in Q3, with licensing income driving the growth (think: 13 Reasons Why, The Alienist).
Fan Marino: You’re signed to Jordan Brand. Why did you choose to sign with them as opposed to a company that makes a full line of boxing equipment?
Andre: Because Michael Jordan is the greatest player that ever lived and when Michael Jordan wants to sign you, you go and you take a meeting with Michael Jordan; and you’re typically going to walk away from there with a contract, if he wants you. That’s just how it goes. On a simpler level, Larry Miller the President, Howard White the V.P, those guys have been following me for years; and they believe in me. They got the dopest shoes in the game. They got the dopest apparel in the game. I mean why not sign?
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