James Toney to fight Feb. 24
Fledgling promoter Empire Sports will promote a monthly boxing card that will air nationally on Fox Sports Net throughout 2011, according to president Greg Cohen.
The series, called "Fight Night in America," will generally air on the last Thursday of each month, Cohen told ESPN.com. Some of the early shows will air on tape delay, as was the case with the Dec. 17 debut card Prize Fight-promoted welterweight prospect Jesse Lubash (14-0, 8 KOs) of Pittsburgh.
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Former three-division champ James Toney (72-6-3, 44 KOs) will face Damon Reed (45-14, 32 KOs) on Feb. 24 at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in San Bernardino, Calif., in a heavyweight fight in the main event of the next edition, which will also air on tape delay.
Toney, 42, has not boxed since a second-round knockout of Matt Greer in September 2009. Toney later made a failed attempt to compete in mixed martial arts, but was embarrassed by Randy Couture at UFC 118 in August. Couture took Toney to the mat in the opening seconds of the bout and he eventually submitted in the first round without throwing a punch.
Although Toney is a veteran near the end of his career, Cohen said the thrust of the series will be to feature rising talent in competitive bouts. Among the prospects Empire will feature on the series are Lubash, welterweight Hastings "Sting" Bwalya (6-0, 5 KOs), a 2008 Olympian for Zambia who now lives in Las Vegas, and light heavyweight Badou Jack (5-0, 4 KOs), a 2008 Olympian for Gambia who lives in Sweden. Bwalya and Jack are scheduled to fight on the Toney-Reed undercard.
Cohen said besides the fighters his company promotes, he is open to working with other promoters as well. Toney, for example, does not have a promotional agreement with Empire beyond the upcoming fight, Cohen said.
"We are not averse to working with other promoters because we are looking to make this series a real success," said Cohen, who hopes to develop fighters who can move on to the HBO and Showtime level of fights. "We want to make competitive fights. We are looking to build a brand. It's good for the sport. The more televised boxing, the better it is for the sport."
Cohen said the first few shows probably will air on a tape-delayed basis within a week or two of taking place and run for one hour. However, he said once college basketball season concludes the series will move to a live, two-hour format with Barry Tompkins and Benny Ricardo calling the action.
Cohen said his company secured sponsors to underwrite the cost of the show as opposed to FSN paying a license fee.
"We're starting as a monthly show and we hope to grow to be bigger than monthly. Twice a month would be the goal," Cohen said. "If we will deliver on our end and Fox delivers on its end, this will be a great partnership. We are taking care of the production, but Fox made a very favorable deal with us on the sponsors we brought the to table. It's a nice situation for both parties."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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