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Friday Night Fights takes boxing back to the ballpark with visit to Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field

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ESPN’s Friday Night Fights adds another chapter to Chicago’s rich boxing history with a show tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox.

In the first major pro boxing card at a Chicago ballpark in more than 50 years, hometown favorite, light heavyweight contender, Andrzej Fonfara meets Gabriel Campillo in the FNF main event (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN/ESPN Deportes+). (For those who are curious, on Sept. 25, 1962 at old Comiskey Park, heavyweight Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson.)

Front Row asked Matt Sandulli, senior coordinating producer at ESPN, about showcasing FNF in a unique venue for boxing.

What’s different about producing an arena boxing show versus outdoors at a stadium?
Outdoors, you have to plan for potential weather issues and have contingency plans. There will be a cover over the top of the ring and we will be in a position to cover the fight in the rain. Our camera that shoots a wide shot of the ring will be on a lift behind the pitcher’s mound. If it is too windy, that camera will need to come down and we’ll have to shoot with our handheld cameras around the ring.

Are there any unique production elements?
We’re going to mount a robotic camera on the lighting grid above the ring, something we don’t normally do. The camera will give a nice above-the-ring look and will have the capabilities of shooting back into the crowd.

The other camera that we’ve added to this week’s show is a non-wired, handheld camera. We plan to move that camera around the stadium to give viewers a unique perspective of what it looks like from various points in the ballpark. For example, we might send the camera to the upper deck and show viewers that vantage point.

Where will commentators Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas call the fights from? Where will studio host Todd Grisham be located?
The ring will be set up behind home plate, and Joe and Teddy are going to be sitting pretty much in the batter’s box, literally on top of home plate as they call the fights. We have an extra camera this week for the studio set, which is going to be set up on the main concourse. Todd will have the crowd and ring behind him.

Are you going to make U.S. Cellular Field part of the telecast?
The unique setting of the ball park is something we’re definitely going to bring out as much as we can. We plan to use the non-wired, handheld camera to show off the ball park. Former White Sox player Ron Kittle is also participating in Teddy’s “Fight Plan.”

Hyperlinked video on Chicago’s boxing history narrated by Boxing Contributor Nigel Collins

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