Troy Ross is poised to make his name in boxing without even winning an Olympic medal or a world championship belt.
The 33-year-old cruiserweight from Toronto has reached the final of ''The Contender,'' a boxing-based reality TV show in its fourth season on the Versus network in the United States.
Ross (20-1) and Ehinomen (Hino) Ehikhamenor (15-3) of Nigeria face off Wednesday night at the Foxwoods casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
They are the last men standing out of 16 cruiserweights who spent six weeks living together and fighting five-round bouts against each other in Singapore leading up to the final. It was all on film, in and out of the ring, as the show's producers tried to show the human side as well as the boxing skills of the 200-pound pugilists.
''It's probably a feeling I'll never have again,'' Ross said this week. ''We took so much out of being together.
''Even if we fight each other, we still stick together. It's different. Usually you don't know your opponent too well. We spent nearly two months together. That makes it a better fight because you never want to lose to a friend.''
Both fighters were stumbling along in their pro careers when ''The Contender'' opted to feature the cruiserweights.
Dozens applied, but Ross's Montreal-based promoter, Groupe Yvon Michel, contacted the producers and helped get their fighter on the show.
''It's not only his boxing, but with his personality and intelligence, everybody loves him,'' said Michel. ''I told him that if he wins, he'll be a star.
''It's as important, or even more important, than winning a world championship. Doors will open up for him.''
Ross, who won the Commonwealth title in 2007, said the experience has already boosted his image.
''It'll be like going back to the Olympics and winning a gold medal,'' said Ross, who reached the quarter-finals in the 1996 Games and the third round in 2000. ''In fact, the whole situation at 'The Contender' is like the Olympics.
''There's a lot of exposure from every fight and that's what you want as a fighter. People go to see you perform. It's entertainment. It's also like the Olympics because we had 16 guys in a house and every week, one went home.''
The fortunes of past winners of the show have been mixed.
Season 1 winner Sergio Mora went on to capture the junior middleweight world title in 2008, upsetting Vernon Forrest. But he lost it back to Forrest in his first defence.
Grady Brewer, winner of Season 2, has not been able to translate his success since while Steve Forbes, beaten by Brewer in the final, went on to lose to Oscar De La Hoya and Andre Berto (for the WBC title).
Season 3 winner Sakio Bika is 2-0 since the show, knocking out Season 1 alumnus Peter Manfredo in his last fight, but hasn't parlayed winning the show into a big payday.
Ross should be the favourite Wednesday.
Only three fights didn't go the distance on the show so far and two of them were posted by the left-hander - a second-round TKO of Lawrence Tauasa in his first bout and a first-round TKO of Felix Cora in his second one.
The Guyana-born Ross then beat Nigerian Akinyemi Laleye in the one semifinal, while Ehikhamenor downed American Rico Hoye in the other.
Hoye, who lost a WBC light-heavyweight title bout to Adrian Diacoonu of Montreal in 2007, will face Laleye in the bout for third place.
Ehikhamenor had lost three of four fights before entering ''The Contender,'' the last a 12-round decision to Herbie Hide in May for the minor WBC International title.
''The Contender'' final is scheduled for 10 rounds.