Sayonara ESPN2 Friday Night Fights

By Robert Ecksel on May 19, 2015
Sayonara ESPN2 Friday Night Fights
Teddy Atlas, unlike ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, will not go quietly into that good night.

ESPN’s relationship with boxing was spotty, but it was dependably spotty. That dependable spottiness, alas, is ending this week…

“A sportswriter is entombed in a prolonged boyhood.”—Jimmy Cannon

I understand ESPN, but I am not a fan. Aside from boxing, which matters as life and death matter, the only sport which interests me is sumo, which ESPN, despite the cornucopia of sports they broadcast ad infinitum, has been given unforgivably short shrift.

But its relationship with boxing, while spotty, was at least dependably spotty. That dependable spottiness, alas, is ending this week.

Following in the footsteps of former fistic mainstays like USA Tuesday Night Fights and the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, ESPN is abandoning the fight game, pulling down the shutters on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, so that something more compelling, like beach volleyball or skateboarding, can be shown in its place.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against beach volleyball. Who, after all, in their right mind doesn’t enjoy ogling abs on ball-jamming Amazons? But volleyball, like skateboarding, like the kaleidoscope of sports and would-be sports that pours from ESPN like two buck chuck into a wino’s gullet, is at best a poor imitation of the competitive drive that is the essence of boxing.

But essence is and has never been ESPN’s game. Its game is capital, the very thing denied to Friday Night Fights, the very thing that made it an also-ran among the well financed thoroughbreds, before driving it from the air altogether.

ESPN’s first boxing show aired in 1980 and was called ESPN Top Rank Boxing. In those days, Top Rank was playing second fiddle to Don King Productions, a fair indication of just how much things have changed. In 1998, as the cable tentacles reached ever further into the bog of irrelevance, the network unveiled ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. Initially, Teddy Atlas and Bob Papa were ringside, while Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny manned the studio. Some of those gents have gone onto bigger and better things, but the biggest and best of them, specifically Teddy Atlas, held down the fort, by hook and by crook, by telling the truth on a medium for the most part devoted to lies.

Where Atlas goes from here is anybody’s guess. It’s hard to keep a good man down, and Atlas, who can be as wild and crazy as he can be intelligent and compassionate, is as resourceful as they come. He’s not likely to appear on HBO or Showtime. Teddy’s too unpredictable, too unconventional, too outspoken, too much the wild man for those networks to tame. But he, unlike ESPN Friday Night Fights, will not go quietly into that good night.

We’ve not heard the last of Teddy Atlas.

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  1. ROBERT REGER, Sr. 02:56pm, 05/22/2015

    I agree with “Alex, “This is really bad news! I have always looked forward to Friday Night Fights.”
    Teddy is the watch dog of boxing, and now who will champpen Boxing? Who will fight for the right and and admonish the bad decisions?

    And on an other note has ESPN lost it’s mind, this is the premier boxing program on television.


  2. Lindy Lindell 11:27am, 05/22/2015

    Yes, Peter, a knockout quote;  boxers, too, seem to suffer a similar kind of delusional brain invasion that doesn’t permit them to just “give it up.”  Thomas Hearns never officially retired and when Antonio Tarver made a local appearance as a commentator four years ago, Hearns grabbed a mike at the press conference for Dirrell-Abraham and called out Tarver.  Floyd Patterson never retired.  His appeal was for fighting beyond his effectiveness as a world-class fighter was that he never knew what was going to happen.  Peter Heller’s IN THIS CORNER is filled with regrets about what could/should have been—at these guys were legit World Champs!

  3. Alex 08:11am, 05/22/2015

    This is really bad news! I have always looked forward to Friday Night Fights. Nobody knows boxing like Teddy, and he always tells it like it is. I hope to see him on another boxing show soon. I wish you the best, Teddy!

  4. FrankinDallas 07:06pm, 05/20/2015

    Now wtf am I going to do on Friday nights?!?

  5. peter 01:01pm, 05/20/2015

    Teddy’s analysis, as usual, was on the money.

  6. peter 12:52pm, 05/20/2015

    “A sportswriter is entombed in a prolonged boyhood.”—Jimmy Cannon—A knockout quote!!

  7. Eric 10:45am, 05/20/2015

    The most boring event ever covered on ESPN goes to the World Series of Poker.  Does anyone actually sit down and watch this stuff? 1980 was a good year, Hagler captures the middleweight title, Duran vs. Leonard I, Dwight Braxton/Qawi destroys the competition in ESPN’s light heavyweight tourney, everyone laughed at the idea of a 24 hour news station called CNN, finally got rid of Carter, etc.

  8. Clarence George 08:56am, 05/20/2015

    Sumo?  To each his own, to be sure, but I never understood its appeal.

  9. Kid Blast 08:19am, 05/20/2015

    And honest

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:42am, 05/20/2015

    Here’s the bottom line on Teddy Atlas….he’s fun….and who the fuk doesn’t need a little fun in their lives these days?

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:24pm, 05/19/2015

    Robert Ecksel-“two buck chuck”!? Hold on there pard!  I chased my burnt black bacon and egg sandwich right past my palate and down my gullet with a tall water glass filled to the brim with a nice full bodied Charles Shaw Chardonnay just this very morning!

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