Despite taking a body-blow from NBC, "The Contender (search)" may be back for a second round on ESPN.

The sports cable network has confirmed that it's close to acquiring the rights to the boxing reality show, hosted by Sylvester Stallone (search) and executive-produced by reality king Mark Burnett.

If "The Contender" does get the green light, it would have the same production qualities — including Stallone as host — as it did on NBC.

NBC is rumored to have spent more than $40 million producing the first season of the show, and nearly $40 million to promote it, with much of the money spent on startup costs.

While it averaged only about 5 million viewers per-episode on NBC, if those same 5 million viewers follow it to ESPN, "The Contender" would be considered a huge hit by cable standards.

After the show was canceled last spring, Burnett — along with his producing partners Stallone and Dreamworks honcho Jeffery Katzenberg — vowed to bring it back in some form.

On "The Contender," 16 boxers lived and trained together, battled through various physical and mental challenges and eventually squared off in the ring. Each week a losing fighter was sent packing.

The show, Burnett has said, is a chance to breathe new life in a sport that has been dogged for years by corruption and diminishing public interest.

Yet the possibility that the show may get a second chance is just the latest twist in what has become a saga even more dramatic than the series' charged-up storylines.

Last year, FOX announced plans for its own boxing show, called "The Next Great Champ (search)," starring Oscar De La Hoya, shortly after Burnett and his partners had pitched their show to the boxing champ.

An ensuing court skirmish was eventually won by FOX, and "The Contender" debuted months after "Champ" had flopped.

"The Contender" also had its share of tragedy. Last Valentine's Day, one of the boxers on the show committed suicide after he returned home to Philadelphia.

Then in March, a man claiming that he pitched the original idea for "The Contender" to the producers in 2003 slapped them with a federal suit claiming they stole the idea from him.