By Jake Donovan
Kathy Duva and her Main Events promotional company didn’t quite know what to expect once the initial one-year, four-fight deal with NBC Sports Network ran out.
Thankfully, she won’t have to worry about that for at least the next two years.
NBC Sports agreed to extend its ‘Fight Night’ series another two years, to run through 2014. In addition, the series received an upgrade of a guaranteed minimum of six fights per season, up from the four slots Main Events was promised for the inaugural season.
In addition, a promise was made of up to two shows per year to air live on its flagship station NBC.
“Fight Night has been a tremendous success. The unique approach to have multiple promoters competing to put fights on the NBC Sports Network has allowed us to produce compelling match-ups and incredibly exciting shows” said Jon Miller, President, programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “NBC’s is committed to the property and we are looking forward to expanding the series from six telecasts to-up-to 16.”
The broadcast team will also remain intact. Kenny Rice will serve as lead announcer, with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and BJ Flores providing supporting color commentary.
The series debuted in January and has proven to be a major success, despite considerable setbacks in its premiere episode. Eddie Chambers was scheduled to face former heavyweight titlist Siarhai Liakhovich, only for the fight to fall apart when Chambers suffered an injury during training camp.
Gabriel Rosado was instead upgraded to the main event slot in his Philly hometown, scoring a fifth round knockout over Jesus Soto Karass.
Benefiting from the original main event falling through was Bryant Jennings, who was an unbeaten but largely anonymous heavyweight at the time. He has since emerged as the most promising prospect on the American heavyweight boxing scene, beginning with his win over then-unbeaten Maurice Byarm on the aforementioned broadcast in a bout that was pieced together at the last minute.
Jennings has since posted wins over Liakhovich and Steve Collins, both coming on NBC Sports.
The series has also seen the return of former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek, as well as the career resurrection of Zab Judah.
The former super lightweight titlist and welterweight king scored his biggest win in years with a nine-round thrashing of Vernon Paris. The bout was Judah’s first ever in his home borough of Brooklyn, and puts him in line for one more shot at a 140 lb. title.
Though she deserves major credit for her persistence and hard work in getting the series greenlighted and now extended, Duva refuses to accept credit. Instead, she once again offers to spread the wealth, sticking with her pre-series promise of working with any promoters willing to match their kids tough.
“We are once again reaching out to all promoters to get involved in the series,” Duva,stated. “The multiple promoter format worked incredibly well during season one and we are hoping to continue to build on the momentum. All fighters who are willing to further their careers by engaging in compelling, interesting, meaningful matches are welcome.”
A key component in the series proving to be an instant hit with sports fans is Hall of Fame promoter and matchmaker J. Russell Peltz, who is blown away by its results.
"This series is the best thing that has happened to boxing in years," said Peltz. "In just four shows, we have seen the emergence of US heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings and junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado. We have shown matches between world-rated fighters and that's something you rarely see these days on television.
“On top of that, the fights have been promoted the old-fashioned way, in sold-out noisy venues in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Bethlehem and Newark. This is the way boxing was meant to be."
Another date has been added to round out the 2012 calendar, which will now have seven scheduled shows by years end. NBC Sports announced its first matinee-style entry of the series, as the December 22 edition will air live at 4PM ET. Also recently added to the schedule was a December 8 date, with the location and card to be announced at a later time.
The first two dates for 2013 – January 19 and March 9 – will both air in the series’ tradition time slot, beginning at 9PM ET.
The next edition of the 'Fight Night' series returns Friday, September 21. Unbeaten welterweight Ronald Cruz (17-0, 12KO) headlines the card, which will air live his hometown at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA. Cruz made a splash on the series in his last ring appearance at the very same venue, scoring a 10-round decision over Prenice Brewer in June.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox