It’s only been a month since ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series, my regular beat and bread and butter, went riding off into the sunset to step aside and let college football take the stage for the fall season. Hank Lundy’s thriller and Demetrius Andrade’s snoozer are memories faint enough that ESPN3.com is required to jog them via replays.
Sure, there are plenty of big fights left this year (Hopkins-Dawson, Pacquiao-Marquez, Bute-Johnson, Ward-Froch) and a ShoBox and HBO Boxing After Dark card here and there, plus ESPN’s annual “Salute to America’s Heroes” show in November, but that’s not the kind of regularity a fight fan, much less a boxing writer, can hang his hat on.
See, Friday Night Fights is more than just a showcase for up-and-coming prospects and on-the-downside older fighters trying to get their careers back on track. The studio show, hosted until this year by Brian Kenny (who has departed for MLB Network and left a huge hole for ESPN to fill—may I recommend a wisecracking regular of their Facebook page for the post? I hear Connecticut is a lovely place to live), is for many boxing fans a major source of weekly news and updates about the sport itself. It’s the one chance boxing has to cultivate its fanbase and grow itself via a major media outlet even among people who primarily just want to watch two dudes beat the hell out of each other in a glorified phone booth. And it’s on free (well, basic cable) TV besides.
I really don’t mean to beat the dead horse of “boxing needs to be back on free TV”. Other writers have covered that territory better than I could. But would it kill some TV network to run a weekly fight show in the fall? The fans are there; boxing fans don’t magically cease to be interested in boxing just because football season started any more than baseball has trouble selling tickets in September and October. Put together a show with mid-tier competition, the same guys who fight on FNF, and get a beer company’s logo on the canvas and into the commercials, and it’s as good a weekday event as any, right? Telefutura does a good enough job making their Spanish-language “Solo Boxeo” show pay for itself (sure, they’re aided and abetted by Golden Boy and their matchups are terrible, but it’s better than no boxing at all) so why not do it in English?
Demetrius Andrade, that favorite whipping boy of your friendly neighborhood commentator, beat the snot out of a washed-up Saul Duran in New Hampshire last night. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it whine at its father to tell it that it’s the best, did it make a sound? Josesito Lopez fought on the undercard of the Mayweather PPV last Saturday. Karim Mayfield and Patrick Lopez will throw down for a minor belt next week. Rob Frankel has a fight scheduled for Veterans’ Day against an opponent yet to be determined. What do all these guys I just mentioned have in common?
Exactly. Regular readers of this column and FNF viewers know the names off the tops of their heads. These guys aren’t waiting until January to fight again—they’re professional fighters. They fight. But between mid-August and New Year’s Day, there aren’t nearly as many TV dates, which means a lot of these guys are putting on spectacular fights in front of great crowds and the nation doesn’t get to watch. Showtime and HBO pick up a few of the throwdowns, but those dates aren’t nearly as clockwork-reliable as putting on a show for Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas and having the latter’s loyal legion of fans start following your career.
So again. Some network out there needs to do this. It could be Spike or USA Network or even freaking Lifetime with Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi calling the fights. Find a promoter like Goossen Tutor (which promotes a whole bunch of ESPN’s fight cards) or Gary Shaw with a stable of fighters you can build stories around, get a good studio host to talk about the goings-on in the sport in between fights, use social media to let the fanbase talk about the fights. Columnists, with little to talk about when Mayweather or Pacquiao or one of the Klitschko brothers aren’t fighting, will fill plenty of column inches doing your marketing for you. C’mon. Weekly boxing in the fall. Do it, guys.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Follow Fox on Twitter @RealFoxD. Fan mail, hate mail, and bets on who’d win a 15-rounder between Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi can be sent to email@example.com.