By Rob Beiner, Producer, ESPN2 Friday Night Fights
Each week, all of our traveling production team on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights comes to that event with a detailed packet of information on all the fighters that will appear on that show. We pride ourselves on being prepared with interesting biographical and statistical data to make our telecast as entertaining as possible.
Prior to the Thursday afternoon weigh-in, Bob Papa, ESPN2 Friday Night Fights play-by-play announcer interviews the four fighters that appear in our Main Event and the co-feature. For more than three-and-a-half years of producing Friday Night Fights, I am constantly amazed at the response to the question, “What do you know about your opponent?” Inevitably, at least one of the fighters will tell Bob, “I’ve never seen him and I don’t know anything about him.”
I listen to that and wonder how can that be? Why would a man who is going to fight a minimum of 10 rounds and sometimes 12, not have the faintest clue about the other man who is looking to inflict damage upon him? Shouldn’t he know if his opponent is moving up or down in weight? Is he a southpaw or orthodox fighter? Is he a boxer or a puncher? Does he move? Does he have a good jab? Can he punch with power? Does he have a chin? Where is he from?
It astonishes me how many fighters come into the ring unprepared with the answer to every one of those questions. Why on earth would that fighter’s promoter, manager, and trainer even put their man in against an unknown when there is a chance he could be maimed for life? Even though the fighter has no knowledge about his opponent, isn’t there a responsibility on the part of his team to help him get that information?
I understand there are late substitutions due to injury whereby a new opponent comes in at a late date. I also know that many fighters have not had the opportunity to appear on television before. In both cases, it’s reasonable to assume that there is not a lot of time or information available to the fighter in order for him to be totally prepared and ready for battle. He must ask for help in getting ready so that the unknown becomes less so.
Every NFL team supplies their team players with individualized footage of the upcoming week’s opponent. A cornerback knows what his wide receiver assignment will do in different situations. A quarterback gets a feel of when opposing linebackers will blitz. Special teams’ coaches seek even the slightest advantages that could mean victory. Most major league sports are like that. They prepare their players and their coaches.
Fighters like to be referred to as “warriors.” They will and often do spill their blood, test their pain threshold, and constantly challenge their will to go on. From the fans’ standpoint, that what makes them tune in every Friday night. But why wouldn’t that same “warrior” want to bring another powerful weapon into the ring with him; preparation. Think how much better he would be if he knew about the man who wants to “kick his ass” or “doesn’t give him respect.” Think about this. That fighter spent the last couple of months running, banging, sweating and aching, and for what (or in this case for whom)?
Fighters, either you or one of your people must get the “Fight Fax” of your upcoming opponent. Every professional fighter is listed in the “Fight Fax” book; even you. It lists many things that can help you learn about your opponent such as how often he has fought, his opponents, the outcome, his weight, and some biographical information. At least now, you have a bit of knowledge about the man who will look to successfully add you to his own “Fight Fax.”
Ask to see a tape of your opponent. There’s a good chance that he has seen one of you. If your promoter, manager, or trainer is worth the contract you’ve signed with them, they should be glad to get you a tape, even if it is several years old. You are sure to learn something. Remember if you don’t win the fight, they can’t make future money off of you.
You only fight about 4-6 times a year, if that. If you’re serious about becoming a champion and having a successful career, you have to be a fool to not spend several hours more learning about each and every one of your opponents. The next time we meet, please do not come to our ESPN2 Friday Night Fights interview sessions not mentally prepared. You must use your head so it doesn’t get handed to you in the ring.
Rob Beiner has an extensive and varied history in television sports production beginning in the 1970’s. He worked as a Producer/Director with Howard Cosell and Alex Wallau on ABC Sports. He has also worked on the Olympic Games, Monday Night Football, and was the Producer for USA Tuesday Night Fights from 1990-1996. Rob is currently the Producer of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights and Producer of the extremely popular show “BattleBots” on Comedy Central.