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Finals garner attention from ESPN

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, February 28, 2013

Last year, the Bengal Bouts finals were streamed for the first time online by UND.com. This year, ESPN has joined the show. 

In mid-October, Doug Loughrey, the head of boxing for ESPN3, which includes the weekly production of “Friday Night Fights,” contacted senior captain and president Alex Oloriz. Loughrey was inclined to have ESPN3 team up with UND.com to put on a production of the final round of Bengal Bouts. 

“Loughrey said he has been interested in doing [Bengal Bouts] in years past, but hasn’t been able to get enough momentum to get it done,” Oloriz said. “This year, he wanted to get a head start and really wanted to make it happen. I thought it would be a great thing for ESPN to pick up and help produce and lift up the promotional value.”

Although excited at the opportunity, Oloriz was skeptical and did not want to get his hopes up, he said.

“The first phone call was pretty cool,” Oloriz said. “But given the history of trying to do new stuff [with Bengal Bouts], it was going to be pretty tough. I was thinking it was a hyped dream. When he described it on the phone, it sounded awesome and I really didn’t think it was going to happen. But as things progressed and we talked to the right people, things just kept moving forward.”

One camera angle was used by UND.com for all of the final fights last year. This year, there will be five cameras catching every bit of action. 

“There will be five camera angles, replays and zoom-out camera,” Oloriz said. “It will be like ‘Friday Night Fights’ production. And there’s going to be a logo on the mat of the Bengal Bouts Tiger. Those are the big additions. Color commentary will be done by [Irish junior] Josh Whelan ⎯ a boxer. And the local radio morning show host John Thompson of ‘J.T. in the Morning’ will be doing the emceeing. When they are streaming the video, both UND and ESPN, ESPN is providing templates from Friday Night Fights to provide intros for the fighters.”

Oloriz and senior marketing vice president and captain Jeff Ulrich said there is a lot of potential in this partnership, especially for the missions in Bangladesh.

“The biggest possibility [for partnering with ESPN], is getting the mission aspect of Bengal Bouts out there,” Oloriz said. “One of the things that swung us, is [ESPN] said they really want to promote the mission aspect. They are going to be talking about how to donate and have details broadcasting on how to donate throughout the fight. It will highlight our mission and make it easy to donate. Advertising that process and getting that out to more people, will bring in good things for the missions later.”

Ulrich said ESPN will add to the overall experience of Bengal Bouts now and in the future.

“One, [the partnership with ESPN] increases the viewership of the Bengal Bouts,” Ulrich said. “Whenever you can increase your viewership, you increase the people who can participate or can donate or want to come in the future. Secondly, it increases the legitimacy or classiness of the tournament. It makes it cooler.”

As for why ESPN wanted to partner with Bengal Bouts, Oloriz said he could only guess.

“[ESPN] came to us and wanted to emphasize what we do because … it is unheard of,” Oloriz said. “They are advertising pure competition and the mission aspect. It’s refreshing, For the audience and the sport.”   

In new territory and with the whole world able to look on, there would seem to be an added pressure, but Oloriz said he does not think ESPN will change the essence of the fights.  

 “There’s plenty of pressure anyway,” Oloriz said. “Can’t add anymore.”

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu