Tongue in cheek, boxing thrives on USA's 'Tuesday Night Fights'

Media Watch

January 16, 1996|By MILTON KENT

The story has been told that at the end of a nuclear war, the only creature that would survive would be the cockroach, and if you think about it -- and USA commentators Al Albert and Sean O'Grady certainly have -- boxing and cockroaches have a lot in common.

Think of all the things boxing has emerged from, including internal and external scandals, nefarious characters and just plain, old chicanery. Like the cockroach, the sport has adapted and survived.

"If I get serious about the sport of boxing, it's time for someone to haul me away. You just can't take all of this seriously," Albert said with a chuckle over the phone yesterday.

That "wink, wink" strategy has served Albert and O'Grady well in the nine years they have worked together on USA's boxing program, now called "Tuesday Night Fights."

"Al and I approach this with a tongue-in-cheek approach," said O'Grady. "We understand and are frustrated by the business of the sport and those who practice it. They are only self-serving. We don't take it too seriously."

Their plan must be working, because "Tuesday Night Fights" averages a 2.2 Nielsen cable rating each week, coming into about 1.4 million households, a 38 percent higher figure than ESPN's "Top Rank" series.

The show, down to an hour each week from its previous two-hour length, has lasted through 14 years on five different nights, bringing more than 1,000 fights involving rising newcomers, aging has-beens and the never-weres, with some of most interesting action coming after the bell and outside the ring.

"Boxing has a hard-core audience, and we've been there for them," said Albert, who also does Denver Nuggets games on television. "We're kind of like a good friend."

Tonight's program (10 o'clock) features Hector "Macho" Camacho defending his International Boxing Council welterweight championship against Sal Lopez from the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

That championship style

Perhaps because people in the Northeast were able to get out and enjoy the nice day, the Nielsen overnight ratings for Sunday's NFL conference championship games were off slightly from last year's AFC and NFC title contests.

The biggest drop was for Fox's pre-game show, which fell a full five ratings points from last year's game, though, in fairness, this year's Dallas-Green Bay contest was a little less attractive than 1995's Cowboys-San Francisco game, plus this year's Pittsburgh-Indianapolis contest ran over into the Fox pre-game program.

Casting call

In advance of his return to sports talk arena, Stan "The Fan" Charles has put out an invitation for local college students

looking for on-air experience to audition for positions updating the evening's sports news on his "Baltimore Sports Exchange," which returns Jan. 29 on WCBM (680 AM).

Interested students should send a tape of their work and a resume to Greg Sher, c/o The Sports Exchange, 68 Radio Plaza, Owings Mills, Md. 21117.

Days at the races

Fresh off a healthy ratings boost from 1994's Winston Cup coverage, Turner has announced a contract extension with the Charlotte Motor Speedway through the 1999 racing season.

Under the extension, TBS will air the Coca-Cola 600 from the Winston Cup series, and the Red Dog 300 from the Grand National series, both on Memorial Day weekend, and the Quality 500 Winston race and Bumper-to-Bumper 300 Grand National race on the first weekend in October, all from Charlotte, N.C.

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