ESPN is not known as the ‘Worldwide Leader’ for nothing – it is quite simply a broadcasting behemoth which has become a dominant sports player globally, and ESPN Boxing is a big part of that.
The Disney-owned network has been a really strong advocate for the sport even in its toughest times, and its coverage of the fight game – notably with analysts like Max Kellerman and writers like Dan Rafael – has kept boxing really in the news.
Rafael has now left but Kellerman is still very much around, and it does the sport no harm to have such a high-profile commentator as a major fan. Even when ESPN does not have rights to show a fight, its shoulder programming and news coverage on the iconic SportsCenter drives terrific promotional value.
Kellerman is backed up by elite analysts including former unbeaten world champion Andre Ward, whose cutting insight makes him one of the best in the game. He often works alongside former welterweight king Timothy Bradley.
Now some of the sport’s top fighters show off their skills on ESPN through a seven-year contractual pact between the network and Top Rank (worth.a reported $84million a year to the promoter), the behemoth owned by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. These fighters include lineal, WBC and Ring magazine heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
‘The Gypsy King’ inked a five-fight deal with ESPN that is worth a reported £80million and should continue with a massive unification fight against Anthony Joshua in June.
ESPN has always been a huge deal in boxing circles – its reach is so big that fighters and promoters are always desperate for some love from the ‘Worldwide Leader’.
Never has ESPN’s support for boxing been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highlight being when it put up the cash to keep the huge Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez away from pay-per-view. Instead that bout – on October 17, 2020 – was shown on ESPN free-to-air and drew a terrific audience of 2.898million (peak).
Now ESPN is able to devote even more time to boxing (and other sports) courtesy of its relatively new ESPN+ streaming platform. The service – which has more than 12million subscribers already, has a mass of content available to viewers for a relatively cost-effective monthly subscription fee. More of that later…
ESPN Boxing schedule
ESPN has some great fights upcoming, and here is the latest schedule:
February 27, 2021 (ESPN+: Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Steven Ward vs. Kamshybek Kunkabayev (10 rounds, cruiserweight)
Evgeny Smirnov vs. Nurtas Azhbenov (10 rounds, lightweight)
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly vs. TBA (10 rounds, middleweight)
Evgeny Pavko vs. Talgat Shayken (8 rounds, welterweight)
Vasily Shtyk vs. Abay Tolesh (8 rounds, middleweight)
Hovhannes Bachkov vs. TBA (8 rounds, super-lightweight)
Bektas Kassenay vs. Torgynbek Amirov (6 rounds, lightweight)
Nurzhan Makashbayev vs. Nurbol Sultanbay (6 rounds, welterweight)
March 12, 2021 (ESPN+: Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Tyrone McKenna vs. Zhankosh Turarov (10 rounds, super-lightweight)
Lewis Crocker vs. Deniz Ilbay (10 rounds, welterweight)
Gary Cully vs. Viktor Kotochigov (10 rounds, lightweight)
March 20, 2021 (ESPN: Moscow, Russia)
Artur Beterviev vs Adam Deines (12 rounds, WBC and IBF light-heavywewight titles)
As already detailed, ESPN has a huge contract with Arum and his Top Rank Promotions – probably the biggest promotional company in the world.
This means the following big-name fighters (to name but a few) all currently fight on ESPN in the United States:
Tyson Fury: The lineal, WBC and Ring magazine heavyweight champion, who is part way through a five-fight £80million deal with the network. Next up is expected to be that blockbusting unification clash with fellow Brit Anthony Joshua in June.
Terence Crawford: ‘Bud’ is the WBO welterweight champion, and one of the top P4P fighters in the sport. A unification match with Errol Spence would be special, but the pair are with different promoters and broadcasters. Will money talk?
Teofimo Lopez: Now the unified lightweight king after that terrific decision victory over Lomachenko in Las Vegas last October. The Brooklyn star is expected to face Australian George Kambosos next in a bout which has gone to purse bids.
Vasiliy Lomachenko: Known as ‘The Matrix’ and one of the greatest fighters of his generation. Had a stellar amateur career before winning world title after world title in the pros. Looked invincible, until Lopez…
Naoya Inoue: High on the P4P lists of most fight experts. ‘The Monster’ from Japan is one of THE most exciting fighters around. Crushed Jason Moloney on ESPN in Las Vegas late last year, showcasing his sensational talent to a U.S. TV audience.
