by: Matthew N. Becher
After seventeen years of great matchups and thrilling moments we will bid farewell this week on May 22nd to ESPNs Friday Night Fights.
Debuting in the fall of 1998, Friday Night Fights has brought hundreds of boxing matches into millions of homes, until just recently being one of the only places to see free boxing on a regular basis. It gave way to the wacky and insightful inside analysis of trainer Teddy Atlas. Paved the way for commentators Brian Kenny and Max Kellerman, who went on to bigger boxing calls for Showtime and HBO respectively.
Friday Night Fights was a place for prospects to showcase their rising names, and for veterans to reestablish theirs. Many a world champion has either started or revitalized a career on the program. From Emanuel Augustus, Jean Pascal, Hasim Rahman, Andre Berto, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah to Guillermo Rigondeaux. You could count on Friday Night Fights to bring in lots of entertaining matchups.
And the shows weren’t limited to just Fridays. Some of the programs were even broadcasted on different days like Thursday or Saturday, depending on circumstances, even showcasing the WBC Heavyweight Championship earlier this year that showed the newest American Heavyweight Champ, Deontay Wilder, crowned on a special edition.
ESPN will not stop showcasing boxing but will just be shutting the doors to the Friday Night Fights concept. Boxing’s big money man Al Haymon and his Premier Boxing Champions, reached a multi-million dollar deal to broadcast 24 total boxing cards in the next 2 years on the network. With eleven fights being scheduled a year mostly on Saturday afternoons and 2 fights being shown on ESPNs parent company ABC.
So as the finale is all set for this Friday, they plan on going out with a bang. Live from Corona, California, showcasing the second installment of the Boxcino Tournament in the Jr. Middleweight and Heavyweight Divisions. Also adding a WBC Heavyweight eliminator fight from Russia against Alexander Povetkin and Mike Perez.
The Heavy Weight Eliminator fight can be seen live on ESPN3 or on tape delay May 22nd from Moscow. Where former Olympic Gold medalist and heavyweight title contender Alexander Povetkin (28-1 20KO) will look to make his final push at a world title. At 35 years old, Povetkin isn’t getting any younger. His only loss was his one shot at the titles against Wladamir Klitschko, where Povetkin was knocked down a number of times and completely outclasses and outgunned by the reigning champion. Mike Perez (21-1 13KO) is also racing against time to get his title shot. Perez a defector from Cuba, who now fights out of Ireland, was close to getting a title shot last year, but lost a very close fight against Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden. Both fighters will need to leave it all in the ring on Friday to get a possible chance to contend against the current WBC champion, Deontay Wilder.
In the co-main event, this year’s boxcino finale added the Heavyweight division, after a successful showing last year with just the one jr.middleweight crown. Donovan Dennis (12-1 10KO) from Davenport, IA defeated Cojanu and Vukosa by knockouts to get to the finals and is just one win away from taking home the title, but standing in his way is Andrey Fedosov, a Russian, now fighting by way of Hollywood, CA. Fedosov also earned his way to the finals by way of Knockout over Thomas and Heaven. Expect a heavy handed fight, which most likely will not go the distance, as these two aim for the KO.
In his second trip to the Jr. Middleweight Boxcino Finals, Brandon Adams of Los Angeles looks to take home the title this year. Only last year did he lose to Willie Monroe Jr. by decision. Monroe Jr. turned his title win into a showcase fight/win against Bryan Vera on Friday Night Fights and then an opportunity against the reigning Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin on HBO just this past weekend. Adams defeated Gasparyan and Perez, both by TKO to get to the finals. His opponent will be John Thompson (16-1 5KO) from Newark, NJ. Thompson is a young, 26 year old prospect who will look to seize this opportunity and turn it into a Monroe type jumpstart to his career. He defeated Skorohod and Pinell by unanimous decisions to get his opportunity at the finals.