Promoter Main Events will launch a Saturday night series of live boxing cards on the NBC Sports Network beginning Jan. 21 at the Asylum Arena in Philadelphia, the promoter and NBC Sports Group announced Tuesday.
The series, which will feature two-hour shows, is named "NBC Sports Network Fight Night." Versus, which is part of the Comcast/NBC family of networks, will be renamed NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2.
Although Main Events controls all four of the initially-announced dates for 2012 -- Jan. 21, March 24, June 16 and Dec. 8 -- the network and Main Events president Kathy Duva said the series is open for any promoter to work with Duva.
"We are reaching out to all promoters to get involved in the series, and our priority is simply to make exciting fights. We don't care who brings the fighters," Duva said. "We expect that multiple promoters will be involved in each of the 'Fight Night' programs. All fighters who are willing to further their careers by engaging in compelling, interesting, meaningful matches are welcome."
Duva, who began talking with the network in February, said more shows could be added to the schedule.
"We'll start with four and if they like what they see, other dates could open up," she said. "It will depend on a lot of things, like sponsors. But we all have hope that this will expand, but right now they are announcing four dates and we'll put on the four best shows we possibly can.
"We're not going to be so concerned with people's records. We want to make sure they are good fights that the viewers will like. This is not just going to be us filling in column A and then finding guys to fill in column B. This is about matchmaking, not records."
Hall of Fame matchmaker and promoter J Russell Peltz, who has worked closely with Main Events over the years, will serve as the matchmaker.
"Fights in this series will be solid, competitive and exciting," he said. "Borrowing the philosophy of the late Madison Square Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner, my bouts will be made on the following criteria: Do the fighters' styles mesh to make an exciting fight? Does this fight lead to something? And would I buy a ticket to it? These should be good fights for boxing fans."
The bouts for the kickoff card have not been determined, Duva said. She said she hopes to have at least the main event pinned down within roughly a week's time.
A few years ago, Versus had a deal with Top Rank as its sole provider of bouts, but it was poorly received because it featured mismatch after mismatch and led to the network dropping boxing. Duva has been talking with executives there for months and got them on board to bankroll the series for which it will pay a license fee of about $100,000 per show -- about double what Showtime pays for "ShoBox: The New Generation" cards and what ESPN pays for weekly "Friday Night Fights" cards.
"They're going to be quality shows top to bottom. We're not just loading it all into the main event," Duva said. "We have a nice-enough budget that we can do a strong show overall."
Although only the debut card has a set venue, the series will be scheduled in cities that are served by a Comcast Sports Group regional sports network -- they are in the same family of networks as NBC and NBC Sports Network. The regional Comcast networks will help promote the events and can also re-air them on a delayed basis.
"This is a unique approach to have multiple promoters competing to put fights on NBC Sports Network," said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. "That, coupled with the legendary matchmaker J Russell Peltz serving as our quality control expert, ensures that boxing fans will enjoy exciting and competitive matches."
Duva only has a few fighters under contract at Main Events. She said she is not looking to sign many fighters, which is why she wants to work with other promoters on the show.
"If the right guy presents himself, of course, we'd sign him," she said. "But we have offered fights to promoters for their fighters, no string attached. The only thing I have said is that their guy has to be in a competitive fight and some have said no to that. I think we're going to come up with a really good show anyway. The one thing about my fighters I ask is for them to fight a competitive fight because it will move their careers forward."
Duva said some of her company's fighters will appear on the show. Among the boxers she has under contract are heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek, former junior welterweight and welterweight champion Zab Judah, welterweight contender Joel "Love Child" Julio, former heavyweight titlist Sergei Liakhovich, middleweight Tarvis Simms and junior lightweight prospect Joselito Collado.
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.