On September 22nd Scotland’s Ricky Burns shall make a second defence of his WBO lightweight crown against Cockney favourite Kevin Mitchell in a bang-up that seems sure to feature in the Fight of the Year honours.
Ahead of the clash at Glasgow’s SECC, boxing writer Glynn Evans canvassed 40 of the sharpest minds in boxing and asked them to predict a winner.
Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) this Saturday night. Join at www.boxnation.com
Frank Buglioni (London supermiddle prospect): Kevin Mitchell, 100%. It’s going to be a proper battle and Ricky Burns is a very formidable fighter, so strong. I love the effort he puts in.
But I’ve been in the gym alongside Mitchell and seen how hard he’s been training. His mind’s right and he looks in really good form.
Kev’s a really sharp puncher and he’s got great timing. I see him walking Ricky Burns onto something and forcing a late stoppage. I see a few little holes in Burns and I expect Kevin to find them.
Liam Walsh (Commonwealth super-feather champion): I go Burns on points in a very close fight. I expect it to be more technical than most seem to be anticipating. Kevin was one of the youngest ever to win a senior ABA title and he’s a very good boxer himself.
I don’t think the location will be an issue. I saw Kevin fight John Murray in the north-west and he just swaggered out. Also Mitchell’s certainly got more one punch power.
Burns might not have anything that makes you go ‘Wow!’ but he’s extremely fit, extremely hard to break down and, when he puts those long forearms up, it’s very difficult to nail him with anything flush. It’ll be a good ‘un.
Johnny Nelson (ex world cruiserweight champion): I’d say Kevin’s the more talented and if he turns up on best form, he wins it on points, even up in Scotland.
It’ll be a cracking fight. Burns has a great Cinderella story and trains too hard to be beat by one punch so I think it’ll go to the cards. But Kevin will be really hungry, wanting to prove a point. If he doesn’t pull this one out of the bag, where does he go?
Kevin showed when he beat John Murray up in Liverpool that the venue means little to him. Even though it’s on Ricky’s turf, for me, Mitchell’s both the better warmonger and the better boxer, and I expect him to pull it off.
Anthony Crolla (Manchester lightweight): I expect it will be a great fight and I’m really looking forward to it as a fan. They’ve proved themselves the best two lightweights in Britain. I think it might be more tactical than some expect. People forget, Kevin’s really well schooled himself.
I actually sparred Ricky about three years ago but I think he’s improved a lot since then. He’s certainly got stronger inside and now he can really bring that left hook through to the body.
Mitchell’s a very good finisher and can certainly punch so Ricky might have to come through some rocky moments, possibly even get off the floor, to win. But Ricky’s really hard to hit on the ropes and I think he probably wins on points. He’s in great form at the minute. He’s got a very underrated jab and I think he can control the fight with that.
Jim McDonnell (Essex trainer): Gonna be a good one and it certainly ain’t an easy one to call. It’ll be really tight either way. At a push, I’ll go with Burns to edge it in Scotland on a close, possibly controversial call.
If it was in London or even Manchester, I might edge to Kevin but the momentum and home advantage favour Burns. On his night, Mitchell can compete with the best of them. When he performs, he’s top quality and very, very heavy handed. He’ll be striving to be a world champion and I really expect him to bring it, to refuse to lose. If it’s going to happen for him at world level, it has to be this one.
But it’ll take a very special performance to take the title off Ricky in Scotland and I’ve a sneaky feeling that Ricky will retain. Just.
Jamie Moore (ex European light-middle champion): It’s gonna be a right good fight. Kevin’s a classy fighter who’s hit his peak. I expect him to give a real good account of himself, prove really stubborn, refuse to concede defeat.
But since first winning the world title, Burns has just got better and better. He ups his game a bit more every time. His jab may be predictable but it’s very consistent.
I expect it to be real close for six rounds but, after the turn, I expect Burns to take over. He’s got that little bit more experience at the very top level. Burns on points in a cracker.
Jamie McDonnell (European bantamweight champion): Mitchell’s a great fighter and possibly the tougher physically but Burns just keeps getting better and better. Ricky doesn’t want to scrap with Mitchell or he’ll come unstuck but, if he goes back foot, hits and moves, he’ll probably win on points.
Joe Gallagher (Manchester trainer): I so, so want Kevin Mitchell to win. He’s a real good kid. The way he conducted himself in the John Murray fight was the blueprint for all professional fighters. He was funny, quick witted but always respectful. He’s also said that, if he wins, he’ll give John Murray first shot at his belt.
