Stallone steps into the ring of reality television

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Sylvester Stallone is getting back into boxing -- this time finding and grooming young fighters to compete in a reality television show.
The 57-year-old star of the five "Rocky" movies will be executive producer of "The Contender," working with reality mogul Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice" and "Survivor") and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a founder of DreamWorks SKG. Stallone and Burnett, speaking at a news conference at a downtown boxing club Tuesday, said the NBC series will focus on the lives of boxing hopefuls in and outside the ring. NBC executives said the show will likely air in the 2004-05 season.
"'Rocky' wasn't about boxing; it was about the people around him who gave him reason to go on," said Stallone, who originated the role of hard-luck fighter Rocky Balboa in the 1976 best-picture Oscar winner.
The idea of the new series was hatched by Katzenberg, the former Disney executive who went on to form his own studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
The series will follow would-be boxers from training camp through challenges in the ring over 16 episodes, with the winner getting $1 million and the chance to become a professional prize fighter. The boxers will fight one another in a weekly elimination process similar to other reality shows. Producers haven't decided the weight class of the boxers yet.
Stallone said he will jump into the ring during the series and spar with some of the boxers. He believes the show will give boxers a Rockyesque chance at their dream.
"The door is now wide open again for you to have the opportunity to walk through it," Stallone said, speaking to potential contestants.
Both he and Burnett expressed disenchantment with professional boxing today, saying the sport is often misrepresented on many fronts and has too many federations.