News: The Contender; Bedarin Toma; Zahid Kahut

NEW YORK, N.Y. (February 19, 2009)-VERSUS, the network that celebrates real competition, will air the final fight from the fourth season of the hard-hitting reality show THE CONTENDER, live from the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods on Wednesday, February 25, at 9 p.m. ET when Troy Ross and Ehinomen “Hino” Ehikhamenor battle in a 10-round bout to earn the coveted title of Contender Champion. The fight will be produced and presented in HD where available..

Ross, 32-years-old from Brampton, Ontario (17-1-0, 12 KO’s), is an aggressive southpaw who made two Olympic boxing appearances for Team Canada and has since become one of the top ranked Canadian boxers in the light heavyweight division. Ross also portrayed light heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis in the movie “Cinderella Man” with Russell Crowe. Ehikhamenor, 28-years-old from Queens, NY (12-3-0, 7 KO’s), moved to the U.S. from Nigeria when he was 13-years-old to pursue a career in boxing. Although he’s experienced his share of disappointment and difficulty in his boxing career, specifically losing the Golden Gloves title in 1999, he will have the opportunity on February 25 to prove his skills as a fighter.

Ross defeated Akinyemi “AK” Laleye (10-1-0, 5 KO’s) in the semifinal round to earn his chance to fight for the Contender Champion title, while Ehikhamenor defeated Rico Hoye (20-2-0, 15 KO’s) to advance to the live finale. Though not fighting for the champion title, Laleye and Hoye will also be featured on the February 25 live fight card.

Laleye, 27-years-old from Las Vegas, NV, is a relative new-comer to the sport and has only been boxing for two years. Serving two tours of duty for the U.S. Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan he attributes his strength as a fighter to his knowledge of combat. Unlike his competitor, Hoye, 33-years-old from Detroit, MI, began boxing at six-years-old. Hoye fought in the Golden Glove amateur tournament at age nine and turned pro at 21-years-old. As a professional boxer, Hoye has cracked the top 10 in the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and won light heavyweight titles for both the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) and International Boxing Association (IBA).

The fourth installment of THE CONTENDER featured 16 Cruiserweights from around the globe who faced off in an 11-episode competition leading up to next week’s live finale. With former boxer and television star Tony Danza serving as host and mentor alongside veterans Tommy Brooks and John Bray as trainers, these fighters went through the most intense training of their lives and battled in the most challenging fights of their careers. Through a series of elimination rounds, only Troy Ross and Hino Ehikhamenor, the two top contenders, remain to fight it out for the champion title in the live season finale.

Represented by the Tournament of Contenders, fighters from previous seasons have gone on to fight Joe Calzaghe, Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, and Oscar de La Hoya. In June 2008 Sergio Mora, THE CONTENDER season 1 champion, went on to become the first Contender World Champion by winning the WBC title.

THE CONTENDER is produced by Mark Burnett Productions and DreamWorks Television and was produced in Singapore in cooperation with Mark Burnett Productions Asia who provided production and logistical support. The series is executive produced by Mark Burnett, Eric Van Wagenen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Jeff Wald, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, and Page Feldman are co-executive producers.

Dino Duva Signs Albanian Heavyweight Toma

Promoter Dino Duva has signed highly-regarded heavyweight prospect Bedarin “Rini” Toma, who will make his professional debut in the New York City spotlight on Wednesday night, February 25, at BB Kings Blues Club and Grill on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

Toma, who fights out of Astoria, Queens and is a two time New Jersey Golden Gloves champion, will square off against John Rabotte in his pro bow. Duva will promote the hard punching youngster, and his father, legendary Hall of Famer Lou Duva, will serve as co-manager with his partner Phil Forte.

Toma will show his considerable wares on the undercard of the DiBella Entertainment show featuring light heavyweights Shaun George vs. Jaffa Ballogou in the main event.

The New York boroughs have a high Albanian population, and Toma already has a huge following.

“I had heard about him and his success in the New Jersey Golden Gloves,” says Dino. “When I finally got a chance to meet him, he told me he wanted to turn pro. Some mutual friends told him to talk to us about working with me and my father. Rini, my father and I bonded quickly, and signed contracts soon after.”

“He is a tremendous puncher,” added Duva, “and that’s what we need in the heavyweight division today, power punchers that excite the fans. I can see him progressing very quickly in the heavyweight division. I know that he is popular with the Albanians New Yorkers, who are great fans, and I am excited about building him as a future heavyweight star.”

“He’s a strong guy who comes to fight,” says Lou Duva. “He gives fight fans a real show. I think he can do it, people like him. He has charisma to go with the talent.”

“I feel very good, I am very happy, I am a lucky guy to sign with Dino,” says the 25-year-old Toma. “I am very excited about fighting in New York in front of my family and friends, I am actually very nervous, but I know I will do well.”

“I am a boxer puncher, and very fast hands,” said the native of Lexha, Albania. “I come with a lot of power, I can also take a good punch, and my conditioning is very good, too.”

Toma migrated to the United States seven years ago from Albania, where boxing was prohibited, but he excelled as a three time Greco Roman wrestling champion.

Rocky Marciano is his idol. “The reason I started boxing was that I was delivering some books from the store, and I saw pictures of Rocky Marciano. He inspired me. Someone told me I had big fists like him, and that we looked similar.”

If Toma resembles Marciano in the ring in the slightest bit, he has quite a future ahead of him. Dino and Lou Duva hope so.

Boxing solicitor out to tame “Wild Thing”

Boxing solicitor Zahid Kahut is warning Earl Ling to beware of the long arm of the law when they clash at the Norfolk Showground, Norwich on the 28th February on the undercard of Jon Thaxton’s first defence of his European title.

The Hennessy Sports show will see Thaxton feature live on ITV4 as he aims to take a step closer to a World title shot by seeing off the challenge of French champion, Anthony Mezaache. Kahut and Ling will be aiming to progress their own careers in a cruiserweight dust up on the undercard.

Local cult hero Ling calls himself the “Wild Thing” and makes no secret about his brushes with the law in the past but solicitor Kahut who divides his time between the courtroom and the famous Ingle gym in Sheffield says the Norwich man is “going down”.

“I’m expecting him to come out fast but I think once I’ve weathered the early storm then I’ll come on strong and I’d expect to stop him in the third or fourth,” claimed the unbeaten 6 foot 6 southpaw who was born in Pakistan.

“I’m growing in confidence all the time and I believe as long as I stay busy and keep improving in the gym there’s no reason why I can’t look for a British title shot. When I came into boxing my goal was to have just one pro fight but now that I’ve accomplished that I want to keep setting new goals for myself.

“I take inspiration from what a guy like Johnny Nelson achieved with the Ingles. When he came to them he never imagined that one day he would be a world champion but he went on to do just that.”

Kahut has taken an unlikely route into the world of boxing crediting chat show legend Michael Parkinson with inspiring him to don a pair of boxing gloves for the first time.

“I’d always been a boxing fan from when I was very young. I used to love watching old Muhammad Ali fights and I was also a big fan of Mike Tyson in his early days. I never actually thought about taking up boxing though, I was mainly into sports like snooker, tennis and cricket and I played all of them to a decent standard.

“What actually convinced me to start boxing myself was when I watched an old interview that Michael Parkinson did with Ali. Parkinson was questioning Joe Bugner’s right to challenge Ali and Ali replied by asking Parkinson if he had ever boxed himself. When Parkinson said no, Ali said that if he’d never stepped in a ring how could he question Bugner’s right to challenge him.

“I remember watching it and thinking, I’m the same, here I am a boxing fan with an opinion on every fight but I’d never got in the ring either. I decided to give it a go and see what it was all about so I headed down to the local amateur club and within 2 months I’d had my first fight.

“I had 11 amateur fights total and I won 7 of them but I had to give it up because I was studying for my law degree at the time and I had other things going on in my life so the boxing had to take a back seat.”

However after settling into life as a solicitor Kahut decided to return to the sport and give the pro game a shot. “I always had aspirations of having a pro fight and when I was able to get in to a 9 to 5 routine with my job it left me time to train in the mornings and evenings so I decided to turn pro with the intention of having just one fight.

“On my debut I fought Scott Mitchell. I was brought in as the opponent and they had high hopes for him but I won that one and then I thought why not keep going and see how far I can go in the sport.”

Now Kahut says he wants to extend his unbeaten run to 4 straight wins with a win over Ling. “I don’t know too much about him but I’m told he’s a tough guy who likes to come forward but that suits me because I’m a counter puncher.

“Even before I joined the Ingle gym I used to box in that style because I always tried to model myself on Naseem Hamed and how he threw his punches, like his corkscrew uppercut. I like to walk my opponents on to my punches and at 6 foot 6 I usually have a good reach advantage over my opponents so Ling will definitely be feeling the long arm of the law!”

Featuring on the exciting undercard: Danny McIntosh v Matthew Barney for the English Light Heavyweight Title, also appearing New Heavyweight Sensation Tyson Fury, Matthew Thirlwall, Lee Purdy, Steve O’Meara and making his pro debut, ABA Senior Featherweight Champion 2008 & awarded the best boxer of the night Royston’s Bradley Evans.

Tickets for Kahut – Ling which is part of the undercard of Jon Thaxton’s first European title defence at the Norfolk Showground, Norwich on the 28th February are available from the Ticketline box office on 0844 888 4402 or via

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