Ricky does the basics very well, has a solid guard and tighter defence. The grapevine is rife that he got the better of it when they sparred and that might give Ricky a psychological boost. He won’t take Mitchell lightly and he’s bound to be bullish fighting in his own back garden.
Either way, I see a stoppage late on and, tentatively, I’ll go with Kevin. He’s the stiffer hitter, certainly the more spiteful, and he’ll have those ‘let’s have it’ moments.
Don Charles (London trainer): My money will be on Kevin Mitchell, not based on him being a Londoner but based on my knowledge of boxing.
Firstly, I have to salute Ricky and his fantastic trainer, Billy Nelson, on the way they dissected Michael Katsidis. They out boxed and out fought him for the full 12 rounds. Remember, it was the same Katsidis who stopped Kevin Mitchell. But that’s Kevin’s only loss, he fought completely the wrong fight and got done early.
Ricky’s technically cleaner, immaculate, and he can adjust. But I feel Kevin is the better all rounder, probably tougher and definitely the harder hitter. Remember how he tamed Breidis Prescott, made him look amateurish. In Jimmy Tibbs, he has an exceptional coach.
Provided Kevin applies himself in preparation and isn’t affected by issues in his ‘outside’ life, he wins the fight and I don’t think it’s a points thing. I see Burns getting stopped.
Gary Lockett (Cwmbran trainer): I’ll go with Burns on points in a pretty close one. Mitchell’s certainly the harder hitter but I think that’s probably the only department where he holds an edge.
Ricky’s become a very difficult animal to beat. Though Kevin himself has fantastic boxing ability, I think Burns has got the better jab, the better engine and the better all round game. He’s also got an edge in top level experience, been in tougher fights and come through them.
A lot depends on what Kevin Mitchell turns up. I didn’t think he was firing on all cylinders in the 10 rounder he had in February with Felix Lora and, though he’s very talented, he hasn’t got the best defence.
If he’s on it, it’ll be very close and Ricky will need to be right at the top of his game .....but he always is!
Dominic Ingle (Sheffield trainer): I go with Ricky Burns. I always recognised his ability even dating back to when Carl Johanneson dropped him and beat him. I always thought he had world title potential.
He’s the more disciplined, has less hassle in his life. He’s got a more consistent track record. Kevin’s been out of title action for quite a while and he’s had a few ups and downs in his private life.
Unless there’s a cut, I’d expect Burns to grind out a 12 round decision by a three or four round margin.
Nathan Cleverly (world light-heavyweight champion): It’ll be a real class fight. Kevin’s got the flair and the flash and he’ll definitely hurt Burns at some stage with those crisp, snappy bombs of his.
But I’ll go with Burns to get behind his jab and pinch it on points from long range. He’s the more consistent, has been kept busier and has more momentum. I think that will be decisive in the later part of the fight.
Colin McMillan (ex world featherweight champion): It’s got all the ingredients for a great clash. Both have got decent chins so I think it’ll go to the cards. Ricky Burns has become very hard to beat. He’s a very skilful boxer, has home advantage again and the Scottish crowd will be very vocal in his favour. He’ll definitely be up for it.
It depends largely on which Kevin turns up. If he turns up in the condition and form he was in when he beat Breidis Prescott, I lean slightly towards Kevin to do the job. He’s the more spiteful puncher and he’ll be hungrier. He’s had setbacks along the way and knows it’s now or never, a great opportunity to finally establish himself. I think that’ll be the deciding factor.
Enzo Maccarinelli (ex world cruiserweight champion): It’s a real 50-50 fight. They’re so evenly matched, it’s hard to pick a winner. Every round shall be really closely contested. I’m expecting a mini-classic.
A year ago I’d have said Kevin Mitchell, all day long but now I edge to Burns. He’s so hard to beat, it’s hard to go against him. I think Burns will win on points by keeping it basic, sticking and moving. But Kevin can box too. I only give Burns a slight edge.
Johnny Eames (London trainer): I expect a very tight, tricky fight, especially for the first six rounds. But if Kevin’s 100% right mentally, and from what I hear he is, he can win. A good Kevin Mitchell beats everyone, including Ricky Burns. Ricky’s very durable so I doubt Kevin stops him but I see Mitchell ‘s greater power taking over in the second half.
Derry Mathews (Liverpool lightweight): Ricky Burns is a really good lad and he’s been a great champion. I’ve sparred quite a lot with him and he’s very good at what he does.
