The fourth season of The Contender, the boxing reality show on Versus, which kick-started the pro careers of boxers like super welterweight champ Sergio Mora, began Wednesday, December 3. This time, 26-year-old St. Louis boxer Ryan Coyne is right in the thick of it.
"It's the start of a new life for a lot of boxers," says Coyne, a Lindenwood University graduate who says he left a six-figure job with a logistics company to do the show. "And I want to be one of them."
The latest installment, which first aired on NBC with Sylvester Stallone hosting, takes place in Singapore. Tony Danza, a professional boxer before he got his break in acting, oversees a class of cruiserweights (176-200 pounds) who share a two-bedroom apartment, sans Internet, cell phones, television and video games.
The men range in age from 26 to 41. "You live together, sleep together, eat together, and then you have to fight each other," says Coyne. "You make some lifelong friends and some mortal enemies."
The fighters are divided into two teams after reaching their Singapore abode. The victorious squad after each successive bout gets to arrange the subsequent matchup – a setup that Coyne says created plenty of tension inside and outside the apartment.
"Boxing is a mental sport," says Coyne. "The most important thing is knowing who you're fighting, and when. You get bitter and insecure living in this environment where you don't know if you'll be called out or not. Some guys can't deal with that at all. Some go damn near crazy."
Coyne began boxing six years ago after a separated shoulder sidelined him from the University of Missouri football team. He learned to spar under St. Charles coach Mike Shipley and has since trained off and on with St. Louis trainer Kenny Loehr. (See above feature, "And the Fighter Still Remains.") In January, Coyne will begin splitting his time between here and Las Vegas as a full-time pro.
Coyne says he hasn't seen any of the Contender footage and has no idea whether he'll come out looking like "the biggest sweetheart in the world, or the biggest asshole."
Before the series, Coyne was 9-0 as a pro. He can't reveal his current standings because of a confidentiality agreement with the show's producers, but says he appears in the season premiere — "and many episodes thereafter."
Follow Coyne on The Contender with updates posted at blogs.riverfronttimes.com/therundown/contender