“Friday Night Fights” is Live on Saturday Night By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 10, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
If you were hoping to catch “Friday Night Fights” last night on ESPN2, you weren’t going to do so. Instead, this week’s edition from the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, which has a main event of Orlando Lora-David Estrada, takes place tonight (8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT). Yes, on a Saturday.
"Just from a scheduling standpoint, we had conflicts in our programming so in order to not pass up a date, we just took the date on Saturday," said Doug Loughrey, boxing programming director for the network. "It’s not a special from a standpoint of it being like a world title event or more rights fees. It’s just being opportunistic to keep our live boxing product."
Thus far, the “FNF” franchise has had a strong season, highlighted by the Antonio Escalante-Miguel Roman slugfest, which is the early frontrunner for 2010’s “Fight of the Year.”
"I just think that our people are being a little better in the boxing community on more cards," explained Loughrey, of this year’s consistency. "I think they see the competition that’s out there and the limited amount of televised dates to get your products out there, to get your fighters out there." Unlike the HBOs and Showtimes of the world, ESPN’s license fees fall well below the six-figure mark. Putting fight cards on this platform (which is in approximately 90 million homes) is a loss-leader to most promoters. Sometimes, you can’t afford not to have your fighters on this network. And the promoters have grasped the economic climate that exists currently."That’s part of the reason," said Loughrey, "It’s the same rate that the rest of the economy in the United States is going through and worldwide. There’s an economic slowdown, why would boxing be any different from it?
"Granted, our rights fees have been consistent; we’ve grown them over the last six years- not as significant as everyone would want them to be- but we’ve grown them," added Loughrey.
Unlike last year, ESPN2 faces some competition in the form of Fox Sports Net (which has gone to televising boxing, full-time) and the return of “Solo Boxeo” on Telefutura, which returns later this month.
But Loughrey takes this development as a positive. "For the sport of boxing, overall, I think it’s good that there’s more boxing out there. There’s a perception with the mainstream sport fan that boxing is a dead sport. So the more it’s on television and it’s live, the better." As for the effect it has on his series, he says, "I think you just answered your own question. You think that the quality has been better and I think our quality, given our structure, has been great. So we provide our viewers the best product within our guideline and I think we do it across more platforms, given that we have our ESPN3 broadband service, our ESPN Deportes and ESPN2.
In 2010, Loughrey says that there will be 28 editions of “FNF,” with their season ending on August 28th (which happens to be another Saturday night). The network will continue to look for special events (such as perhaps the next Klitschko bout that HBO and Showtime turn down) to air on their various platforms.
"Yeah, we’re clearly always looking for those things," confirmed Loughrey. "We’re limited by what we can spend, from a rights perspective. But if it makes sense- and ESPN3 (which was formerly known as ESPN360) is our live events networks- we can take more of these world feeds and their bandwidth is almost limitless. So they can take more and more content to boxing fans."
It’s been a quick minute since Gary Shaw has put a card on “The Deuce.” Most of the time, his prospects appear on the “ShoBox” franchise on Showtime.
"It’s been a very, very long time," agreed Shaw, "but y’ know, sometimes you use a platform because you think it’s the right time and for these fighters, it’s important that they go on ESPN and get seen by that many eyeballs."
As for the fights themselves, the promoter states, "We think it’s a great card. Orlando Lora is a real good fighter, had some problems with management and whatever, a couple of years ago. He’s just coming back and everyone knows Victor Fonseca from Puerto Rico. I just think it’s a terrific card for ESPN. It’s just great to be back at Agua Caliente in ‘Tim Bradley Territory.’ I also have this kid, Dean Byrne, who’s trained by Freddie Roach. I’m real excited about him and Ruben Rivera, who’s a stablemate of [Alfredo] Angulo. So from top to bottom, I’m excited about this card."
There’s a lot of boxing on tonight; in addition to the card on ESPN2, HBO has their card featuring Andre Berto defending his WBC welterweight crown against Carlos Quintana, in addition to the featherweight bout between Celestino Caballero and Daud Yordan, followed by the premiere edition of “24/7” on Mayweather-Mosley...Fox Sports Net has another edition of “Top Rank Live” featuring Filipino welterweight Mark Melligan...On that Berto-Quintana undercard in Sunrise is junior welterweight prospect Joseph “Leggo My” Elegele...Heard that Miguel Garcia has been added to the May 8th “Latin Fury” show in Mexico...July 24th is the date of the proposed Yuriorkis Gamboa- Caballero fight (of course, Caballero has to win this weekend). The WBC lightweight title bout between Humberto Soto and Anthony Peterson could land on that telecast...This week’s edition of “The Main Event” featured Bernard Fernandez and Andre Dirrell...