But I’m going to go with Kevin Mitchell. I’ve always been impressed with him since I saw him thrash Stephen Smith something like 19-1 in the amateurs. At his brilliant best, like he was against Breidis Prescott and John Murray, he’s a fighter we can all learn off.
I know he got stopped by Katsidis who Ricky beat quite comfortably but that wasn’t the Kevin Mitchell we all know. Clearly something was up with him that night.
Under Jimmy Tibbs he’s a great fighter and I see him winning clearly on points or by late stoppage. I just think he’s a better fighter, a much harder puncher.
Carl Froch (world supermiddle champion): It promises to be a decent fight, very, very close. The smart money will be on Burns on points but you’ve got to get behind the English and Kevin’s a tough little f*****. I think he’ll stay on top of Burns with educated pressure and his power punches will see him to a late stoppage.
Anthony Farnell (Manchester trainer): I used to think Kevin Mitchell would be far too good but Ricky’s really come on over the last year or so. Now he fights with the confidence of a true world champion.
Personally, I’d rather watch Kevin all day long. I’ve loved his style since he was a junior amateur. If he lands one of his big left hooks he’s definitely got the power to stop Ricky Burns but I’ve just got this feeling that Ricky has his number.
There’s nothing really special about Burns but he’s really solid all round. He’s got a great jab, good one-two, lovely uppercut and nice defence; always high hands and chin tucked. He’s a very fit, dedicated lad.
Also it’s common knowledge that Kevin had his arse handed to him by Burns in sparring. Ricky just seems to have the perfect style to tame Mitchell. Burns on points.
James Cook (London trainer): It’s a very interesting fight between two guys who really want to fight each other and can be guaranteed to give it their all. You don’t get that too often these days.
Ricky Burns is a very calm guy, very tight defensively and he’s certainly improved in recent years. But I believe an ‘on song’ Kevin Mitchell beats him on points, even up in Scotland. Kevin’s a very experienced kid now, location shouldn’t matter. If anything, the home crowd could play into Mitchell’s hands, push Burns to impress and walk onto something.
Kevin has the better all round ability. I don’t think Burns can outbox him. Mitchell thinks a bit better. It’s Mitchell for me.
John Breen (Belfast trainer): It should be a really good fight for the fans to watch. I take Ricky Burns to get on top in the later rounds and stop Mitchell. Ricky’s a consummate professional who does nothing special but does everything right, inside and outside the ring.
On his day, Kevin Mitchell is capable of beating anybody but his life style doesn’t appear best suited to professional boxing and he has good days and bad. He’s not as consistent as Burns who lives the life 110%.
Alex Arthur MBE (ex world superfeather champion): I’m a wee bit stuck. I like to examine fighter’s prep. Ricky always prepares really well and I hear through the grapevine that Kevin Mitchell’s really got his act together; that’s he’s miles ahead of schedule and that those close have never seen him so driven. He performs best when he’s a wee bit frightened by the opposition. Check his fights against Breidis Prescott and John Murray.
It’s a really 50-50 fight and genuinely down to who delivers on the night. I lean 51-49 in favour of Ricky. If you’ve not sparred or fought him before, he’s really hard to work out and he’ll have the best chin Kevin Mitchell will ever have come up against, guaranteed.
Kevin’s at his best when the opponent goes at him but I don’t think Ricky will be overly aggressive. He’ll wait for Kevin to make mistakes. If there’s to be any excitement, Kevin will initiate it but I’m expecting quite a cagey fight and I’d bet anything that it goes to points. It’s going to be a tremendous England v Scotland battle.
Bradley Saunders (light welter prospect): I sway slightly to Ricky Burns. We’ve sparred and he’s very underestimated. He’s got plenty of pedigree and I’ve never met anyone fitter. He finishes a spar at exactly the same pace he starts it and that pace is high.
Kevin’s obviously got a puncher’s chance but it depends which Kevin Mitchell turns up. He can be a bit ‘hit ‘n’ miss’. Burns is always on form.
Mitchell has a clear edge in power but Ricky hits hard enough himself. I see him outworking Kevin Mitchell on points or possibly even grinding him down for a late stoppage.
Ashley Theophane (London light-welter): I’ve watched Kevin spar and he’s a top quality fighter but I have to go with Ricky Burns on points in a great fight because he’s more proven at world level. He’s also in his home town.
Each fight he steps his level up a notch, gets better and better. He’s had far greater experience at the very top flight and he’s always come through those tough fights.