Artur Beterbiev: Unbeaten light-heavyweight king who is the accepted superstar at 175. A fight with Canelo Alvarez would be intriguing, but it doesn’t appear to be on Canelo’s radar as yet.
Carl Frampton: Two-time world champion who had been due to bid for a title in a third weight class against Jamel Herring on February 27. That bout will now need to be rescheduled with ‘The Jackal’ being advised to rest a hand injury.
Jamel Herring: Classy WBO super-featherweight king who had been set to meet the aforementioned Frampton in February. That will now have to wait.
Miguel Berchelt: Lost his WBC super-featherweight when suffering a crushing KO defeat at the hands of Oscar Valdez in Vegas in February.
Oscar Valdez: Unbeaten star who produced a highlight-reel knockout to defeat Berchelt and claim the WBC super-featherweight strap. That put the exclamation point on a superb performance.
Shakur Stevenson: Exciting star who stepped up to super-featherweight late last year. A match against the winner of Berchelt vs Valdez would be a beauty.
Emanuel Navarrete: Two-weight world champion who has big fights ahead in 2021.
Edgar Berlanga: Exciting middleweight prospect who has won all of his 16 fights so far inside the distance. Explosive and must-watch TV.
Efe Ajagba: Nigerian heavyweight prospect who remains unbeaten and is ranked in the top 15 by most sanctioning bodies. Not massively impressive though in his Top Rank/ESPN debut and will need to improve.
Jared Anderson: Another exciting and unbeaten young heavyweight who has a huge future per Arum.
Josh Taylor: Unified super-welterweight king from Scotland, and a hugely talented operator.
Kubrat Pulev: Looks to be on the downside now as he approaches 40 years old. Two challenges for world titles and two defeats now after being knocked out by the aforementioned Joshua in London last December.
Michael Conlan: The entertaining Irishman remains unbeaten as a professional and is one of the top prospects at featherweight.
Oscar Rivas: Top-15 heavyweight who has lost only once – to Dillian Whyte back in 2019. A match for most in the division.
Fury vs Joshua on ESPN
It is highly likely that the eagerly-awaited heavyweight title unification between Fury and Joshua this June will air on ESPN in the United States. Fury, as already stated, is part way through a five-fight deal with ESPN.
It is possible ESPN may have to share the U.S. rights to Fury vs Joshua with streaming platform DAZN. This is because DAZN has a matching rights agreement with Joshua.
It is now known yet whether Fury vs Joshua will be a pay-per-view fight in the U.S. or just part of regular ESPN programming. As such, no price point is available yet either.
ESPN Plus login
As already mentioned, ESPN+ is the streaming platform for the ‘Worldwide Leader’ with a ton of viewing options available – including a good amount of boxing that you can’t see on regular ESPN.
To access ESPN, you’ll need to get a login, and here is how the process goes:
- Go to the login page to set up an account, or download the ESPN app
- Input your details to register your account
- Set up your payment details and confirm your subsription (monthly or annual)
- You are now set up to watch ESPN+
In addition to boxing, ESPN+ offers UFC, college basketball, soccer, golf and more as well as a ton of original documentary shows.
ESPN Plus price: how much does it cost?
There are two subscription options and price points for ESPN+ – you can pay either monthly or annually.
The current price of a monthly subscription is $5.99 while an annual sub will cost you $59.99.
ESPN Plus free trial
Sadly ESPN+ does not currently offer a free trial but this may change in the future and we will keep you right up to date. So check back regularly for details, and of course for the updated ESPN Boxing schedule.
ESPN Plus PPV
ESPN+ does carry some PPV (pay-per-view) programming, headlined by major UFC shows. For example the recent Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier rematch. It is not known yet whether Fury vs Joshua will be a PPV show.
You can purchase UFC PPV alone for $69.99 or as a bundle with ESPN+ for $89.99.
ESPN Plus customer service
The ESPN website does have FAQs and Member Services areas, but if these do not have your required intel, you can call instead.
The number to call is: 1-888-549-ESPN