IT'S that time of the year. The Jamaican public can brace for the third season of Contender Boxing Series courtesy of liquor distillery Wray & Nephew and Mark Kenny's MJK Production.
The 2013 season will see a return to the middleweight class which was featured in the inaugural 2011 edition, and according to head of marketing at J Wray & Nephew Limited Gary Dixon, fans can brace for the biggest Contender yet.
"We can guarantee it will be bigger and it will be better. It was good as is, but there are things that we are going to improve. There are things that we see that the audience may not see, and even the media may not see. We want to improve them to give a better show," he told the Sunday Observer after last season's successful welterweight showpiece.
The series is a show honed for reality television which opens with 16 boxers battling in an elimination-style competition. Rikardo Smith won the middleweight challenge in 2011, while Donovan Campbell topped the welterweight category last year.
The 2011 losing finalist Devon Moncrieffe and the hard-hitting Tsetsi Davis are expected to be among the main challengers this season.
Set to begin in March, Dixon said that the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control-endorsed event has renewed interest in the sport throughout the length and breadth of the country and stressed his company's continued involvement with the series.
"Last season it was the most popular show in Jamaica, and it is evidence that it has reached the grass roots. The success is not really a big surprise because we have always been a boxing nation. Boxing represents that struggle, and a lot of people can identify with the struggle.
"J Wray & Nephew, through the White Overproof Rum brand is bringing it back to the masses. It is a loved brand and both together make a winning combination," he said.
Promoted by MJK Production, the Wray & Nephew Contender has been a huge hit among live and television viewers, and with the high ratings garnered, some have argued that it has raised the standard in local sport TV production and has propelled boxing back into the spotlight.
Kenny, the promotion company's chief executive officer, gave some insight into how the winning partnership was formed.
"I had the concept of a boxing series and Wray & Nephew came on board. Foska Oats came in later to underpin it to help support the boxing board, which had, over the last number of years, been developing boxers in an underdeveloped financial situation.
"There is a huge history and beautiful image of boxing in Jamaica, and now we are having the fruition. So it's the covalence of a producer, a boxing board, sponsors and, of course, broadcast sponsor in TVJ (Television Jamaica) and that synergy has been fantastic," explained the man who hails from Ireland.
The top prize will again be $1 million, while the runner-up will pocket $500,000, and the third and fourth-placed fighters will receive $250,000 and $200,000, respectively.
MJK Production has a strong history of backing some popular TV shows in Jamaica, including Digicel Rising Stars, Claro Cash Cab and Magnum Kings & Queens of Dancehall.