Brian Lawrence (London trainer): Oooh, hard one. I think if Mitchell turns up in shape he beats him because he’s a better boxer, has more flair. Burns is relentless but basically just a toughie . I don’t think he can outbox Kevin Mitchell.
I think Burns has the same kind of style as John Murray and he’s not as dangerous as Breidis Prescott who Mitchell handled easily enough. Burns is very tough, I’ll give him that, but I know Kevin’s been training exceptionally hard and I think he could even stop him late.
Scott Quigg (British superbantam champion): Much as I’d like Kevin to win, I think Ricky Burns will be too big and will apply too much pressure, even though he’s viewed as a boxer-mover.
I’ve always rated Kevin but Burns has improved so much, technically and confidence wise, since he beat Roman Martinez. Burns has also got the better engine and that’ll see him edge it over the late rounds. Burns on points in a good ‘un.
Chris Sanigar (Bristol trainer): I’ve been very, very impressed with Ricky Burns. He’s very deceptive; so much stronger than he appears from a distance.
But I’m a big, big Kevin Mitchell fan. Clearly he underperformed against Michael Katsidis but to do what he did against John Murray, it was a hell of a result. I see a very good technical fight – I don’t foresee any knockdowns either way – but Mitchell’s got class and I think he outpoints Burns, even up in Scotland.
Jim Watt (ex world lightweight champion): A safe prediction is that it’ll be a good fight because both are always in good fights.
No doubt Kevin will try and get close, turn it into more of a brawl but Ricky’s proved how tough he is, even in those fights he lost to Alex Arthur and Carl Johanneson. Over the years he’s really learned to utilise his physical advantages, that height and reach. I think he has the style to confuse and upset Kevin from long range. I go with Burns on points.
Kell Brook (world class welterweight): It’ll be a really good fight for the Scottish fans to enjoy.
Ricky Burns has shown himself to be really consistent over his last few fights but if Kevin Mitchell turns up 100%, like he did against John Murray, I think he’ll beat Burns. He’s very exciting can really punch and is also a very good boxer when he chooses to be. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Kevin stops him but it’ll more likely be a points job.
Steve Collins (ex world middle and super-middle champion): I like Ricky Burns on points or late stoppage in a very good fight. He’s been around longer, has more big fight experience and has been very impressive in his most recent fights. I don’t think Kevin Mitchell looks as strong as Ricky.
Paul Smith (Liverpool super-middle): Tough one, mate. Two great lads and two very, very good fighters. I’m expecting a chess match rather than them going toe-to-toe. Kevin’s got a great jab, possibly the best of any British fighter active at the moment.
Kevin’s obviously had some personal problems but hopefully they’re sorted. He seems rejuvenated of late. I think he’s probably got a bit more power and quality than anybody that Ricky Burns has fought before. He whacks really hard and Ricky’s been over a few times before.
It’s going to be a close one but I sense Kevin will be a bit too strong and powerful. If he catches him with a clean shot he might even put him away.
Tony Borg (Newport trainer): Cor, such a tight one. It’s a proper fight and you don’t get too many of them these days.
Gary Buckland has been sparring Burns and really rates him but I go with Mitchell, possibly on a late stoppage. I really like Kevin’s energy and, on his game, he’s hot, real class.
Burns is more reserved, doesn’t take chances whereas Mitchell is very exciting. I think he’ll be really up for it and might have a bit more dog.
Jon Thaxton (ex European lightweight champion): It’s real 50-50. Whichever dog has his day. Mitchell on his day, like against Murray and Prescott, can be brilliant but you never know what’s going on in his life.
Because they’re fighting in Scotland, I’ll go with Ricky Burns on points, out boxing him from the outside, in a Fight of the Year candidate. But it’s not with any strong conviction.
Richie Woodhall (ex world super-middle champion): It’ll be a great fight between two of the very best in the division. Proper fighters. Too many others just avoid each other but these two both deserve respect for stepping up.
Ricky Burns has improved out of recognition since first winning a world title and the Scottish crowd should help him no end. They could also make him tense.
I’m going for Kevin Mitchell on points. I was so impressed with him against John Murray and I think he might want it a bit more.
Brian Rose (British light-middle champion): It’s going to be really close. Our gym is split over who wins. Burns keeps shocking everyone, especially when they’ve put him down in the past.
I expect it to start off quite technical but they’ll end up ‘having it’ in the middle of the ring. I’m gonna go with Mitchell. I think he’s technically better and he’ll really want it. He’s waited ages for an opportunity and I expect he’ll grab it with both hands.
