CBS has occasionally

Boxing on ABC
Also known asABC Sports Pro Boxing
GenreProfessional boxing bouts
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running timeVarious
Production companyABC Sports
Original networkABC
Picture formatColor
Original releaseNovember 11, 1964 (1964-11-11) –
June 17, 2000 (2000-06-17)
Related showsWide World of Sports
Boxing on ESPN

Boxing on ABC refers to a series of boxing events[1] that have been televised on the American Broadcasting Company. Many of these events aired under the Wide World of Sports[2] banner which began on April 11, 1964 when challenger Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeated champion Sonny Liston in the seventh round. ABC's final boxing card occurred on June 17, 2000.[3][4]


Tomorrow's Boxing Champions (1949-1950)

The first incarnation of boxing telecasts on ABC was Tomorrow's Boxing Champions, which aired on Tuesday nights beginning in January 1949. Originating from Chicago, the program featured young, unranked fighters. Bob Elson did the blow-by-blow commentary. The series concluded in September 1950.

Meet the Champ (1952)

In January 1952, ABC premiered Meet the Champ, which was a collection of bouts involving members of the armed forces. The program aired on Thursday nights, with Wally Butterfield announcing.

Saturday Night Fights (1953-1955)

In 1953, Ray Arcel[5] began promoting bouts on ABC. Unfortunately, shortly after arranging the fights for ABC,[6] Arcel[7] ran afoul of organized crime. The matches on ABC competed with other network television fights run by the International Boxing Club[8] (IBC), who were reputed to have underworld ties.

Bill Stern did blow-by-blow commentary when Saturday Night Fights premiered. Come the fall, Jack Gregson took over from Stern.

Boxing from Ridgewood Grove and Motor City Boxing (1953)

In February 1953, ABC premiered Boxing from Ridgewood Grove. It aired on Tuesdays nights, with Jason Owen as the announcer in the first month and Bob Finnegan taking over until its cancellation in August. In March 1953, ABC brought Motor City Boxing from Detroit. The program would air for three months of Thursdays, with Don Wattrick at the providing commentary.

Boxing from Eastern Parkway (1954)

In May 1954, Boxing from Eastern Parkway moved from the DuMont Television Network to ABC. Tommy Logran handled the blow-by-blow commentary while occasionally being helped by Bob Finnegan and Fred Sayles. The series ended when ABC failed to renew its contract with the arena after picking up the rights to show fights at the International Boxing Club.[9][10]

The Wednesday Night Fights (1955-1960)

After cancellation of Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts on CBS in 1955, the series was picked up by ABC, renamed The Wednesday Night Fights,[11][12] and continued until 1960.

Russ Hodges and Jack Drees both stayed with the show when it transferred from CBS. Hodges however, left in October 1955 and Drees was the only regular announcer for the five years it stayed on ABC.

Fight of the Week (1960-1963)

After NBC-TV's cancellation of The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports in the spring of 1960, ABC took over the prime time boxing program, although it was renamed Fight of the Week. Legendary boxing commentator Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow description of the bouts, which took place on Saturday beginning in October 1960 and running through September 1963.

From there, the series moved to Friday nights, where it continued until ABC finally canceled prime time boxing after the bout of September 11, 1964, permanently ending 18 years of regularly scheduled prime time boxing on U.S. broadcast network television. One reason for the downturn of televised boxing occurred on Fight of the Week's the March 24, 1962 broadcast, when Emile Griffith defeated Benny "The Kid" Paret for the Welterweight Championship at New York's Madison Square Garden. Paret was carried from the ring unconscious, and died several days later as a result of his injuries that he had sustained in that bout.

Wide World of Sports (1964-2000)

Prior to the advent of Wide World of Sports, many major heavyweight boxing title matches were televised via "closed-circuit" (this generally meant that you had go to a movie theater to see it, pay a decent-sized amount of money to get it, and then watch it on a giant screen). Often, Wide World of Sports would show full-length replays of the fights a week or two later; these replays were usually called by Howard Cosell, who became one of the best-known (and possibly most controversial) sportscaster in American television history.

Still rebuilding a winning record after his first professional loss to Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali faced Ken Norton on March 31, 1973, at the Sports Arena, San Diego, California. The fight was aired live on free TV in the United States via ABC.

