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Dan Rafael Is No Longer With ESPN, Contract Is Not Renewed

Michael Woods

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UPDATE, WEDNESDAY: Boxing lifer Dan Rafael posted to social media an update on his life, and vocational situation.

The USA Today and ESPN vet said that he’s well, and has parted ways with ESPN, and is looking forward to the next chapter.

Note: Dan returned my email from Monday, and said that his last renewal came in 2016, not 2018, so I changed that, below. Here is his post:

Dan Rafael and ESPN parted ways, after his contract was not renewed, amid the coronavirus showdown.

Dan Rafael is no longer working at ESPN, after a stint which saw him become the most prominent boxing writer in the industry.

The Virginia resident, who turns 50 in August, did not have his contract renewed by the Worldwide Leader, that was the word making the rounds on social media Monday morning. And ESPN PR verified the news. A spokesperson said that ESPN didn’t renew his contract, and offered this statement:

“Dan Rafael has been an important part of our boxing coverage for almost two decades and we thank him for the many contributions he made to the coverage of the sport during that time. We wish him success in his next chapter.”

A look at Rafael’s Twitter feed suggested something changed, his Twitter handle is the same, but no longer does the mini bio say “ESPN.com boxing writer.”

I messaged the reporter, who started out at USA Today before heading to the Bristol, CT based behemoth, to check on the authenticity of the “news” making the rounds. I’ll insert any response when furnished.

Videographer Elie Seckbach on Sunday evening posted a video stating that Rafael is out at ESPN, saying his contract was not renewed. The content provider, whose specialty is print, started at USA Today in 2000, and went to ESPN in 2005. He did a contract renewal back in 2015, which kicked in to start 2016, with ESPN.

Chatter in some circles wondered when this might happen; after ESPN hired Steve Kim to provide content, some surmised that Rafael would perhaps be seen as “redundant.” Kim, a California based boxing lifer, started with ESPN in November 2018, and then, conspiracy theorists noted, soon after Rafael’s chat session was cancelled. The software to do chats was retired, he said.

Top Rank is the boxing content provider at ESPN. In 2017, they hatched a four year deal which looked to position themselves in this swirling era of content delivery methods. In 2018, the deal was amended the hitch-up, running to 2025.

Rafael had now and again beefs with the Las Vegas based promotional outfit. He was not at ESPN a shit stirrer, but now and again Big Dan would take an opinion stand. Like, it 2012, talking about the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight not being made: “But at this moment, the fault of a fight not being made falls squarely on the shoulders of Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who, in my view, simply doesn’t want to make the match at a moment when there seems to be no legitimate impediment.” Being that Rafael and Bob Arum had their share of spirited debates, people wondered how long Rafael would stay at ESPN. The reporter hung in for a spell.

Layoffs are rife most everywhere across the United States, and ESPN is right now trying to position themselves for the new normal, for now, so any employee making good money is going to be looked at, probably.

“Boxing is my job, but also my hobby,” Rafael said, when asked about his pathway in covering the sport, before picking up the Boxing Writers Association of America’s (BWAA) Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism in 2013.

He covered his first professional fight for the “The Saratogian” at the Saratoga (N.Y.) City Center and shared that some blood from one of the fighters hit his notebook, which “sent a shiver down my spine” and he’d been “obsessed with boxing since that moment.”

Rafael has been managed by Nick Khan of Creative Artists Agency, so I called CAA seeking to verify the story about the possible platform change for Rafael. I will insert a reply when furnished.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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