Brian Magee (WBA interim super-middle champion): It’s a hard one to pick. Mitchell has the better experience, I think. He looked very good against John Murray and he can really dig.
It’s a cracking mix of styles and I’m expecting a real tear up. Burns is always in exciting fights and he’s on a real hot streak at the minute. For me, it’s a points win for Burns.
Lee Selby (British and Commonwealth featherweight champion): It’s a good lively fight that could go either way but, though Mitchell’s more exciting, I think Burns probably wins on points. Look what Burns did to Katsidis and what Katsidis did to Mitchell.
Ricky sticks to the basics very effectively, uses the ring well and has a good defence. I think he’ll outwork Mitchell.
Rendall Munroe (ex world superbantam challenger): I think it’ll be a brilliant fight. Kevin’s aggression against Ricky’s smooth boxing.
Kevin Mitchell seems to have dealt with the issues that caused him the problems against Michael Katsidis. Sometimes you need a kick up the arse to put yourself right. He’ll have a lot to prove to himself and, when others are looking down on you, it spurs you to train harder.
When he first joined the pros, Kevin was touted to be a big star but no one’s really seen the proper Kevin Mitchell yet. I see him putting Burns under a lot of pressure. He’s got good ability, good work rate and showed against John Murray that he can take a punch.
I don’t think home advantage will have much affect. It didn’t when Mitchell beat John Murray. I don’t think Kevin stops him but he wins convincingly on points. Ricky’s got all the attributes but I think Kevin has more to prove.
Maurice Core (Manchester trainer): Tough call. I’ll go with Ricky Burns, mainly cos he’s been more active. He performed very well against Michael Katsidis and he’s really grown into the weight; tall, long reach. He’s growing in confidence with each world championship defence.
But I only go against Mitchell because of his inactivity. Jimmy Tibbs is really good at getting into Kevin’s head. He’ll not mind going into Burns backyard and he can really bang. I’m hoping Kevin does him but I think Ricky wins on points.
Matthew Hatton (ex world light-middle challenger): It’s gonna be an absolute classic. I can’t wait. I think the styles will blend really well.
Kevin’s a big talent and I’ve been so impressed with Ricky’s last few fights. He’s got a great attitude, is really dedicated and just keeps getting better every fight.
It’s real 50-50 but, if you put a gun to my head, I edge to Burns on points in a real close one. I think he’ll have a slight edge in size - he looks like a light-welter - and that might be decisive.
Kerry Kayes (fitness/nutrition expert): It’ll be a great fight, one for all the pundits. Technically every thing points to Ricky Burns. He’s great at long range and has won in better company.
But I’m going with Kevin Mitchell all day long, though I’m not sure why. I just think he’ll be hungrier. Since going with Jimmy Tibbs, he’s started getting his act together and beating John Murray so convincingly has given him a real injection of confidence.
I don’t think Kevin stops Ricky but I think he beats him because he’ll be busier.
Michael Buffer: ‘British Fight Fans Are Truly The Best!’
For credence that Saturday’s ‘Auld Enemy’ WBO World Lightweight championship between Scotland’s Ricky Burns and England’s Kevin Mitchell is a truly serious happening, you need only know that Hall of Fame MC Michael Buffer shall be calling the fighters to battle.
A grandson of 1920s world bantamweight champion Johnny Buff, but raised by foster parents in Philadelphia, the man with the trademarked ‘Let’s Get Ready To Ruuummmmbbble...’signature line is truly the voice of boxing, and an icon way beyond.
A soldier in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Buffer has featured in 18 films - often playing himself – been animated in both The Simpsons and South Park, starred on the Jay Lennon and David Letterman shows and announced at World Series baseball, Stanley Cup (ice hockey) finals, NFL play-offs and NBA championships.
But the man who was seemingly born to play James Bond chose to pursue his love of boxing and, earlier this week, he spoke with boxing writer Glynn Evans about his passage to the Hall of Fame.
Burns v Mitchell is live and exclusive on BoxNation on Saturday night (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Michael, you were born in that great fight city of Philadelphia. What are your earliest memories of the fight game? Who were your heroes growing up?
My formative boxing memories came courtesy of the TV in the 50s. I caught the tail end of the great Sugar Ray Robinson’s career and also loved Floyd Patterson and later Rocky Marciano.