Jerry Quarry retired for over two and a half years after his 1975 fight with Ken Norton fight. At around this time, Quarry signed a contract with ABC to be a boxing commentator. Quarry was very popular in this position, drawing the ire of Howard Cosell, who was being pushed out of some commentary work by Quarry. In mid-1977, a return match was being put together which would put Quarry in against a ranked heavyweight. The ranked heavyweight would be Italian Lorenzo Zanon. The match was to be televised on ABC, where Quarry was contracted. But both fighters signed to have the bout televised on CBS. When Quarry, who often negotiated his own fight contracts, signed the bout to CBS, he lost his ABC contract.

In 1976, ABC made a deal with promoter Don King and The Ring magazine to stage a tournament[13] to determine the best fighter from the U.S. in each weight division. The tournament, dubbed the United States Boxing Championships was scheduled to begin on January 16, 1977 with ABC agreeing to finance the tournament with an investment of between $1.5 million and $2 million.[14] Soon however, it determined that King was essentially using the tournament to sign the best fighters to exclusive contracts. To make matters worse, The Ring was falsifying records and inflating rankings as a means of getting a number of fighters into the tournament for King.

Sugar Ray Leonard's bout with Wilfred Benítez on November 30, 1979[15] marked the first time in the era of big-money sports events that a non-heavyweight fight would be carried as the main event on prime time television.[16][17]

On November 15, 1984, ABC broadcast 'A Night of Gold', a card from promoter Dan Duva's 'Main Events',[18] featuring no less than four gold medal winners (Mark Breland, Tyrell Biggs, Pernell Whitaker and Meldrick Taylor[19]) from that year's Summer Olympic games, as well as those lagging behind in the runners-up spots.

In 1992, ABC announced plans to counterprogram[20] the Winter Olympics on CBS with boxing, a sport at that point, seldom seen on network television. This particular boxing series was sponsored by Fruit of the Loom.[21][22] ABC proceeded to forgo the typical $300,000 rights fees of the prior year, and instead, set a $75,000 limit and scheduled three consecutive Saturdays of action.[23]

Notable bouts

Main article: List of events broadcast on Wide World of Sports (American TV series)

