More live boxing is coming to the ESPN family of networks.
ESPN and Golden Boy Promotions announced Thursday the launch of the new television series "Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN."
The series, sponsored by Tecate, will air on ESPN2 and will be simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes as well as streamed on ESPN3. A few of the 2-hour cards, which will generally take place twice per month, will not be available on ESPN2, however, because of scheduling conflicts.
The deal includes 18 cards in 2017 (which will air either on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays) and 24 more in 2018. ESPN has an option for a third year of the series.
The first card -- fights to be announced -- will take place on March 23 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
"We are excited to announce this new agreement with Golden Boy Promotions, one of the world's top promoters," said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming and scheduling. "ESPN and ESPN Deportes look forward to featuring a new series of exciting world-class matches, along with a deep and wide variety of studio and digital content, in this multi-year, exclusive, live fight package."
Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya said the series is very significant for his company, its fighters and boxing fans.
"ESPN is a flagship network with a history of showcasing and bringing audiences into the world of boxing, making this deal a natural fit for Golden Boy Promotions," De La Hoya said. "Having worked with ESPN in the past, we know first-hand that its multiple TV and digital platforms represent a must-watch for casual and diehard sports fans. I'm thrilled that Golden Boy's talented stable of fighters will be showcased before a wide audience who will have the opportunity to watch and follow the sports' current and future world champions."
Golden Boy, which will produce the new series -- announcers to be determined -- and rely on sponsors rather than a license fee from ESPN to pay for the cards, has been searching for a television partner with a wide audience for its growing stable of fighters who are not yet ready for HBO, where Golden Boy's premier fights and fighters usually are televised.
Golden Boy has an existing television deal with Spanish-language network Estrella TV, but it is not widely available. Golden Boy said that deal will continue with an additional eight to 12 cards this year.
But the ESPN deal is where many of Golden Boy's top up-and-comers and contenders will fight regularly until they are ready for the jump to the bigger money of HBO.
"The reach that ESPN has is by far bigger than any other sports network or premium cable channel out there," De La Hoya said. "So this is a big opportunity for the Golden Boy brand and our fighters. They will be tested in their fights on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. We are really excited about the exposure our fighters will have with this new series.
"You will definitely see competitive fights and fighters who are ready to be tested; fighters who will grow up on the ESPN platform and then be ready to move to the HBO platform. We will have our top, top prospects going up against ex-world champions or prospects against prospects and contenders against contenders. This is not going to be by any means a series for us to use for fighters who just want to get a win. It'll be a series where our young fighters are ready to take on tougher challenges. We have great sponsors backing the series like our title sponsor Tecate. They are on board with Golden Boy and that gives us the ability to give the fans some really exciting fights."
Golden Boy and ESPN worked on the deal for about six months before it was signed earlier this month. When ESPN made a deal with Al Haymon in 2015 to televise his creation, Premier Boxing Champions, part of the agreement included boxing exclusivity on the ESPN networks. However, PBC's exclusivity on ESPN was eliminated as part of the settlement in May between Haymon and Top Rank of the $100 million federal antitrust lawsuit that Top Rank filed against Haymon accusing him of monopolistic practices and of violating federal antitrust laws. That allowed ESPN to make a deal with Golden Boy for the series.
"We want to nurture it and grow this deal with ESPN," De La Hoya said. "The fight fans are the ones who deserve it."
In addition to the live fights, ESPN will also feature Golden Boy Media and Entertainment content on multiple platforms, including Golden Boy's classic fight library; "In the Ring," a half-hour interview show with a variety of fighters; "Mano-A-Mano," an original half-hour series featuring fighter training; "The Ring TV Express," which will consist of three-minute highlights of fights; and podcasts hosted by De La Hoya and other Golden Boy talent.
"Boxing fans are always looking for new, dynamic content, and this alliance will give fans fresh and original programming across the most well-known platform in the sports world," said David Tetreault, vice president of Golden Boy Media and Entertainment.