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SGOVWOZKFIHJTOX.20101126111329Wolak-Rodriguez will be, we promise you, a shootout.

The Summer Solstice is upon us, and for me, that means we are headed toward the backstretch of ESPN's “Friday Night Fights.”

Well, it also means ludicrous ConEd bills and a decent excuse to get Italian ice every day…But I digress.

TSS spoke to ESPN's director of boxing programming, Doug Loughrey, and he sized up the show to this point and gave us some tidbits on what the next couple months holds for FNF.

“I'm happy with the Friday Nigh Fights has gone this year so far,” he told us. “On ESPN2, ESPN3, Deportes, all the platforms, boxing is doing well.”

Ratings are up 11%, year over year, and Corona Extra entered the mix as a presenting sponsor, joining Just For Men, AT&T and Ford as advertisers. Also, Loughrey likes that they are up 13% in the men 18-34 demo. “We are the Kansas City Royals of boxing, spending-wise, we're frugal, but the sponsors have allowed us to spend a little more.”

Viewers should be pretty pleased with one main event that Loughrey is pumped about, the July 15 Delvin Rodriguez-Pawel Wolak clash, which will unfold at NYC's Roseland Ballroom. “Delvin, who I like, has been going through a rough patch. Whether it was a bad decision, or he was maybe unprepared for a fight, regardless. He finds himself in against Wolak, and it's a real crossroads fight for Delvin. He has to win or his career is pretty much over.” Loughrey said he was told by Team Wolak that they've sold about 900 tickets, so Rodriguez will have to get hustling to pack his crew from Danbury, CT into Roseland to outshout Wolak rooters.

Loughrey is also proud of FNF's entry into the 3D space. They'll do 3D shows on June 24, July 1, July 8, July 22nd and August 5, he said.

Loughrey said he'd like to get banger Ruslan Provodnikov, a FNF staple, back on the air before the season closes, with the Aug. 19th show. He had to plug a hole on the July 29 card, which was to be headlined by Juan Diaz, who pulled out to pursue his law degree. Viewers shouldn't be too crushed–the alternative is a Edison Miranda-Yordanis Despaigne clash, which pits the 34-5 Colombian vet against the Cuban who is actually a year older, at 31, than Miranda. Referencing some of those “trickle down economics” from before, viewers would have been pleased to see Joel Casamayor on FNF, on July 29. He was to meet Jorge Teron, looking to get back on the prospect track after losing to Brandon Rios last year, but word is Casamayor was in a car accident, and may have broken ribs, which would sideline him.

Andre Dirrell is on Loughrey's wish list, as is, or was,  Dmitriy Pirog, who has been pursuing Sergio Martinez, to no avail, and would be well served to get some face time in the States to build his visibility. But we got word Thursday that Pirog is taking an overseas fight instead, so he will remain something of a mystery guy for the near future.

As always, I urge fight fans to tune in to FNF, and not just because I do work for the same corporation. It behooves us to support the vendors, so they are encouraged to telecast more boxing.

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