Year Day Event
1964 April 11 Challenger Cassius Clay, soon to adopt the Muslim name of Muhammad Ali, knocks out champion Sonny Liston in the seventh round in Miami Beach, Florida.
May 30 U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials.[24]
1965 May 29 The rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston from Lewiston, Maine.
1966 April 2 Muhammad Ali defeats George Chuvalo in a 15-round decision to retain his World Heavyweight Championship in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
May 21 Muhammad Ali retains his World Heavyweight Championship title with a sixth-round TKO of Henry Cooper in London.
September 10 Muhammad Ali defeats Karl Mildenberger[25] in a heavyweight title defense, live from Frankfurt, West Germany with a 12th-round TKO.
November 26 Muhammad Ali defends his world heavyweight title for the sixth time in 1966 on Wide World of Sports against Cleveland Williams.
1967 February 11 Muhammad Ali defends his World Heavyweight Championship against Ernie Terrell in Houston, Texas.
March 11 Interview with Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain.
1970 February 21 Joe Frazier knocks out Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship from New York City.
October 31 In Atlanta, Muhammad Ali defeats Jerry Quarry in the third round, in his first fight in three years.
November 21 Joe Frazier knocks out Bob Foster in the second round of their World Heavyweight Championship fight in Detroit.
1971 March 13 Analysis of the World Heavyweight Championship fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier with Muhammad Ali.
1972 September 23 Muhammad Ali ends the career of former world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson with a seventh-round knockout in New York City.
November 25 Muhammad Ali-Bob Foster fight.
1973 January 27 World Heavyweight Championship fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman from Kingston, Jamaica.
March 31 Ken Norton wins a 12-round decision against Muhammad Ali in their heavyweight fight from San Diego, California.
September 15 Muhammad Ali wins his rematch with Ken Norton rematch in 12 rounds.
1974 January 26 Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier scuffle[26][27][28] during the telecast as they watch tape of their first fight in 1971.
March 2 Muhammad Ali defeats Joe Frazier in their second fight in New York City.
March 16 Roberto Durán knocks out Esteban De Jesús[29] in the 11th round to retain his World Lightweight championship from Panama City, Panama.
March 31 George Foreman scores a second-round TKO of Ken Norton in a World Heavyweight Championship fight.
September 21 Wide World of Sports returns to Havana, Cuba for the World Boxing Championships, which featured Teófilo Stevenson.
1975 January 5 Muhammad Ali knocks out George Foreman in the eighth round to reclaim the World Heavyweight title from Kinshasa, Zaire.
March 29 Muhammad Ali scores a 15th-round TKO of Chuck Wepner in their World Heavyweight Championship fight.
July 26 Coverage of the North American Continental Boxing Championships.[30]
September 13 World Heavyweight Championship fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.
1976[31] January 11 Wide World of Sports telecasts tape of Muhammad Ali defeating Joe Frazier in the "Thriller in Manilla" heavyweight title fight.
October 2 Exclusive Sports Illustrated still photographs of the Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton heavyweight fight and interviews with Ken Norton, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
1977 January 2 Interview with Muhammad Ali.
May 14 Sugar Ray Leonard defeats Willie Rodriguez[32] in the second fight of his professional career.
1978 February 12 USA-Cuba Amateur boxing marks the first live telecast from Cuba since Castro came to power in 1959.
1979 February 4 Alexis Argüello and Alfredo Escalera[33] for the WBC Super Featherweight title. Arguello retained his title with a 13th-round knockout.
1980 July 19 Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán[34] fight for the WBC Welterweight Championship.
September 27 In his second bid for the WBA/WBC Middleweight championship, Marvelous Marvin Hagler scores a third-round TKO of Alan Minter[35] in a fight marred by a crowd riot.
1981 September 5 Salvador Sánchez retains his WBC Featherweight Championship with a victory over Wilfredo Gómez.
October 17 Sugar Ray Leonard scores a 14th-round TKO of Thomas Hearns in a WBC/WBA Welterweight Championship fight.
1982 November 27 Teófilo Stevenson fights Tyrell Biggs[36] from Reno, Nev.
December 11 Bazooka Limón loses his WBC Super Featherweight Championship to Bobby Chacon in a 15-round decision, while Wilfredo Gómez retained his WBC Super Bantamweight title against Lupe Pinto.
1984 February 18 The USA-Cuba amateur boxing matches[37] from Reno.
1985 January 5 Live coverage of Mark Breland's second professional fight against Marlon Palmer in Atlantic City, N.J.
January 20 Second professional fights of Pernell Whitaker (vs. Danny Avery[38]), Evander Holyfield (vs. Eric Winbush[39]) and Meldrick Taylor (vs. Dwight Pratchett[40]), live, from Atlantic City.
April 20 The second professional fight of Olympic gold medalist Tyrell Biggs.
June 8 Barry McGuigan defeats Eusebio Pedroza to claim the WBA Welterweight title in London.
September 28 Barry McGuigan defends his WBA Welterweight title against Bernard Taylor in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
1986 February 15 Barry McGuigan defends his WBA Welterweight title against Danilo Cabreira in Dublin, Ireland.
March 29 In a delayed broadcast, "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler knocks out John "The Beast" Mugabi in the 11th-round of their World Middleweight Championship.
July 12 Evander Holyfield wins his first world title with a 15-round decision against Dwight Qawi[41] for the WBA Junior Heavyweight crown live from Atlanta.
July 26 Mike Tyson destroys Marvis Frazier[42] with a first-round knockout in their live heavyweight fight from Glens Falls, N.Y. In the same show, Barry McGuigan loses his WBA Welterweight crown in a 15-round decision to Steve Cruz in Las Vegas.
1989 March 4 Virgil Hill-Bobby Czyz[43] fight for the WBA Light Heavyweight Championship in Bismarck, North Dakota.
April 1 Evander Holyfield-Michael Dokes heavyweight fight and a live studio interview with Holyfield.
June 24 Dennis Andries[44]-Jeff Harding for the WBC Light Heavyweight titles.
1990 March 31 Meldrick Taylor fights Julio César Chávez for the WBC/IBF Junior Welterweight/Super Lightweight titles.
1991 March 2 Riddick Bowe versus Tyrell Biggs.[45][46]
June 1 Mike Tyson scores a TKO of Razor Ruddock[47] in a heavyweight fight, taped on March 18.
1992 February 1 A special report on Mike Tyson's trial and conviction of rape.
1993 March 6 Riddick Bowe knocks out Evander Holyfield in the 11th-round of their fight from Las Vegas.
1995[48] July 22 Mike Tyson retrospective: one month before his return to the ring.
1997 April 19 Wide World airs network television's first women's professional boxing match. Former kickboxer Yvonne Trevino wins the WIBF Superflyweight championship live from Las Vegas in a first-round TKO over Brenda Rouse.
2000 June 17 José Luis Castillo upsets Stevie Johnston in the lightweight championship bout in Bell Gardens, California.[49]


