ESPN Friday Night Fights presented by Corona Extra will return for its 18th season Friday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN2 with a 12-round lightweight bout between WBA #1 ranked Darleys Pérez (31-1, 20 KOs) and Jonathan Maicelo (21-1, 12 KOs). The winner of the bout will be next in line to fight WBA World Champion Richar Abril. The 10-round co-feature will feature up-and-coming welterweight contender Francisco Santana (21-3-1, 10 KOs). The fights, from the Chumash Resort and Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif., will also be televised on ESPN Deportes’ Noche de Combates presentado por Corona Extra at 10:30 p.m. and will be carried live on broadband Spanish-language ESPN Deportes+. The card is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions.
“As seen with last year’s WBC Heavyweight Title fight, the resurrection of the Boxcino tournament and our Fall Boxing Specials, our goal is to continue to find new ways to surprise and excite boxing fans,” said Brian Kweder, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions. “This season promises to be no different with several stellar fights either scheduled or in the planning stages and the highly anticipated debut of the heavyweights in this year’s edition of the Boxcino tournament.”
Full screen previewESPN2 Commentators/Studio:
Blow-by-blow commentators Joe Tessitore and Todd Grisham (@GrishamESPN) will again share ringside duties alongside analyst Teddy Atlas on ESPN2. Both Tessitore and Atlas are recipients of the prestigious Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA): Atlas (2001), Tessitore (2010). Grisham, who will call the fights with Atlas during the season opener, will also return for his third season as studio host providing all the latest boxing news and highlights when not calling fights. Bilingual reporter Bernardo Osuna (@osunaespn) will contribute to Friday Night Fights in English, and Noche de Combates (Fight Night) in Spanish.
Full screen previewESPN Deportes Commentators/Studio:
Delvin Rodríguez will call the fights with Pablo Viruega for Noche de Combates on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes+, while Leopoldo González and Claudia Trejos will return as studio hosts. Hall of Fame referee Joe Cortez will make appearances in studio throughout the season and Osuna will provide reports and interviews each week.
Golpe a Golpe, ESPN Deportes’ weekly 60-minute boxing news and analysis show (generally 4 p.m. Saturdays), will be co-hosted by Juan Manuel Márquez and Jorge Eduardo Sánchez. A Los Golpes (7:30 p.m. Mondays) will provide the latest boxing news and analysis with co-hosts Osuna, David Faitelson and analyst Julio César Chávez Sr.
Viewership and Ratings Up:
In 2014, ESPN Boxing on ESPN2 (including Friday Night Fights and ESPN Boxing Specials – 29 telecasts) saw a 13% increase in viewership – 393,000 viewers (P2+) in 2014 vs. 349,000 viewers (P2+) in 2013. The viewership numbers are based on a 50% increase among household ratings (0.3 HH US rating in 2014 vs. 0.2 HH US rating in 2013).
ESPN’s most-watched and highest-rated fight across all ESPN networks in 2014 was the May 10 WBC World Heavyweight Championship fight between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola televised on ESPN. The fight saw an average audience of 940,000 viewers (P2+) and delivered a 0.7 HH US rating, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed fight on ESPN and ESPN2 since 2006.
Noche de Combates on ESPN Deportes (34 telecasts) saw an 18% increase in Hispanic viewership (53,000 Hispanic P2+ impressions in 2014 vs. 45,000 Hispanic P2+ impressions in 2013) and was up 50% in Hispanic Household ratings (0.3 Hispanic HH US rating in 2014 vs. a 0.2 Hispanic HH US rating in 2013). Stiverne vs. Arreola was the highest-rated and most-watched fight on ESPN Deportes in 2014, and most-watched fight on the network among Hispanic Households since 2010. The fight averaged a 0.6 Hispanic Household US rating with 87,000 Hispanic Household impressions and 122,000 Hispanic P2+ impressions.
Return of Boxcino:
The single-elimination, two-weight class tournament, which garnered positive reaction from media and fans in 2014, will return in 2015 and will feature eight fighters in both the junior middleweight and heavyweight divisions. The competition — presented by Banner Promotions — will take place throughout the Friday Night Fights and Noche de Combates season. Telecast dates below. Fighters and matchups will be announced at a later date.
Last year, Willie Monroe Jr. (Middleweight) and Petr Petrov (Lightweight) were crowned Boxcino 2014 champions in a tournament that featured fighters in both the lightweight and middleweight divisions. Both winners will be featured on Friday Night Fights and Noche de Combates on Friday, Jan. 16. ESPN televised the first Boxcino tournament in 1997, which was won by future four-time world champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas.
2015 Production Highlights:
Friday Night Fights telecasts will continue to include alternate point of view cameras mounted in different locations capturing the atmosphere of the venues and fights. Telecasts will also continue to emphasize more live audio during fights to give viewers more access to the fighters and trainers. In addition, every Friday Night Fights telecast will continue to implement an ultra slo-mo camera, providing some of the most dramatic replays of a fight’s biggest punches.
Friday Night Fights social media presence in 2015 will continue with the “Live Friday Night Fights Facebook Voting App,” an application on the ESPN FNF Facebook page that allows viewers to score the fight round-by-round. Osuna (@osunaespn) and hall of fame ESPN boxing analyst/former Editor-in-Chief of The Ring magazine Nigel Collins (@ESPNFNF) will live tweet during every show.
Every Friday Night Fights and Noche de Combates telecast will be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 and Xbox One via WatchESPN.
Making the Rounds, ESPN.com’s original boxing show with Jim Basquil and Brian Campbell will discuss boxing’s top stories each week and include analysis of Friday Night Fights cards. Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn), ESPN.com boxing writer and winner of the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for career excellence in boxing journalism, will continue to write features and provide analysis.
January Friday Night Fights/Noche de Combates Schedule:
Fri, Jan 9
Darleys Pérez (31-1, 20 KOs) vs. Jonathan Maicelo (21-1, 12 KOs) —12 rounds, for the WBA #1 Ranking at Lightweight
Chumash Resort and Casino, Santa Ynez, Calif.
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN
Fri, Jan 16
Willie Monroe Jr. (18-1, 6 KOs) vs. Brian Vera (23-8, 14 KOs) — 10 rounds, Middleweights; Petr Petrov (35-4-2, 7 KOs) vs. TBD – 10 rounds, Lightweights
Turning Stone Resort and Casino, Verona N.Y.
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN
Fri, Jan 30
Karl Dargan (17-0, 9 KOs) vs. Tony Luis (18-2, 7 KOs) —10 rounds, Lightweights
Foxwoods Resort and Casino, Mashantucket, Conn.
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN