The reality boxing competition The Contender seemed down for the count, but the popular series makes its much-anticipated return to television on August 24th. Featured on the premium streaming service EPIX, the revived Mark Burnett show will showcase a host of gritty, hungry fighters, anxious to make their mark on the sport of boxing. The original announcement that EPIX planned to reboot the 2005-2009 series came back in February. Burnett decided to pick up where superstar actor Sylvester Stallone, best known for his iconic boxing role as Rocky, left off. Fans of the original will remember The Contender was featured on NBC. The much-hyped series showcased Stallone helping aspiring boxers to strive for greatness.
This season there will be 16 contestants competing over the course of 12 episodes will all new trainers.
The trainers featured on the reboot include boxing legend Freddie Roach and Naazim Richardson, who is best known for his work with champion boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley.
Burnett tapped super and light middleweight champion, Andre “Son of God” Ward, to host this season. The two-weight class, undefeated Ward, is a top student of the sport. “What I’ve always loved about boxing is what the average person can’t see,” Ward said back in February. “There’s more to it than just jumping into the ring and fighting. It’s about the motivation behind why you get into the ring at all and that comes from different places, family, friends, your personal life journey.”
Recently, Ward sat down with us me to discuss the upcoming season of The Contender, Creed II, and what he wants to be remembered for regarding his boxing legacy.
What can fans expect from you as the host on this season of “The Contender?”
The fans can expect a lot of energy, training, and being a mentor to these fighters. In the critical moments where if there is conflict in the house or boxing in the gym, whether it’s pre-fight or post-fight. People will get to see me again in a mentorship role, and a big brother figure to these fighters. They will see non-stop energy in the ring and the house on this season of the contender.
How many hours went into training for 12-round fights?
It is indeed a lifestyle I cannot speak for anyone else, but for me, training never stops. You might take a couple of weeks off here and there, but it’s an ongoing process. When I know a fight is getting close, I will step my intensity up regarding my training. Anywhere from two to three months is when you try to lock in and most of my training camps are right around eight weeks. That is when you are officially out of your home, and all your doing is eating, sleeping, and drinking the fight you have coming up. It is a lifestyle if you want to be celebrated in this business.
What is a daily regime for that type of fight?
Typically, you will do some cardio early in the morning then take a two to three-hour nap. After your rest, you are in the gym for another three hours that consist of strength and conditioning, sparring. Drills with your coach on the focus pads, heavy bags. Typically for me when I got older recovery was important. That consisted of acupuncture, ice baths, a healthy diet and a lot of rest.
During one of your most recent interviews with Fight Hype you talk about being blessed with business opportunities post-retirement. What are some of the business ventures that you can talk about at this time?
Just my portfolio, that is first and foremost. What I have been able to amass throughout my career managing that alone is a full-time job. I am also associated with everyone fighting in the business of boxing, for example, George Forman III has franchised his niche for boxing sickness across the country. We are in discussion to bring that to the west coast along as my business sponsors such as Jordan, and Monster those relationships still exist. Other things include real estate. That venture did not start after I retired from boxing we were already negotiating these opportunities throughout my career. Other possibilities like The Contender and Creed II were things that I have been able to transition into post-retirement successfully.
What can fans expect from you and the rest of the cast in Creed II which is scheduled to hit theaters later this year?
I think it is going to be just as good or not better than the first installment. That is what you want a feature to be when you add a sequel to a series, to be able to surpass the original. Steven Caple Jr. is a young director based out of Cleveland, Ohio and attended the University of Southern California. He is also close with Ryan Coogler, who is coming off the success of “Black Panther,” and I think Caple is going to do a tremendous job with the franchise of Creed. The fans will get the opportunity to see me in a different light from what they are accustomed to in this film. I cannot wait for everyone to see this film opening Thanksgiving weekend.
You are a basketball fan, have you thought about investing in an NBA Team in the future?
I have never thought about it. Don’t get me wrong I would never turn down an opportunity if it were offered. Anything is possible, but I can honestly say it has not been something that has crossed my mind. I am passionate about the sport of basketball, and I think any investment you have to understand the landscape before investing. Of course, if the opportunity presented itself, I would vet it, but at this time that is not something that I have thought about doing.
What does Andre Ward want his Legacy to be when it is all said and done?
I think my legacy will always be written in stone regarding people knowing that I faced the best and beat the best. That is not the most natural thing to do. Sometimes it’s more accessible to take a route where you are fighting opponents that might not be as skilled as you are and try to get as much money for that fight as possible. It’s very difficult to challenge yourself, putting your reputation on the line, and your record. I can say that I was able to do that throughout a 13-year career and was fortunate enough to come out on top each time. Not a lot people can say that they did that in their careers. I think that is one thing the is dear to me that my pioneers know that I did not avoid anyone and I was willing to face the best that sport had to offer. You always want to be known as someone that took care of their business regarding finances and someone that can help change the narrative in the sport. I think I made the right decision to leave. There was money still left on the table, but we do not have a lot of good luck stories. I just want to be a part of positive stories after retiring from the sport of boxing.
When can the fans expect your documentary to be released?
I do not have a release date set yet. We are in postproduction right now. It has been a lot of work and I’m excited for what we have been able to accomplish so far. Going through the editing process with my team and I think the benefit that I had throughout my career is not revealing everything. It is benefitting me now as I move forward. Now, there is so much I can show that has not been seen before and I have a lot of stories to tell. Why did the best fighter in the world at the time walk away from the sport of boxing? I will be showing the narrative why I decided to walk away. It is in the works and I’m sure you will hear something about it shortly.