Like "The Slave" and "The Syndicate," "The Contenders" suffers from expansion to two episodes instead of telling a tight story in one. Maybe the payoff in Part 2 is better, but in Part 1 we're treated to an endless montage of Barney in training as Rollin plays the Burgess Meredith to his Stallone.
It's too bad, because there's some good guest work here. Sugar Ray Robinson is a nice choice as the assassin of the syndicate...watch his smile after he shoves a man down an elevator shaft. John Dehner is great as the mob boss working with the fixer, and Robert Conrad pops up, practically playing himself, as Barney's sparring partner.
If some of the training had been deleted, this could have been a one hour story. Still, the cliffhanger is nice and after all of this practice, the bout in Part 2 should at least be well choreographed.