FEB. 21 UPDATE I heard that Michael King, the ex TV syndication master, was in the mix to buy time on ESPN, to stage some of his boxing content. Not so, the Cali mogul told me on the phone Saturday night. He had talked to ESPN’s boxing people, and higher ups, about doing something, but met a wall, a respectful one, but a wall nonetheless.
THURSDAY AM: I heard on the grapevine that things are sort of still up in the air at FNF.
I didn’t hear different that the plug was being pulled after I posted this two days ago. Two people told me that as of May, production with the current crew would cease. Someone else said that dates are set beyond May, so we have to wait and see.
Now, most if not all are assuming that ESPN dates are part of the Haymon Takeover. But I heard yesterday that another deep-pocketed name wants to play in the ESPN sandbox. Makes sense, if a bidding situation could break out, with people reacting to a possible new normal, where time buys are in play, for ESPN not to rush into an Al deal. I reached out to that rumored suitor and will report on that element if and when they want to chat…
Boxing fans know that the sport is in transition, with boxing coming back to primetime, network TV. The swirl of changes has been considerable these last few months, and could get that much headier. A source reached out to TSS on Monday evening, and informed them that the plug was being pulled on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” sometime this year, maybe as early as May.
We’ve heard on the grapevine that ESPN might be following suit along with NBC, which is allowing Al Haymon to use their air as a platform for his “Premier Boxing Champions” fare.
I reached out to ESPN to seek comment or verification and a spokesman declined comment.
It would make sense, one supposes, for The World-Wide Leader to cease paying around $60,000 to a promoter to put together a show, and also pony up for tens of thousands of dollars of production costs, when instead they can make a pile of dough on the strength of their brand.
I reached out to another source with deep knowledge of the FNF franchise and that person indicated that a plan is in motion to have FNF cease, with a replacement option being Haymon content, possibly doing a single show per month.
A promoter with multiple decades in the business told me that he believes that “Al is close to making an ESPN deal.”
I reached out to a Haymon rep for response and will insert comment if one is supplied.
FNF debuted in 1998, and has been home to the talents of Max Kellerman, Teddy Atlas, Bob Papa, Joe Tessitore, and these days enjoys the talents of Todd Grisham, Atlas and of late Tessitore.
My takeaway: Scuttlebutt is fierce that FNF is going away, but until it is made official, I can’t state with a degree of certainty that is so. Stay tuned for more shoes to drop in what has already been an interesting year in these first six weeks of 2015.
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