Norm Whitehurst is the lead producer for ESPN Deportes’ Noche de Combates series and oversees production for the network’s boxing coverage. In addition, Whitehurst is writing an ESPN.com blog series featuring celebrities who have a passion for boxing. As all eyes are on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight this Saturday in Las Vegas, Whitehurst sat down with Front Row to discuss the series.
How did the celebrity boxing blog idea come about?
About two years ago, I was watching a fight on TV. I had Twitter open and was watching comments people were making. I noticed actress Rosie Perez was tweeting a lot about the fight and what she was saying was written like a true fan. So I contacted her on Twitter not expecting to actually get a reply. But seconds later, there she was, talking about technique and style.
One thing led to another and we brought her to a Friday Night Fights/Noche de Combates show, invited her to the first One Nación show, and brought her to ESPN for a “Car Wash” during which she talked Mayweather-Canelo. Now I know boxing is part of celebrity culture. You see famous faces at all the big fights. So I approached my manager and said I wanted to take this on. See who’s out there and bring those boxing-loving celebrities to ESPN.
Then I approached ESPN.com boxing editor Andres Ferrari and off we went. The blog is actually a door opener. The blog gives us opportunities to build a relationship with the person and then look to do other things, such as bring them on shows, feature them in digital pieces and more.
Who has been the most interesting interview subject(s) and why?
Rosie Perez talked to me for hours. She is so passionate and loves the sport so much she can go forever. She’s opinionated and intelligent and she knows her stuff. That and she’s personable. You wouldn’t know she’s a star by talking to her. She’s very real. Mario Lopez is another fan who is passionate. So much so that his dogs are named after [ESPN Deportes analysts] Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez. . . With the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight coming up, it seems like celebrities who have any kind of interest in boxing are coming out of the woodwork to be included in the blog.
Who can readers expect to see next on the blog?
You never know. I would have never pegged Candace Cameron Bure as a boxing fan, but there she was. Johnny Gill from New Edition is coming up next. And we have Kelly LeBrock (Weird Science) on deck. As the blog catches on, I’m hoping for some knockouts. Robert Deniro, Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank are just a few who have appeared in iconic boxing movies and who have a passion for the sport.