I actually did a spot of boxing in the military long before I became active as a ring announcer. It was all just two minute rounds, with head guards and I was quite useful but there was one rule I could never take to ....and that was that the other guy could hit you back! I had 11 contests and went 10 (wins) and one ....the one being the last one!
I understand that your initial 30 odd years on this planet were rather less productive than the last 35 as a ring announcer.
Yes, that’d be correct. After leaving the military, I sold cars rather unproductively then, around the age of 32, 33, I got into modelling which paid the bills and was a lot of fun; certainly beat working for a living. The modelling led to TV commercials and, from that, my eldest son persuaded me to consider trying out as a ring announcer.
We were watching a fight together on TV – I forget the principals – but it was a split decision and my son became upset because the working ring announcer took away all the drama by declaring the two scores of the winning fighter first. Knowing I’d used my voice in TV commercials, he persuaded me to try out. I practised a lot, at least 5,000 times before my debut on a Phil Alessi ESPN Friday Night Fights promotion in Atlantic City, back in 1982.
Your legendary ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’ signature line - which is trademarked in the US, Britain, Germany and Australia and has featured in several films and computer games - has reputedly netted you $400 million!! What are its origins?
Dating back to the 60s, the ring announcers in the US tended to be local folk who happened to be friends of the local state athletic commissioner or, later, someone on the world governing bodies. Consequently, they felt a need to introduce a zillion people from the doctors, to timekeepers, to commissioners; people the live and TV audiences had absolutely no interest in.
Suddenly, all the energy generated from the music and drama of the fighter’s ring entrances subsided. I felt strongly that something was needed to restore that energy, similar to in automobile racing when the announcement is made: ‘Gentlemen, start your engines!’
I was keen to find something comparable. Initially, I tried stuff like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Man Your Battleships...’ or ‘Fasten Your Seatbelts...’ but got very little response. Initially there was a ripple of interest when I tried ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble...’ which persuaded me to pursue with it for a while. I’m kinda glad that I did!
Its origins sort of date to Ali, another big hero of mine, who often spoke of being ‘ready to rumble’. Muhammad also did the ‘Rumble, young man, rumble’ thing with Bundini Brown. The word ‘rumble’ has long been in the lexicon of boxing language.
Later, a good friend of mine from the world of entertainment advised me: ‘Once you’ve delivered the line, you need to shut the heck up...’ That’s where the long pause came from, and it proved fantastic advice. I’m never, ever satisfied with my intro. I’m always tweaking and fine tuning it. I’m my own worse critic and repeatedly watch it back and consider ways that might improve it.
You broke through very quickly and were announcing world championship contests within a year of your debut. Even given your looks, voice and talent, you must’ve copped a few lucky breaks.
Absolutely and the luckiest was my early involvement with Top Rank and the exposure their shows enjoyed on the ESPN cable network. Around the time I started, the network’s boxing coverage exploded during the early to mid 80s. I did two live shows every month which meant that pretty much every fight I announced was on TV, and then broadcast several more times, via repeats. That really assisted me in getting myself out there. Never underestimate the power of TV.
What are the secrets to becoming a good MC? What do you deem good practise and what makes you cringe?
Firstly, I feel you need to establish a relationship with the audience through the way you announce. You need to have a little bit of flair. Personally, I try to keep everything short and sweet now. I used to linger a bit myself in the past and now see that as a failing. Also, it’s imperative that you take care to pronounce the fighter’s names and hometowns accurately. That’s very important to them.
Presentation is also important. You need to be well dressed and stay within the seasons. In the US we have a saying; ‘No white after Labor Day (first Monday in September)!’ Personally, I like midnight blues and dark greys. The only downside of featuring on Frank Warren Promotions is that you’re always aware that, at best, you can be the second best dressed man in the house. Frank knows how to dress. Always immaculate.
I’m loathe to criticise my peers. Occasionally some say things that are quite redundant or unnecessary such as ‘The referee will now give his instructions’ which is blatantly obvious. However, I have to say that most announcers who do the big shows at present, do a fine job.
What’s your assessment of the other leading ring announcers on both sides of the Pond? How do you get along with Jimmy ‘It’s Showtime!’ Lennon Jnr, who most would perceive as your key rival?
(Chuckles) I have to say Jimmy’s a real gentleman and a fine announcer. I can’t say anything bad about him and, whenever I see him we greet and wish each other well. Hey, I can’t be everywhere and do every fight!
I’ve a certain admiration for the UK ring announcers. In the US we have a thing about your British accent; it’s so formal and classy sounding, as if you’re about to introduce the queen! As the great Oscar Wilde once commented: ‘Britain and America are two identical nations separated only by their language!’
