ESPN is in the re-signing season with some of its on-talents like Jessica Mendoza and Mark Teixeira. Another name that hasn’t been officially announced, but has been reported by the Hollywood Reporter is First Take co-host Max Kellerman.
According to the Reporter, Kellerman will keep his role opposite Stephen A. Smith on First Take that he’s held since the departure of Skip Bayless to FS1. In addition, Kellerman will take on a larger role in the network’s boxing coverage. It’s only natural given Kellerman was calling fights with HBO (who is now out of the boxing game after covering the sport for 45 years). Interestingly, Kellerman will lead coverage from the studio instead of the ringside role he had at HBO.
The deal — announced Saturday during ESPN’s live coverage of the Vasily Lomanchenko-Jose Pedraza fight from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York — includes a prominent role in ESPN’s boxing coverage, as well as a weekly boxing show on one of ESPN’s linear networks. Kellerman will continue to co-host First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim.
Kellerman has a long association with boxing; his entree into sports broadcasting was via a local-access boxing show in New York. He has been a color commentator for HBO Championship Boxing and Boxing After Dark. He also is an analyst on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights program.
For Kellerman, the new contract and expanded role cement what has been a remarkable comeback to ESPN.
Back in 2016, we chronicled in detail the rise and fall and rise again of Kellerman’s ESPN career when he first returned as Stephen A. Smith’s new First Take foil. He burst onto the scene as a boxing aficionado on Friday Night Fights almost 20 years ago before becoming the initial host of Around the Horn in 2002.
ESPN had a lot of faith in Kellerman as one of the new faces of their opinion-oriented television lineup even in his late 20s. But it didn’t last long as Kellerman moved to Fox Sports Net in 2004 for the short-lived I, Max show. After several years roaming the cable television wilderness, Kellerman made a successful return to ESPN, first for ESPN Radio Los Angeles, then a stint on SportsNation, and finally with First Take.
Of course, there are still problems with First Take and enough time has been spent breaking those down in detail over the last several years. Unfortunately, that is seemingly never going to change. However, to Kellerman’s credit, he’s kept the show going after Bayless left and has developed a similar chemistry with Smith. ESPN surely has to be happy with Kellerman’s work thus far and that they’ve continued to hold Bayless and FS1 comfortably at arm’s length in the ratings.
Now with Kellerman entrenched on ESPN every morning and getting even deeper into the network’s growing boxing coverage, it’s safe to say Kellerman’s standing at ESPN is as good as it’s ever been. It’s just taken a few twists and turns to get there.