Sunday, May 24, 2015

BATB's Tribute To 'ESPN2's Friday Night Fights!'

Friday, May 22 was a sad day for all boxing fans because of the conclusion of the Friday Night Fights series on ESPN2.  Although there will still be boxing on ESPN2 on a monthly basis, it will never be the same.

The Beltway Boxing community will miss the series incredibly because ESPN2 was very kind to this area throughout the 17-year run of the series, showcasing local boxers numerous times.  This post will focus on Beltway Boxers who appeared on Friday Night Fights during the 10-year history of this blog.  Since BATB began on July 30, 2005, 64 boxers made appearance on ESPN2.  Some of those moments will live on forever in Beltway Boxing lore.

One of the sickest knockouts ever seen on the series took place between two Beltway cruiserweights in Staten Island, NY on June 29, 2007.  No one will forget when Darnell Wilson knocked out Emmanuel Nwodo in the 11th round with one of the most powerful left hands ever seen.  Lead announcer Joe Tessitore called it the most powerful punch he had ever seen and had a tremendous call of the knockout.

That was one of the reasons Wilson was one of three Beltway Boxers who had the most appearances on Friday Night Fights during the BATB era.  Wilson, along with Fernando Guerrero and Anthony Peterson were on the program four times.

Two of Guerrero's appearances were in his hometown of Salisbury, MD where he was the drawing card and performed in front of packed houses at the Wicomico Civic Center.  Guerrero won an eight-round unanimous decision over Gabriel Rosado on February 6, 2009 and then won the NABF Middleweight title with a 10-round unanimous decision over Derrick Findley on February 18, 2011.

It may come as a surprise that Anthony Peterson made more appearances on Friday Night Fights than his older brother, Lamont, who was on the show three times.  Lamont Peterson was the only Beltway Boxer to defend a world title (IBF Super Lightweight) on the show during the BATB era, stopping former world champion Kendall Holt on February 22, 2013 at the DC Armory.

The Peterson Brothers headlined an ESPN2 card on May 25, 2007 at the DC Armory.  Anthony Peterson scored a ninth-round TKO over Luis Ernesto Jose while Lamont Peterson stopped John Brown in eight rounds.

There were a total of five Friday Night Fight telecasts that originated from the Beltway region during the 10-year period of this blog.  However, there was none more controversial than the one that took place on August 15, 2008 at the now-closed Ibiza Nightclub in DC.  That was the night that ESPN2 tried to nudge instant replay into boxing.

The main event on the card was a matchup for a minor regional junior middleweight title between Baltimore's Ishmail Arvin and Anthony Thompson of Philadelphia.  Arvin won by TKO in the sixth round because what we saw as a clash of heads caused a gash over Thompson's left eye.  Despite the gash, Thompson was able to knock Arvin down twice in the bout.

However, Thompson's eye got progressively worse and the fight was stopped. Arvin got the TKO win because referee Malik Waleed ruled the cut came as result of a punch, not a headbutt.  ESPN2 announcer Tessitore put a monitor on the ring apron and got Waleed and other DC commissioners to watch the replay and Waleed admitted he made a mistake, but the decision stood.

The controversy lasted for days with many folks around the boxing world giving their opinions.  The DC Boxing and Wrestling Commission upheld the decision but the governing body of the title competed for (The International Boxing Organization for the USBO) stripped Arvin of the title.  Yours truly was dragged into the controversy by Thompson's camp because they made a false claim that I helped influenced the decision because I had a financial stake in Arvin's career.

By the way, both Alexander Johnson and Seth Mitchell made TV appearances on that card.

Here is the list of boxers who appeared on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights in the BATB era:

Four appearances: Anthony Peterson, Fernando Guerrero, Darnell Wilson 

Three appearances: Bayan Jargal, Thomas Williams, Lamont Peterson, Tony Thompson, Seth Mitchell, Emanuel Taylor

Two appearances: Dusty Hernandez Harrison, Antoine Douglas, Tim Coleman, Dominic Wade, DeMarcus Corley, Eric Aiken, Emmanuel Nwodo, Teddy Reid 

One appearance:  Ishmail Arvin, Jessie Nicklow, Cecil McCalla, Samuel Neequaye, Cornelius Whitlock, Ty Barnett, Maurice Byarm, Scott Sigmon, Immanuwel Aleem, George Armenta, Horace Grant, Henry Buchanan, Alexander Johnson, Sharmba Mitchell, Michael Warrick, Lamont Pearson, Dean White, Luther Smith

The first to appear on the show in the BATB Era: Luther Smith (August 5, 2005 in Mashantucket, CT)

The last to appear: Jessie Nicklow (May 8, 2015, Philadelphia, PA)

So, farewell to ESPN2's Friday Night Fights -- a legendary series that will be talked about and remembered fondly by boxing fans all over the country for many years to come and a series that was a true reason why Beltway Boxers are known throughout the boxing world.

1 comment:

Juan Marshall said...

Sad to see that ESPN2 will no longer be a regular part of the boxing world. It wasn't nothing greater than knowing when there wasn't any fights scheduled for HBO and Showtime you could count on ESPN2 for some Friday night fights. I'm also happy that some of the Beltway Boxers had their opportunity to be part of those Friday Night Fights. Now those fighters can say they are part of the ESPN2 family. One of the biggest moments for me was February 22, 2013 when I saw Lamont Peterson defend his IBF Jr. Welterweight Title against Kendall Holt. Stopping him by a 8th round TKO. I was doing what I loved to do and that is being ringside taking great action photos of that terrific event. I'm a true boxing fan that will miss tuning in to ESPN2 on Friday nights for some action packed bouts.