What has been the high spot of your 30 year career?
There’ve been so many great, great fights that I’ve had the privilege to sit ringside and witness. Probably my favourite, still, is the night in ’89 when Roberto Duran and Iran Barkley really went at one another for the (WBC) world middleweight title in Atlantic City.
The most exciting moment was probably when George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 and became the oldest man ever to win the world heavyweight title, at 44. Partly due to shock, partly due to elation, the MGM simply exploded when the final punch landed. In a way it was kind of depressing, because I was quite close to Michael Moorer, a good guy and a friend.
It was similar the night that Ricky Hatton lost to (Floyd) Mayweather but at least I could get into the ring quickly, check Ricky was okay and convey that information to his mother and girlfriend, re-assure them. No one likes to see guys like Ricky or Roy Jones Jnr, who’ve given so much to our sport, lying flat on their backs.
Being inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota this year, alongside other non participants such as the late, great Eddie Futch, was a huge honour. I think only one other ring announcer ever made it and that was way back in the 20s and 30s.
Ring announcing has also permitted me to meet so many really incredible people and one who I must point out is Oscar De La Hoya, not only a really fabulous champion but also a truly remarkable human being, outside of the ring. The man has invested so many million dollars into schools and cancer clinics around his original neighbourhood in South Central and East LA, that he’s saved thousands of lives and inspired so many kids.
Finally, I have to say that the leading British fighters such as Naseem, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton have left me with some fabulous memories because of the great atmosphere that their fights always generated, whether they were competing in the UK or the US. When I gave my Hall of Fame induction speech, I had to mention the British fans who are truly the best. You guys don’t hesitate to travel in your thousands to wherever, to support your heroes. You’re very loyal, very vocal and always really make the hall ‘Pop’!
On three occasions there have been fatalities, the most high profile being the sad night when Jimmy Garcia from Columbia passed following his WBC super-featherweight title challenge to Gabe Ruelas (in May 1995). Those stay with you for ever and make you doubt your involvement.
I also despise all bad decisions and, particularly, mismatches. I’m still a fan and always want what’s best for the sport.
After the completion of a close, fantastic championship fight, it must be a real privilege knowing the decision before everybody else in the hall and watching at home.
You got it! That’s when you ‘own’ the crowd. The judges will pass their card – they only know their own score - to the referee who’ll give it to the official in charge. You rely on the supervisors to clear the fighters and their entourages away. Once the scores have been tallied and checked it’s passed to me.
Everybody is anxious to get a peep but, as an announcer, you want ‘that’ moment. I turn the cards into my body, the hall because as quiet as a church, then you pause and build the suspense.....
A serious part of your job description, which is often overlooked, is the responsibility of orchestrating a crowd when there is crowd trouble or one of the fighters has been seriously injured. Have you had such experiences?
Two really stick out. The first was at the second Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield (WBA/IBF) heavyweight title fight at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas in 1993. Fan Man! The guy flew into the open air arena, got far too close and crashed into the lights covering the ring.....Utter chaos.
I got right on the mic and asked the crowd to remain calm and stay seated which, by and large, they did. I also advised the seconds to wrap their fighters in blankets. There ended up being a delay of somewhere between 20-25 minutes. It was all quite surreal.
The second instance also featured Riddick and occurred at Madison Square Garden, New York three years later. His opponent, Andrew Golota of Poland, was way ahead on points but repeatedly landed low blows.
There was a pretty crazy crowd that night. Finally, Bowe’s entourage stormed the ring to attack Golota, several Poles in the audience then stormed the ring and suddenly we had a full scale riot between the rival factions!
There was just regular security on hand and they were proving fairly ineffectual so quickly I got on the mic and called for any off duty police officers in the arena to make themselves available. Finally the riot cops turned up but, for several minutes, it was a really dangerous situation. At the time I was rather more angry than frightened and didn’t realise quite how bad things had gotten until I started to witness all the blood!
As the world’s foremost ring announcer, you must enjoy a fantastic lifestyle; first class all the way!
Let me tell ya, the last 15 years have been considerably better that the first 15! But yes, now that I’m established, I get surprised at how very well I’m treated and how I’m able to make such a fantastic living from this.
Exposure to performing internationally has certainly been one of the biggest plusses. I’ve worked on every continent and gone to places I’d never have dreamt of visiting, such as Beijing and Moscow. I’ve been all over Britain and Europe. This shall be my second time in Glasgow, a real fun, fight city.