See also: List_of_sports_announcers § Boxing, and List of Wide World of Sports (American TV series) announcers

Howard Cosell

Cosell rose to prominence in the early 1960s, covering boxer Muhammad Ali, beginning from the time he fought under his birth name, Cassius Clay. The two seemed to have an affinity despite their different personalities, and complemented each other in broadcasts. Cosell was one of the first sportscasters to refer to the boxer as Muhammad Ali after he changed his name, and supported him when he refused to be inducted into the military. Cosell called most of Ali's fights immediately before and after the boxer returned from his three-year exile in October 1970. Those fights were broadcast on taped delay usually a week after they were transmitted on closed circuit. However, Cosell did not call two of Ali's biggest fights, the Rumble in the Jungle in October 1974 and the first Ali–Joe Frazier bout in March 1971. Promoter Jerry Perenchio selected actor Burt Lancaster, who had never provided color commentary for a fight, to work the bout with longtime announcer Don Dunphy and former light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore. Cosell attended that fight as a spectator only. He would do a voiceover of that bout, when it was shown on ABC a few days before the second Ali-Frazier bout in January 1974.

Perhaps his most famous call took place in the fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman for the World Heavyweight Championship in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973. When Foreman knocked Frazier to the mat the first of six times, roughly two minutes into the first round, Cosell yelled out:

Down Goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier!

His call of Frazier's first trip to the mat became one of the most quoted phrases in American sports broadcasting history. Foreman beat Frazier by a TKO in the second round to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

Cosell provided blow-by-blow commentary for ABC of some of boxing's biggest matches during the 1970s and the early 1980s, including Ken Norton's upset win over Ali in 1973 and Ali's defeat of Leon Spinks in 1978 recapturing the Heavyweight title for the third time. His signature toupee was unceremoniously knocked off in front of live ABC cameras when a scuffle broke out after a broadcast match between Scott LeDoux and Johnny Boudreaux. Cosell quickly retrieved his hairpiece and replaced it. During interviews in studio with Ali, the champion would tease and threaten to remove the hairpiece with Cosell playing along but never allowing it to be touched. On one of these occasions, Ali quipped, "Cosell, you're a phony, and that thing on your head comes from the tail of a pony."[67]

With typical headline generating drama, Cosell abruptly ended his broadcast association with the sport of boxing while providing coverage for ABC for the heavyweight championship bout between Larry Holmes and Randall "Tex" Cobb on November 26, 1982.[68] Halfway through the bout and with Cobb absorbing a beating, Cosell stopped providing anything more than rudimentary comments about round number and the participants punctuated with occasional declarations of disgust during the 15 rounds. He declared shortly after the fight to a national television audience that he had broadcast his last professional boxing match.

In the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, and the 1984 games in Los Angeles, Cosell was the main voice for boxing. Sugar Ray Leonard won the gold medal in his light welterweight class at Montreal, beginning his meteoric rise to a world professional title a few years later, and Cosell became close to Leonard, during this period, announcing many of his fights.[69]

Cancelled 2007 card

See also: Boxing on ESPN

Seven years after ABC's last boxing card, they were scheduled to broadcast a card from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey on April 22, 2007. The card would've featured former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver facing off against Elvir Muriqi. Promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing had been working on the time buy deal (in other words, DeGuardia was not paid a licensing fee by ABC, but rather bought an hour of time from the network). The production would've been handled by ABC's sister company, ESPN with Friday Night Fights commentators Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas. The bout was ultimately scrapped[70] amid rumors that Tarver would not be able to make the 175 pound weight limit.

Premier Boxing Champions (2015)

On March 19, 2015, ESPN announced that Friday Night Fights would air for the final time on May 22, 2015, covering the finals of the 2015 Boxcino tournament. The network announced that it had reached a multi-year deal with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions to broadcast 11 events per-year on the main ESPN network, primarily on Saturday nights, and an afternoon event on ABC. Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas were carried over to serve as hosts. ESPN is one of several major broadcasters that airs fights through the promotion, which also includes NBC, CBS, their respective cable sports networks, as well as Spike.[71]

