"ESPN Friday Night Fights" Returns January 3 with World Title Showdown
2014 Season to Include 26 Telecasts, New Technology and Re-Branded ESPN Deportes Show
ESPN Friday Night Fights presented by Corona Extra will return for its 17th season Friday, Jan. 3, at 9 p.m. ET live on ESPN2, WatchESPN and broadband Spanish-language ESPN Deportes+ with a 12-round IBF title bout between Junior Lightweight titlist Argenis Méndez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) and undefeated Rances Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs). The 10-round co-feature will include up and coming Middleweight contender Caleb Truax (23-1, 4 KOs). ESPN Deportes - which will re-brand its coverage as Noche de Combates (formerly Viernes de Combates) with some telecasts on Saturdays - will air the bouts on Saturday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m.
The first of 2014's 26 telecasts, from the Target Center in Minneapolis, is co-promoted by former Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and his promotional company Iron Mike Productions. Tyson made his promotional debut in August to close out the 2013 Friday Night Fights season in a night that featured Méndez in the world title main event.
"We are eagerly anticipating the upcoming season of Friday Night Fights and Noche de Combates," said Brian Kweder, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions. "We start the season just as we finished last season with a world title fight co-promoted by Mike Tyson's Iron Mike Productions. The biggest change for 2014 is that we are assigning dates to promoters with as much advance notice as possible to allow for even better fights and bigger crowds. We've partnered with a group of promoters who have always delivered in the past and are committed to upping the ante even further for 2014. Having a world title fight and names like Kendall Holt, Zsolt Erdei and Arash Usmanee early this season show that the strategy is already paying dividends."
Blow-by-blow commentator Joe Tessitore and ringside analyst Teddy Atlas will return to describe the action for ESPN2. Both 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). Studio host Todd Grisham (@GrishamESPN), who will fill-in ringside for Tessitore during the season opener, will return for his second season providing all the latest boxing news and highlights. Bilingual reporter Bernardo Osuna (@osunaespn), who last year became the series' first-ever on-site reporter, will contribute to Friday Night Fights in English, and Noche de Combates (Fight Night) in Spanish.
ESPN Deportes Commentators/Studio:
Delvin Rodríguez will call the fights with Pablo Viruega for Noche de Combates on both ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes+, while Leopoldo González and Claudia Trejos will anchor the studio. Hall of Fame referee Joe Cortez will join Trejos and González in studio throughout the season, with Osuna providing reports and interviews each week.
ESPN Deportes' weekly 60-minute boxing news and analysis show Golpe a Golpe 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.
Friday Night Fights telecasts will include alternate point of view cameras mounted in different locations capturing the atmosphere of the venues and fights. Friday Night Fights will also feature more live audio during fights to give viewers more access to the fighters and trainers.
Every Friday Night Fights telecast will continue to implement an ultra slo-mo camera, providing some of the most dramatic and amazing replays of a fight's biggest punches.
WatchESPN and ESPN3:
Every Friday Night Fights card will be available on WatchESPN, ESPN's online destination that delivers live access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line on computers, smartphones and tablets. Replays of Friday Night Fights cards will be available on ESPN3, ESPN's multiscreen network accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Roku and Apple TV.
Making the Rounds, ESPN.com's original boxing show with Jim Basquil, Brian Campbell and Kieran Mulvaney, will discuss boxing's top stories each week and include analysis of Friday Night Fights cards. Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) will continue to write features and provide analysis for ESPN.com.
Friday Night Fights social media presence in 2014 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 Nigel Collins (@ESPNFNF), ESPN boxing analyst/former Editor-in-Chief of The Ring magazine, will live tweet during every show.
Friday Night Fights will total 26 dates in 2014. Upcoming schedule:
Date Time (ET) Main Event Location Networks
Fri, Jan 3 9 p.m. Argenis Méndez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) vs. Rances Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs) - 12-rounds, IBF Junior Lightweight Title Target Center, Minneapolis, Minn. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN
Fri, Jan 10 9 p.m. Arash Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KOs) vs. Juan Antonio Rodríguez (25-4, 23 KOs) - Junior Lightweights Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino, Tacoma Wash. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN
Fri, Jan 24 9 p.m. Javier Molina (14-1, 6 KOs) vs. Kendall Holt (28-6, 16 KOs) - 10-rounds, Junior Welterweights Little Creek Casino, Shelton Wash. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN
Fri, Jan 31 9 p.m. Zsolt Erdei (33-1, 18 KOs) vs. Elvir Muriqi (40-5, 24 KOs) - 10-rounds, Light Heavyweights Codey Arena, West Orange, N.J. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes+, WatchESPN