Farewell, Friday Night Fights: Boxing series airs finale tonight

What was it like condensing 17 years of FNF into a video essay?

Joe Tessitore: “It’s always harder to write shorter than longer, add in the fact that this production, and this crew, and many in the boxing business attached to this show have been like family to me and it was nearly impossible to cross the line of knowingly not mentioning, thanking or any other necessary litany that could be created. I wanted to simply identify the DNA of the series and I hope we did that. Our senior coordinating producer Matt Sandulli was very helpful in giving me the freedom to express what I wanted to.”

For the past 17 years, ESPN Friday Night Fights, which will celebrate its final show tonight with the highly anticipated finals of Boxcino 2015 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2), showcased some of the best bouts in the boxing industry and introduced fans to future stars and champions.

ESPN began televising boxing April 10, 1980, making the sport a weekly television staple again for the first time since 1964. Beginning this summer, Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN (PBC on ESPN), will bring boxing to a new level never seen before on the network when the series debuts July 11 (ESPN, 9 p.m.)

Tonight’s telecast will include a special video essay (see above) written and voiced by longtime blow-by-blow commentator Joe Tessitore (pictured at right above, with analyst Teddy Atlas) in which he summarizes what Friday Night Fights has meant to the fan and boxing community over the last 17 years. and Friday Night Fights contributor Nigel Collins also looks back at the series.

Front Row caught up with ESPN senior coordinating producer Matt Sandulli, who has overseen ESPN’s boxing production for the last nine years, for more insight.
How do you feel after all of these years working on FNF?

Matt Sandulli (Mark Gaier/ESPN Images)
Matt Sandulli (Mark Gaier/ESPN Images)

It’s bittersweet to see the end of Friday Night Fights. The show has had a great 17-year run. It has been the home of consistent boxing action week in and week out and it has served the boxing fan so well. There are countless people who greatly contributed to the series and they should all be proud of what FNF has meant to the boxing fan. The sport has always had that blue-collar feel to it and the show absolutely mirrored those characteristics. It was a success because of the passion and dedication of those who worked on it. Like all good things, there comes a time to move on, and as we prepare to step up and get into the world of big-time boxing events, we know we have a tremendous base to draw from.

What was the most challenging part about putting the video essay together?
Joe Tessitore did a wonderful job writing the piece, so these are really his words. From a production standpoint, the biggest challenge was finding the appropriate video through the 17 years and content associate Aaron Thompson did a wonderful job tracking it all down. Then the next challenge was making sure the proper images were represented at the proper time and associate producer Kenyatta Storin really did a nice job getting that done.

What are you most looking forward to about PBC on ESPN?
We are all looking forward to the big event. To use a stick and ball analogy: It felt like working on FNF was regular-season boxing but working on PBC shows will be like working on playoff boxing.

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