Though boxing has taken lumps, ABC, CBS series showing faith


By all rights, given all the bizarre things that have happened in boxing over the years and in its recent past, the sport should be one of the last things television programmers look to get their hands on.

But, against all possible odds, the sweet science is not only surviving on television, but thriving. Both ABC and CBS are offering fight series over the next few weeks as they attempt to determine what boxing's future on over-the-air television is.

"Boxing is the red-light district of sports, but it never goes out of people's consciousness," said ABC boxing analyst Alex Wallau. "There really hasn't been a consistent pattern of boxing on television for a while and it will be interesting to see if we can build an audience.

Even with all its troubles, boxing has always delivered a fairly consistent audience, particularly among the male demographic, one that has gradually walked away from "Wide World of Sports" (Channel 2, 4: 30 p.m.), where tomorrow's Kennedy McKinney-Vuyani Bungu fight will air.

Tomorrow's ABC bout, an IBF junior featherweight title match from South Africa, is the first of a four-week series. It pits champion Bungu against McKinney, who surrendered the title in the midst of personal problems that included a suspension for testing positive for drug usage.

Meanwhile, CBS (Channel 13) will present the second fight in its eight-match series at 5 p.m. tomorrow, with unbeaten heavyweight David Tua, described by analyst Gil Clancy as the "poor man's Mike Tyson," taking on Oleg Maskaev in a 12-round bout from Atlantic City, N.J.

Opening Day tallies

Wednesday's Opening Day ratings look a whole lot like last year's, according to Chris Mecchi, ratings researcher for Channel 13, which aired the game.

The Orioles-Kansas City game had a 16.9 rating and 40 share of the midafternoon audience, a slight rise from 1996's 16.6/39.

Shuffling the deck

NBC yesterday announced a serious upheaval in its NFL coverage for next season, presenting former Buffalo Bills James Lofton and Jim Kelly and former New Orleans coach Jim Mora as new game analysts.

Lofton, who was a star receiver with the Bills and the Packers, comes to NBC after three seasons as CNN's studio analyst. Kelly and Mora arrive fresh from combat. Bart Oates and Bob Golic will leave the network, and Sam Wyche moves from the booth to the studio to replace Mike Ditka, who is taking over as coach of the Saints.

Kelly, Lofton and Mora will be paired with play-by-play announcers in three weeks. We'll have more from the trio next week.

Radio waves

WJFK (1300 AM) made official yesterday what had been rumored around town: Stan "The Fan" Charles will be bringing his nightly talk show to the station, starting April 22 at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, WWLG (1360 AM) announced that Nestor Aparicio's 4 p.m. talk show has been expanded from three hours to four.

Emmy wrap-up

As promised, here's a quick look at the recently announced Emmy Award nominations for sports.

Fox's coverage of the World Series and the NFC championship game were nominated for best live sports special against CBS' Masters broadcasts and NBC's telecasts of the AFC title game and the American League Championship Series.

The best live sports series nominations went to Fox's hockey and football coverage, NBC's golf tour and ABC's "Monday Night Football" and bowlers tour productions. NBC's Olympics coverage was nominated for outstanding live-event turnaround against that network's Wimbledon coverage, ESPN's production of the "Home Run Derby" at the All-Star Game and both ABC's and ESPN's presentation of the Tour de France.

Around the dial

There's plenty of tennis to go around this weekend, starting with ESPN2's telecast of second-round Davis Cup singles action between the United States and the Netherlands today at 3 p.m. ESPN will carry a doubles match tomorrow at 3 p.m. and a singles match on Sunday at 4 p.m.

On the women's side, NBC (Channel 11) will televise the Family Circle Magazine Cup, which marks the debut of Martina Hingis as the world's top-ranked player. Coverage begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. and continues Sunday at 1: 30, featuring the return to broadcasting of Chris Evert, who took a year off in 1996 to give birth to her third child.

The latest ESPN "Outside the Lines" special, airing Monday at 7: 30 p.m., examines the state of women's sports from a variety of perspectives, including the impact of new professional leagues, the stereotypes that many female athletes suffer under and whether men should coach women.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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