UNCASVILLE, Conn. — ESPN’s Friday Night Fights is the flagship television home for weekly boxing matches on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com.
Each week, January through August, the show airs from different locations around the country, showcasing established fighters and rising stars from around the globe.
This past Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena, I stepped into the ring and was able to see what it takes to put together such a large spectacle.
I never realized how many people are involved in producing the show. Producers, production assistants, camera crews, stage managers running back and forth between the truck and the arena to make sure the show goes on without a hitch. Crews arrive in the early morning to prepare that night’s telecast.
The inside of the production truck reminded me of the Starship Enterprise. It’s a “command center” where TV magic is made. Flat screen monitors painted the walls, computers and switchboards with crew members at each station. It was quite impressive to see how much work is accomplished in such a small space.
I caught up with Matt Sandulli, Senior Coordinating Producer of ESPN’s FNF, and asked him what it’s like to produce a boxing show.
“Boxing is unlike any other sport, it’s not structured like most other sports,” said Sandulli. “Producing on-site is a departure from the norm.
“Not only are you creating content for the show, but you are also creating an event for the house. Depending on what part of the country we are in, dictates how we prepare for the show. We try to prepare for issues depending on different circumstances.”
Putting together a live sporting event is quite the task. Boxing is no exception. And you have to expect the unexpected.
This was the case when a light fixture above the ring burst into pieces as I stood in the ring before Friday’s fights. The crew was quickly able to fix the issue prior to going live at 8 p.m.
Boxing is also a sport that is unpredictable. A boxing match can last less than one round or run the allotted 12, so there always needs to be enough content to fill a two-hour show.
“We always dedicate 20-30 minutes of news-oriented content from our studios in Bristol,” said Sandulli. “Even though we may only televise two fights, we always make sure that we have five fights to choose from, should our televised fights end early.”
As the arena filled, I took my seat behind the ring as announcer Joe Tessitore and analyst Teddy Atlas prepared their introductory standup. Sweat sprayed my program when Providence’s Demetrius Andrade TKO’d Omar Bell in the second round of the opening bout. Another exciting week of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights got underway.
Coming soon, I’ll take you behind the scenes with studio host Brian Kenny and the Bristol part of the FNF operations.