A contestant on NBC’s upcoming reality boxing series, The Contender, has apparently committed suicide. NBC said the show will go on as planned, although likely with a tribute added.
According to co-owned MSNBC News Services, Najai Turpin, 23, a middleweight boxer from Philadelphia, shot himself in the head while sitting in a parked car with his girlfriend early Monday morning.
Turpin’s manager, Percy Custus, told MSNBC that the boxer was having personal problems, although it is unclear whether Turpin’s involvement in the boxing show contributed to those problems.
According to the NBC website for the show, Najai, “an extremely soft spoken, polite and very motivated fighter,” was robbed at gunpoint just a few months ago and lost nine hundred dollars.The following morning, Turpin received word that he had earned a place as one of sixteen boxers who would compete for $1 million on the NBC show.
The Contender, like the Oscar-winning Rocky, follows not only the intense training of the fighters but their personal lives, as well.
The show, executive produced by Survivor/Apprentice kingpin Mark Burnett, was originally set to air last fall but was pushed back because Fox beat NBC to the punch with its copycat reality boxing contest, The Next Great Champ.
According to NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks, The Contender will debut, as planned, on March 7. Although filming for the 13-part series has already been completed, the finale will be a live championship bout in Las Vegas set to take place in May.
The show plans to set up a fund to help Najai's daughter and family. There are reportedly no edits planned for the show, though the network is likely to add a tag saluting the boxer.
NBC would not comment on how far Najai got in the competition.