Season Premiere of ESPN's FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS to Air 1/4
ESPN's FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS presented by Corona Extra will kick off a new season January 4 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 HD, ESPN Deportes and will be available online through WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. The season premiere will match undefeated Junior Lightweights Rances "Kid Blast" Barthelemy (17-0, 11 KOs) and Arash Usmanee (20-0, 10 KOs) in the 12-round main event. The card, from the Magic City Casino in Miami, is promoted by Warriors Boxing.
Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will describe the action for ESPN2 HD, while new studio host Todd Grisham will present all the latest news and boxing highlights. Alex Pombo and Delvin Rodriguez will call the fights for ESPN Deportes' Viernes de Combates (Friday Night Fights) with Leopoldo Gonzalez and Pablo Viruega in the studio. In his new role as on-site, bi-lingual reporter, former Friday Night Fights host Bernardo Osuna will present live interviews and reports for both shows.
Friday's show will include a special feature on Usmanee, a native of Afghanistan. The feature reviews Usmanee's migration to Canada following the then-Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Miami's Barthelemy, the younger brother of 2004 Olympic gold medalist Yan Barthelemy, is coming off an August eight-round unanimous decision win over Jose Rodriguez. Prior to that fight, Barthelemy won an eight-round unanimous decision over Robert Osiobe in May and scored one of his career-best wins last February, winning an eight-round unanimous decision over Hylon Williams Jr. on ESPN's Friday Night Fights.
After Barthelemy's last fight ESPN.com boxing writer Dan Rafael wrote: "Barthelemy set the tone in the first round when he dropped Rodriguez with a left to the body followed by a left upstairs as Rodriguez was going down. The body shot, which is what caused the knockdown, seemed a little low, but referee Sam Burgos didn't hesitate to call a knockdown immediately. Barthelemy was never in any trouble as he used solid left hooks to beat back Rodriguez throughout the entire one-sided fight."
Montreal's Usmanee is coming off a third-round TKO win over Alan Paredes. Usmanee said of Friday's fight, "Rances Barthelemy is a good fighter. I have to be on top of my game. He's tall, lanky, his power is pretty good, his speed is pretty good, and he's going to come to win."
Friday's co-feature will pit undefeated Junior Middleweight Jonathan "Mantequilla" Gonzalez (15-0-1, 13 KOs), a member of Puerto Rico's 2008 Olympic team, against Derek Ennis (23-3-1, 13 KOs) of Philadelphia in a 10-round bout. Ennis is coming off an eight-round unanimous decision win over Shakir Ashanti, while Gonzalez will look to rebound from a 12-round draw against former Junior Middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk.
Friday's card will include an additional third bout, to be included in most 2013 shows. It will be a four-round bout between undefeated Featherweights Hairon Socarras (5-0-1, 4 KOs) and Josh Bowles (6-0, 1 KO).