This Friday fans get to have their weekly boxing fix sated. ESPN's Friday Night Fights is coming back to ESPN2. With it, fans get to enjoy one of boxing's only free programs.
ESPN might not have the budget of bigger stations like HBO or Showtime, but they consistently make good fights and give fans something to talk about between the bigger events.
Still, many look down on the FNF program and its format, which is a bit unfair.
So to defend ESPN's Friday Night Fights and show why it is one of boxing's best attributes, here are the top 10 things that are great about it and that fans can enjoy in 2012.
Finally there is some boxing on that fans aren't expected to pay a monthly bill for or order on pay-per-view.
It might not have the biggest names and it might not be the most cutting edge, but ESPN's FNF is something that comes with fans' basic cable package. Just knowing that there isn't an extra cost added makes it that much easier to deal with.
It makes the fights a little easier to watch knowing that their won't be an added cost to it later.
Which brings up the next point...
Fans are constantly disappointed by fights on HBO, Showtime and PPV. That isn't always because they are bad, but because they didn't deliver to certain level.
Fans pay extra money for those fights because they believe that they are going to get the best potential fights boxing can offer. Whether it be in terms of excitement or pure boxing skill, fans expect to see something that they remember and consider amazing.
Unfortunately, many times these programs fail to deliver.
With ESPN's FNF, fans aren't expecting massive wars or technical brilliance because there are no expectations. The fans didn't pay to see something that might not materialize, so if anything good or even great shows up they will be elated.
Boxers do not get paid to talk for a living.
Never is this more obvious then when they are guests in the studios watching the fights. Every once in a while fans might get to see an articulate fighter, but that isn't the norm.
Many times it is painful to watch. The fighters seem to be unsure of what to say—hem and haw—while trying to complete sentences.
It gets so bad sometimes that it's actually fun to watch. Not fun in the sense that someone is embarrassing themselves, but in the sense of watching something that is so bad it's funny.
It keeps fans from taking the fight game too seriously and remembering that boxers are human.
In the vein of off-color humor, a list can't be made without getting into Atlas' fight plan. The man may be a knowledgeable boxing commentator—even if some find his style to be very annoying—but he is pretty crazy in how he tries to connect it to other things.
Take a look above and try not to smile as the video progresses. It is campy and corny, but in a fun way.
HBO would never do something like this because they take themselves too seriously.
If Teddy Atlas is a bit hard to take seriously, Tessitore isn't. He seems to be the right balance for Atlas' off-the-wall commentary and makes it so that serious boxing fans can get a little breathing room.
He does his job well, obviously shows a passion for what he is covering and knows when to let the action do the talking.
Plus, he has come up with a few great lines over the years, too.
Not every prospect has a manager or promoter that can take them from undercard bouts to HBO slots immediately.
The sport would be better if none of them did, but for those that don't, they get a chance to shine on ESPN's FNF. Sometimes they get put in with a soft touch, but that is usually in the four-round fights and not in the main slots.
It is the first step that many prospects take in their attempt to get to the top of the boxing world.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it is entertaining to watch.
Which brings up the next point...
Not every prospect gets a win and not every returning veteran dominates.
There are times when the guy who was supposed to lose pulls the upset. It's part of the nature of the sport.
Boxing fans love nothing more than a good upset and for some reason they seem to happen on FNF more than other programs.
Part of it could be the fact that they just have more shows.
Another part could be the fact that the fights are just more even sometimes or that more fights get broadcast in one night.
Either way is fine as long as they keep coming.
Top Rank, Golden Boy Promotions and Gary Shaw seem to get a lot of the dates when it comes to HBO and Showtime. It leaves precious little for other promoters to get and leaves them and their fighters high and dry.
That is a shame as other, smaller promoters have proven that you don't need to have what is considered elite talent to put on a great show.
They don't get much of a chance on the biggest stage in boxing, but that doesn't mean that they don't get a chance at national exposure.
FNF gives the smaller guys a chance to prove that they belong in boxing, too, and a chance to get more fans for their product.
Many times ESPN can't afford the big names, which either means they have to get emerging talent or someone who has a good record, has fought good opposition and has absolutely no star power.
Those fighters can almost always be guaranteed to make fun fights and enlighten boxing fans on why the should keep an eye out for them.
Not only does FNF create exposure for smaller promoters and prospects, it helps established boxers who just haven't found a fanbase yet break through.
In boxing, that is almost as important as winning fights.
Most boxing fans would love it if the sport was broadcast seven days a week.
Other would settle for every weekend.
FNF is the closest thing boxing fans have to a weekly series, as it appears most Fridays after the season starts.
It may not be perfect, but for boxing fans, it gives a glut of extra boxing.
And no one should turn down extras when it comes to this sport.