Boxing on ESPN
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The cable television network ESPN has occasionally broadcast boxing events over the majority of its history, as part of several arrangements, including contracts with specific promotions and consortiums such as Golden Boy Promotions, Premier Boxing Champions, and Top Rank, as well as Friday Night Fights—a semi-regular series that was broadcast by ESPN and ESPN2 from 1998 through 2015.
Top Rank Boxing
From 1980 to 1996, ESPN broadcast fights from the promoter Top Rank through a weekly series known as Top Rank Boxing; it was an early staple of ESPN's programming in the 1980s. Top Rank and ESPN later broke away from the partnership; Top Rank shifted its focus on targeting Spanish-language audiences in the U.S., while ESPN succeeded the broadcasts with a new series, Friday Night Fights, which would feature bouts from other promoters. In 2009, ESPN and Top Rank began discussing a renewed deal; co-founder Bob Arum expressed dissatisfaction at the promotion's previous package for Versus, which featured a large number of low-quality bouts. Arum explained that he would be more likely to deal with ESPN for individual fights rather than a long-term contract, explaining that "I ain't coming to them saying, 'Will you buy this fight or that fight.' We're past that. Give me a couple of dates and let us program them. You like them? Fine, give us a couple of more.
On June 17, 2017, The Ring reported that Top Rank was nearing a two-year deal to air a package of fights on ESPN, citing growing dissatisfaction with cuts to HBO's boxing coverage that limited scheduling options for fights. As a result, Top Rank declined to give HBO the rights to the then-upcoming Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn. The partnership was also said to include access to ESPN's archives for a planned Top Rank over-the-top service. On June 19, 2017, ESPN announced that it had acquired rights to broadcast Pacquiao vs. Horn, marking Pacquiao's first fight on a non-premium channel, and his first non-pay per view fight since 2005. After a negotiation window with HBO expired, ESPN officially announced that it would broadcast two more Top Rank cards in August, including Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Miguel Marriaga, and Terence Crawford vs. Julius Indongo.
On August 26, 2017, ESPN formally announced that it had reached a four-year deal to become the exclusive broadcaster of Top Rank bouts in the United States and Canada. The fights will be distributed through ESPN's television and digital platforms (including Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, replacing Top Rank's program for UniMás, and Canadian rights for ESPN's local partner TSN), the ESPN+ subscription streaming service, and pay-per-view. ESPN broadcast 18 cards in the first year of the deal. On August 2, 2018, ESPN announced an extension of the agreement through 2025.
The deal would also call for Top Rank to acquire U.S. rights to 24 international cards per-year for broadcast on ESPN+; in September 2018, ESPN and Top Rank acquired rights to cards in the United Kingdom from British promoter Frank Warren—a friend of Arum. In February 2019, Top Rank entered into a co-promotion agreement with Warren centered upon Tyson Fury, under which ESPN would hold the U.S. media rights to his bouts, and at least two per-year would occur in the United States. The deal was stated to have potential complications on prospects for a rematch against Deontay Wilder (whose last fight ended in a split draw), as Wilder is associated with Premier Boxing Champions (whose rightsholders include Fox Sports, and Showtime—who produced the PPV for Wilder and Fury's initial fight).
In December 2019, it was announced that a Wilder/Fury re-match had been scheduled for February 2020, and that the PPV would be a joint presentation of ESPN and Fox Sports. The broadcast was largely produced by ESPN staff, with Fox Sports personalities joining those of ESPN.
Friday Night Fights
|ESPN Friday Night Fights|
|Presented by||Bernard Hopkins|
|Narrated by||Joe Tessitore, Teddy Atlas|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original language(s)||English (occasional interpreters)|
|Original release||June 7, 1998 –|
May 22, 2015
In 1998, ESPN premiered Friday Night Fights; the series traditionally featured bouts involving up-and-coming and semi-professional boxers, along with studio segments covering headlines and developments across the sport. As implied by its title, the program was primarily broadcast on Friday nights, semi-regularly.
Ringside commentary was provided by Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas; previous seasons featured boxing analyst Max Kellerman alongside Brian Kenny and sportscaster Bob Papa in Tessitore's role ringside with Atlas. The program spawned spinoffs, Tuesday Night Fights and Wednesday Night Fights. A Spanish-language version, Noche de Combates, aired on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Latin America.
- Emanuel Augustus (July 8, 2005)
- Andre Berto
- Jesse Brinkley
- O'Neil Bell
- Cornelius K9 Bundrage
- James Butler (November 23, 2001)
- Derek Bryant
- Nate Campbell
- Aaron Davis
- Julio Díaz
- John Duddy
- Antwun Echols (February 29, 2008)
- Arturo Gatti
- Julio César González
- Yuriorkis Gamboa
- Allan Green
- Vivian Harris
- Yuri Foreman
- Audley Harrison
- Stevie Johnston
- Zab Judah (July 9, 1999)
- James Kirkland
- Julian Letterlough
- Yusaf Mack (2/6/2009 vs. Chris Henry, and May 2, 2010 vs. Glen Johnson)
- Antonio Margarito
- Oleg Maskaev
- José Luis Castillo
- Peter Manfredo Jr.
- Edison Miranda
- Sergio Mora
- Kassim Ouma
- Bobby Pacquiao
- Sam Peter (April 28, 2006)
- Hasim Rahman
- Cletus Seldin (February 28, 2015)
- Omar Sheika
- Cory Spinks
- John Thompson, fought on series finale
- Arash Usmanee (January 4, 2013)
- Micky Ward (July 16, 1999)
- Erislandy Lara
- Guillermo Rigondeaux
- Jean Pascal
- Brian Vera
- Bonecrusher (2006)
Boxers who have fought on Tuesday Night Fights:
Boxers who have fought on Wednesday Night Fights:
- Allan Green (April 26, 2006)
- Yusaf Mack (6/4/2008 vs. Daniel Judah)
- Jameel McCline (April 26, 2006)
- Sharmba Mitchell (May 3, 2006)
- Joey Spina (May 10, 2006)
Premier Boxing Champions
On March 19, 2015, ESPN announced that Friday Night Fights would air for the final time on May 22, 2015, covering the finals of the 2015 Boxcino tournament. The network announced that it had reached a multi-year deal with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions to broadcast 11 events per-year on the main ESPN network, primarily on Saturday nights, and an afternoon event on ABC. Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will carry over to serve as hosts. ESPN is one of several major broadcasters that airs fights through the promotion, which also includes NBC, CBS, their respective cable sports networks, as well as Spike.
On January 19, 2017, ESPN announced an agreement with Golden Boy Promotions to broadcast Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN. Under a two-year deal, ESPN and ESPN Deportes broadcast 42 Golden Boy-promoted cards, with 18 airing in 2017 and 24 airing in 2018. The contract included an option for a third year.
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- "ESPN to televise Manny Pacquiao's next fight as part of new Top Rank agreement". Bloody Elbow (SB Nation). Vox Media. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- "Vasyl Lomachenko, Terence Crawford to headline live ESPN cards in August". ESPN.com. ESPN Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- "Top Rank signs exclusive 4-year deal with ESPN". ESPN. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
- Ramos, Dino-Ray (August 26, 2017). "ESPN And Top Rank Announce Multi-Year Agreement For New Fight Series". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
- Hayes, Dade (August 2, 2018). "ESPN Sets Landmark Boxing Deal With Top Rank Through 2025". Deadline. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- "ESPN+ to broadcast all of Warren's UK cards". ESPN.com. September 11, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
- "Tyson Fury lands UK£80m ESPN TV deal". SportsPro Media. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
- "What Fury's deal with Top Rank, ESPN means for the heavyweight division". ESPN.com. February 19, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
- "Fury signs deal to be co-promoted by Top Rank". ESPN.com. February 18, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
- Umstead, R. Thomas. "ESPN, Top Rank Set April Terence Crawford Pay-Per-View Boxing Event". Multichannel. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- "Bob Arum: Crawford-Khan Is A Splendid Pay-Per-View Event". BoxingScene.com. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
- "Wilder-Fury rematch set for MGM Grand in Vegas". ESPN.com. December 27, 2019. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
- Dachman, Jason. "Wilder vs. Fury II: ESPN, Fox Sports Team Up on Outsize Boxing Production in Vegas". Sports Video Group. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
- "ESPN Joins Premier Boxing Champions' Corner, Knocking Out 'Friday Night Fights'". [Deadline.com. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
- "Friday Night's Alright (For Fighting): Goodbye FNF". The Queensbury Rules. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
- "'Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN' begins partnership in March". ESPN.com. ESPN Inc. Retrieved July 1, 2017.