See also


  1. ^ Rapak, Dan (December 11, 2012). Brought to You by . . . AuthorHouse. p. 363. ISBN 9781477290507.
  2. ^ "ABC's Wide World of Sports Televised Fights".
  3. ^ Vester, Mark (April 13, 2007). "Antonio Tarver Speaks on Fight Postponement".
  4. ^ Jose Luis Castillo vs Stevie Johnston - 1/3 on YouTube
  5. ^ Kriegel, Mark (July 9, 2013). The Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. Simon and Schuster. p. 90. ISBN 9780743286367.
  6. ^ Dewey, Donald (January 10, 2014). Ray Arcel: A Boxing Biography. McFarland. p. 152. ISBN 9780786490875.
  7. ^ "Ray Arcel". International Boxing Hall of Fame.
  8. ^ Ecksel, Robert (January 8, 2013). "Ray Arcel: Dean of Them All".
  9. ^ Tim Brooks; Earle F. Marsh (June 24, 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House Publishing Group. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-307-48320-1.
  10. ^ "Eastern Parkway Finished", Associated Press in TimesDaily, May 17, 1955.
  11. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (June 24, 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307483201.
  12. ^ Mee, Bob (November 15, 2011). Ali and Liston: The Boy Who Would Be King and the Ugly Bear. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 45. ISBN 9781616083694.
  13. ^ Michaels, Wertheim, Al, L. Jon (October 31, 2014). "Book excerpt: Al Michaels reflects on his time with Howard Cosell". Sports Illustrated.
  14. ^ Heller, Peter (June 16, 2009). Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story. Da Capo Press, Incorporated. p. 211. ISBN 9780786748280.
  15. ^ Portis, Robert (November 30, 2018). "Nov. 30, 1979: Benitez vs Leonard -- Sugar Ray Wins". The Fight City.
  16. ^ Mack, William (November 26, 1979). "SUGAR SURE IS SWEET". Sports Illustrated.
  17. ^ Charles, Jay (January 23, 2013). "Boxing on Primetime Network TV? When Boxing Really Hit Paydirt". Boxing Insider.
  18. ^ McLachlan, Kyle (November 14, 2014). "Boxing History: 30th Anniversary of 'A Night of Gold' Part One". Bad Left Hook.
  19. ^ Katz, Michael (November 15, 1984). "HOLYFIELD FUTURE IS IN HIS HANDS". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Williams, Jennifer (February 7, 1992). "CBS ANNOUNCERS ARE READY FOR OLYMPICS". Daily Press.
  21. ^ Stewart, Larry (February 7, 1992). "No Need to Coach Fratello for TV". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ Nidetz, Steve (January 6, 1992). "ABC SAW NO DOLLAR SENSE IN OLYMPICS". Chicago Tribune.
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  27. ^ ABC Wide World of Sports - Ali Frazier Studio Brawl on YouTube
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  32. ^ Sugar Ray Leonard vs Willie Rodriguez.avi on YouTube
  33. ^ The Bloody Battle Of Bayamon: Alexis Arguello vs Alfredo Escalera on YouTube
  34. ^ Roberto Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard/ ABC Wide World Of Sports Leonard vs Duran w:Cosell on YouTube
  35. ^ Marvin Hagler -vs- Alan Minter 10/6/80 on YouTube
  36. ^ Teofilo Stevenson | Tyrell Biggs I (a) 1/2 on YouTube
  37. ^ USA vs Cuba ABC "Wide World of Sports" 1984 on YouTube
  38. ^ Pernell Whitaker | Danny Avery 1/2 on YouTube
  39. ^ Evander Holyfield vs Eric Winbush Full Fight (HD) on YouTube
  40. ^ Meldrick Taylor (2nd pro fight) vs. Dwight Pratchett - 1/20/1985 = Boxing on YouTube
  41. ^ Dwight Muhammad Qawi vs Evander Holyfield I on YouTube
  42. ^ Mike Tyson vs Marvis Frazier HD - BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE on YouTube
  44. ^ Hurley, Matthew (November 27, 2012). Ringside Reflections. p. 67. ISBN 9781479754939.
  45. ^ Riddick Bowe vs Tyrell Biggs on YouTube
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  58. ^ Stevie Johnston vs Jose Luis Castillo I on YouTube
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  62. ^ Farris, Rick (May 28, 2011). "My Memory of Jerry Quarry".
  63. ^ Chris Schenkel Career Retrospective on YouTube
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  67. ^ "Ali and Cosell, Irresistible Enigmas".
  68. ^ Bloom, John (2010). There You Have it: The Life, Legacy, and Legend of Howard Cosell. Univ of Massachusetts Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781558498372.
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  70. ^ Keenan, Ronan (June 4, 2007). "Antonio Tarver: Master Of Second Chances". The Sweet Science.
  71. ^ "ESPN Joins Premier Boxing Champions' Corner, Knocking Out 'Friday Night Fights'". [ Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 19, 2015.