FIGHT NIGHT on NBC Sports Network launched its second season on January 19th with another knockout of a boxing broadcast. The dynamite double header featured two stunning kayos that continued the thrills that boxing fans have come to expect from the popular series.
In the main event, hard-punching Russian light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev stopped former world champion Gabriel Campillo, of Spain, in three rounds. Just before that, Curtis "Showtime" Stevens stole the show with his first round knockout of Elvin Ayala to win the NABF Middleweight title. The high quality fisticuffs were just the latest offering from the newest and best boxing series on TV. FIGHT NIGHT kept fans cheering all last year as well.
In 2012, the fledgling boxing series brought bouts of high quality and real significance to fight fans all year long and set a new standard as the model for the future of boxing programming. In the seven shows that comprised the first season, FIGHT NIGHT delivered fights that mattered. Competitive matches and top-level talent were the norm, and fans ate it up and tuned in at record levels. In all, 19 fights were televised in the first season and several key storylines surfaced.
The biggest story of the year was the emergence of heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings. The Philadelphian began the year as an unknown 6-round preliminary fighter with only distant dreams of what he actually managed to achieve in 2012. Jennings' career turned in the very first edition of FIGHT NIGHT on January 21st. A late cancellation of another fight created an opening for Jennings to step into the series' first main event. Jennings not only answered when opportunity knocked, he burst through the door.
Jennings won his first scheduled 10-rounder and first main event with an exciting decision over then-undefeated Maurice Byarm that earned him the Pennsylvania state heavyweight title, introduced him to the boxing world and in a single sweep, launched his career.
Two months later, Jennings topped himself by stopping former world champion Sergei Liakhovich in the second edition of FIGHT NIGHT. Jennings was so impressive that Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach opined that Jennings was America's best hope for a world heavyweight title.
After two more fights on FIGHT NIGHT Jennings won the USBA title and is now ranked #3 in the world. Jennings' year also earned him the accolade of "Boxing Prospect of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.
Another Philadelphian who made his bones on the first season of FIGHT NIGHT was junior middleweight "King" Gabriel Rosado. He fought three times on the showcase, winning all three by knockout, and climbed the 154-pound rankings. When he halted Charles Whittaker in September, Rosado earned the #1 spot in the IBF ratings and became the mandatory challenger. Rosado began the new year with a world middleweight championship fight against Gennady Golovkin at Madison Square Garden, making him the first FIGHT NIGHT alum to land a shot at a world title.
Former champion Zab Judah also earned a title opportunity with his March 2012 knockout of then undefeated Vernon Paris. Judah won the title elimination bout in the 9th round of a Brooklyn homecoming, and will return to Brooklyn to face 140-pound champion Danny Garcia next month.
Another theme in the first season of FIGHT NIGHT was one of tough matchmaking and the seasoning that it provided young fighters. Ten undefeated fighters appeared on the series, but five of them came away with their first career loss. Maurice Byarm (13-1-1) and Vernon Paris (26-1) were already mentioned, but Ronald Cruz (17-1), Jerry Belmontes (17-1) and Damar Singleton (8-1), also joined the list. All of them lost to good fighters in tough, learning fights that should provide them with solid experience to build upon. No doubt all will come back better than ever.
Almost half of the televised FIGHT NIGHT bouts (8 of 19) ended in knockout, and every FIGHT NIGHT show in 2012 featured at least one Top-10 fighter. And talk about star power, four former world champions graced the NBC Sports Network airwaves over the last year.
Former two-time champion Tomasz Adamek made three starts on the series, going the distance each time. He rebounded from his gutsy title attempt against Vitali Klitschko with a near shutout of Nagy Aguilera in March. His other two fights on the series were both hotly disputed outings that featured terrific ring action as well as controversial endings.
In June Adamek won a 12-round decision over Eddie Chambers in Newark. Chambers injured his left arm in the first round of the fight, but managed to stay competitive until the final bell. Adamek won the official verdict, but some felt Chambers had beaten him one-handed.
Six months later, Adamek re-matched with former two time champ Steve Cunningham in Bethlehem, PA. Everyone who watched their first struggle four years prior, knew that this one was going to be good. The pair fought for 12 terrific rounds with Cunningham landing more often, but Adamek landing harder. The official judges awarded Adamek the decision, but the split verdict was by a whisker. There were some that thought the decision controversial, but everyone thought the fight was an excellent one.
The Adamek - Cunningham II show was aired live by NBC on a throwback national broadcast. The broadcast had an "audience reach" of 3.9 million viewers, which makes it the highest rated boxing telecast in the United States in 2012. Just the weigh in alone for Adamek - Cunningham II racked up over 360,000 views on Ustream.
With Adamek and Jennings as anchors, Season One became the home of American heavyweight boxing. Seven major heavyweight bouts were featured throughout the year. These included two United States (USBA) title fights, two North American championships, one PA state title bout, and a world title elimination bout. Going forward, Jennings, Adamek and Cunningham are sure bets to figure prominently in the heavyweight division in 2013. Eddie Chambers, a world heavyweight title challenger himself, decided to drop down and campaign for a title shot in the cruiserweight division.
Other breakout stars of the series were Russian light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, Ukraine heavyweight Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov, and super featherweight Eric Hunter of Philadelphia. All are expected to go on to even bigger and better things in 2013, and chances are they will be seen again on FIGHT NIGHT.
With the second season of FIGHT NIGHT off to a brilliant start and picking up right where 2012 left off, it only means that more great boxing is coming your way. The next edition, on February 23rd, features a hard-hitting heavyweight showdown between the returning Czar Glazkov and Malik Scott in his FIGHT NIGHT debut. If this one is like anything that's come before, you're not going to want to miss it. With fights this good, even we can't wait to see what happens next.