Reality Boxing Suits Gets Another Contender

A court fight over competing reality boxing shows is getting a third contender.

NBC claims Fox stole its idea for "The Contender" (search) and rushed to put together "The Next Great Champ," (search) an upcoming series produced by boxer Oscar De La Hoya and Endemol USA. "The Contender" producers DreamWorks SKG and reality mogul Mark Burnett have waged a no-holds-barred legal battle that included calls for Fox to knock some footage out of its show, set to begin Sept. 7.

Now a 33-year-old independent producer has tossed her own lawsuit into the ring.

Leigh Ann Burton claims De La Hoya and his Golden Boy Promotions actually got the concept for a reality boxing show from her, after she registered a so-called treatment with the Writers Guild of America on Sept. 22, 2003. The series would be called "The House of Pain." (search)

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Superior Court, Burton said she detailed the show for De La Hoya and his company's chief executive, Richard Schaefer, in an Oct. 7 meeting. The suit says both agreed she would be compensated if they proceeded with the show.

She finalized a production agreement in November, according to the suit. Burton claims negotiations over the show stalled in January and she found out two months later that Fox planned to air "The Next Great Champ."

Stephen Espinoza, attorney for Golden Boy Promotions, said in a statement that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its specifics.

"However, the public comments from Ms. Burton and her counsel concerning what occurred between the parties are simply not true," Espinoza said. "Golden Boy Promotions and Mr. Schaefer have done nothing wrong, and Ms. Burton's claims to the contrary are utterly without merit."

Burton's one-page treatment, filed along with her lawsuit, describes a one-hour program hosted by a pro boxer and celebrity host in which eight unknown boxers compete at a training compound equipped with cameras.

In "The Next Great Champ," aspiring boxers compete for a contract with De La Hoya's company and a World Boxing Organization title fight. In "The Contender," the prize is $1 million and a shot at a boxing career.