By Keith Terceira
The 2008 season of Friday Night Fights seems to be running on fumes and being driven by the inept. Only two months into the year and already it is getting a better reputation for the fights that didn’t happen. Since January we have had fallouts in the main events of Tarvis Sims, Allan Green, and now Harry Joe Yorgey and those are just the ones that are publicly admitted.
This week the replacement bout of Michael Walker versus Antwun Echols provided a decent entertaining bout much in contrast to the Eric Fields/ Kelvin Davis one round shellacking to the ESPN reputation. Allan Green going home may just be a sign of the times for ESPN as fighters and promoters are tiring of the bullying of the television sports giant.
Last night's fight was a lucky pull for Loughrey and reminds one of the saying.
“Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while”
At the least we didn’t suffer interruptions in the action with other fighters plugging their upcoming bouts, retirement announcements, or unrelated drivel from the announcers. We had actual blow by blow commentary. Some were not as tolerant as I though..
“I don’t even look for dates (FNF) anymore” one mid-west promoter remarked during an interview last night. “I can lose money doing shows without being forced to promote other peoples main event fighters. Originally the attraction to Friday Night Fights was to get my own people on TV and into the public eye. Now you are forced to put on whom they choose and they are now selecting trash fights. Who needs to pay for that kind of publicity”
One matchmaker stated this week.
“Everyone is tired of the way ESPN is doing business and it is getting to be more profitable to spend $15,000 or so and do your own production with your own boxers than to be dictated to by ESPN and Doug Loughrey. Even public access TV is a better deal with less drama.”
ESPN pulled Tarvis Simms from its January 18th bout supposedly because Simms was being difficult when it came to approving an opponent but the truth of the matter was that ESPN attempted to force Simms into a fight with Zuniga for much less than the fight was worth.
One member of the Simms camp told BoxingScene.com that they approved a long list of fighters that would have made a better bout than Fields/Davis including Antwun Echols who had agreed to the bout but had a contractual issue with Banner whom exercised a clause in Echols contract that extended it's length by several months due to time missed from illness. Echols had expected to be free from Banner on January 12th but to no avail.
“It was stuck in ESPN’s mind that it was uniga or nothing I guess. Then they shopped Zuniga as the main event and of course for the money at short notice they got a big goose egg.”
At one point in the past under Russell Peltz ‘s tenure neither a main event or a co-main could include a fighter that was coming off one or more losses. Under Loughrey that seems to have changed with Echols and Davis both fighting off recent defeats among others this year. At least on paper under Peltz the fights were more reputable and would provide the attraction of someone having to suffer his or her first defeat in a fairly long period which gave the commentators something to work with. With the lack of quality fights it seems to be affecting the quality of the production itself.
“If ESPN wishes to get in the business of promoting and matchmaking it should have to suffer the expenses of promoting fully. They should be the one working with the commissions, the medical requirements, and the venues etc. Instead they ride in on plausible denial do a garbage main and / or co-main then ride out with the promoter picking up the pieces and counting his losses. You put thousands into promoting a main event that because of politics or bad due diligence gets pulled and replaced with trash and you must grin and bare it or be taken off the list of promoters getting dates. You can suffer the obstinate client that is spending money in your business but its unlikely that you suffer the joker that is spending peanuts, Hopefully you can understand my meaning”
I had my own learning experience with ESPN under Russell Peltz and at the time it infuriated me but slowly the realization of the truth shined through my feeble mind.
In 2004 I managed a good friend Xavier Tolliver, and we decided to take a fight in the ESPN co-main against a tough James Webb of Tennessee in Indiana. Tolliver put up a great fight for four rounds cutting Webb up to the point that the referee was about to stop the bout. Xavier suffered a head butt that the ref called a blow and his eye did a great imitation of a beach ball between the fourth and fifth rounds. Had we just withstood the fifth and focused on those cuts the outcome would have been different but midway through the fifth it was obvious that Tolliver could not see those big punches coming and Coach Richardson I feel still to this day chose wisely to throw in the towel rather than see long term damage done…
After the bout I got a good scolding from Peltz and Fred Burns that we had broken an unwritten rule of TV boxing by throwing in the towel.. I stuck to my guns that my friend's safety was more important but it hurt us when I had asked to get back into other bouts on the show…
I understand now that Russell had the best interest of the quality of FNF at heart.
I remember wishing that someone else would take over and the complaints on how Peltz was running the show but truthfully I now can concur with the old adage.
“Watch what you wish for, you might just get it”
Keith Terceira is the North American Chairman for the UBC and its new Ratings Chairman, Mid -South Rep for the RBF, and co-host of TalkinBoxing with Billy C. He can be reached at [email protected]