Najai Turpin (search) paid a high price to secure a future for his daughter.

He paid with his life.

Turpin, 23, was the boxer from "The Contender" (search) who killed himself on Valentine's Day in Philadelphia, three weeks before the NBC (search) boxing series premiered March 7.

No link between his suicide and his experience on the show was ever established. But in this Sunday's episode, at 8 p.m. EST, Turpin takes centerstage for the first time.

And in his own, now-haunting words, seemingly spoken from beyond the grave (but recorded last September), the intense 5-foot-5-inch 151-pounder reveals what drove him.

"They always tell you you're going to have to fight your way out of the ghetto, so that's what I'm going to try to do," Turpin says on the show, which was obtained by The Post.

Moments later, he is seen in a conversation with Jackie Kallen, the boxing promoter who is billed as "den mom" on "The Contender."

She asks him, "Do you have friends?"

With his face partially hidden under a sweatshirt hood, he answers, "I don't hold people close like that, 'cause they'll cross you."

And then he makes a chilling reference to death. "My family — if I die today or tomorrow, they have nothing. But now, this gives me an opportunity to go out there and give them something to look forward to in life."

When his team of East Coast boxers wins the day's challenge, Turpin is chosen to represent them in the ring.

Before the bout, he is visited in the locker room by his girlfriend, Angela, and their 2-year-old daughter, Anyae.

"Anyae is my joy," Turpin says. "She's my everything. She gives me a reason to be here. . . .

"I think I'm here for a real reason. My family needs this. Hopefully, this right here will make the future brighter."

Nearly 51/2 months later, Turpin would fatally shoot himself in a car parked outside his girlfriend's house. Friends said the relationship had grown rocky, and he was afraid he would lose his daughter.

At the conclusion of Sunday night's show, co-executive producer Sugar Ray Leonard pays tribute to Turpin and announces the establishment of a trust fund for Anyae.

"Najai's greatest dream was that, through boxing, he would provide a better life for his daughter," Sugar Ray says.

In the end, the young boxer's "greatest dream" came true, though he is not around to see it.

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