When is it tough being Michael Buffer?
Though it’s a great feeling when, having worked the main event, fans recognise you and crave an autograph or a photo, it’s tough not being able to pose or sign for every single one. I’m not as young as I was and I do suffer from fatigue. I truly wish I had the energy to shake every hand but the crushes that ensue can be dangerous and sometimes I need to find a big security guy to hide behind!
To what extent are you a fan of boxing?
Oh I’ve been a big fan most of my life from the days when I’d stay up late at night to watch the big fights on a black and white TV. I used to buy all the magazines and today I’ll be on the net three or four times daily, checking the latest news.
Unfortunately, because of my profile these days, it’s problematic for me to attend cards live if I’m not actually watching working because everybody wants an opinion or a piece of your time. Consequently, it becomes very difficult to actually watch the fight.
But I certainly like to keep an eye out for which prospects are coming through. Right now, I’m really excited about Adrien Broner, the young lightweight from Cincinnati. He’s outstanding, a real hot prospect. At just 23, I see exactly the same talent that Floyd Mayweather was showing at that age but Broner has even better power. He’s going to be really something.
What can you tell us about your life away from boxing? How do you relax?
Today, I live in Los Angeles with my beautiful (third) wife. We’re surrounded by canyons and enjoy a fantastic garden. Because I’ve a bad back, I can’t play golf or anything like that so I’m restricted to a spot of walking and light exercise. I’ve four dogs and a 19 year old cat and I guess they’re my hobbies. I’ve also quite a few luxury cars and really enjoy washing and taking good care of them. Recently I purchased a Bentley. That’s my new baby!
What does the future hold for Michael Buffer, the ring announcer?
I’ll be 68 in November so, naturally, I think about retirement. Unfortunately, all the travelling is beginning to take its toll. However, every time I start to contemplate cutting back my schedule, something really exciting pops up and I can’t walk away. Last weekend we had Sergio Martinez against Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr at The Thomas and Mack in Vegas, this Saturday we’ve got Ricky Burns up against Kevin Mitchell in Glasgow.
I think I’ll try to cut back to about a dozen premium promotions a year, provided my health prevails and my voice holds out. Problem is, I still want to guarantee my seat at ringside for all the biggest fights because I’m such a huge boxing fan.
Finally, how would you like boxing fans to remember you?
I like to imagine a father and son, maybe in the car or getting the tube home together and saying: ‘Do you remember that guy at the boxing who used to go ‘Let’s Get Ready....?’ Those were real exciting moments.’
I get very flattered whenever I hear people trying to imitate me!
***“Toughest fight ever for Braekhus”***
The stage is finally set for the “Pacquiao-Mayweather” of women´s boxing. WBA, WBC & WBO Female Welterweight Champion Cecilia Braekhus (20-0, 5 KOs) and French KO queen Anne Sophie Mathis (26-2, 22 KOs) today arrived in Frederikshavn. On Saturday night, they will collide at the Nordic Fight Night at Arena Nord. The First Lady will be counting on some special support. Nine-time German coach of the year Ulli Wegner, who also trains WBO Super-Middleweight Champion Arthur Abraham, WBO Cruiserweight Champion Marco Huck and IBF Cruiserweight Champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez, will be in her corner. “Cecilia is the best female boxer in the world and she will prove it again on Saturday night in the toughest fight of her life,” Wegner said at the final pre-fight press conference at Arena Nord. “We know Mathis is a KO puncher. However, when she punches, she makes a lot of mistakes and it will be crucial for Cecilia to make her pay. Mathis likes to fight, she will try to make it a war, so Cecilia needs to use her superior boxing skills to beat her. It will be a sensational fight for the fans and I am convinced that we will be victorious.”
Braekhus was also optimistic. “I have been waiting for this fight for a long time, I am glad the time has finally come. The training went very well, I am ready to defend my titles on Saturday.”
Mathis said she was equally happy with her preparation. “I am fit and ready,” she stated. “We have worked to improve my speed. I know Braekhus is a good boxer but I am 100 percent sure I will win.”
Said promoter Nisse Sauerland: “We have sold over 2000 tickets and it's getting more and more every day. There will be so many Norwegian fans in Frederikshavn on Saturday to support Cecilia, it will be an unforgettable evening. And make no mistake, for a fight like this, she needs every bit of support she can get because Mathis is a hell of a fighter. But Cecilia knows what she has to do to beat her.”