by David P. Greisman
BoxingScene.com: Where were you when you found out that you were selected to enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame?
Bernstein: “I was sitting jaunty jolly at home working on my computer, and I had seen a message from [IBHOF director] Ed Brophy. And of course I knew that I’d been nominated, so I had an inkling that he was going to call me back. Then he called me back. I was sitting at home working, and he told me about it, and it was a day changer, needless to say. More than that, it was a week and a year changer. And it was pretty amazing.”
BoxingScene.com: What does it mean to you to enter the Hall of Fame? I don’t imagine that you set out to be inducted when you first started your career.
Bernstein: “No. I don’t think anybody — I hope they don’t — when they’re working or when they’re doing things, thinks of milestones. So when they come, they’re very special. And for me, the thing about this that makes it great is that there are six other broadcasters in the Hall of Fame, and one of them is Don Dunphy, who was my idol growing up.
“In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when I was a young man, nine, 10 years old, I would watch Don Dunphy on the Friday Night Fights. And I watched them with my dad, and my dad passed away when I was 12. So the last really great memories I have of doing something with my father, one of them was watching those Friday Night Fights.
“And then flash forward to 1986, I think it was, and we interviewed Don Dunphy on ESPN. I’d never met him, and we were moving the fights to Friday, and he of course had done Friday Night Fights. I interviewed him, and I got to meet him, and he was a wonderful, gracious guy. And we stayed in touch, and he became kind of a mentor to me.
“And my two biggest thrills in life, practically, have been when he was asked who his favorite boxing announcers were, he mentioned that if he was going to watch a boxing match, he most wanted me to be on it. I could’ve died right then and gone to heaven. I would’ve been happy. And then the second thing he did was when he was put into ‘Ring Magazine’ in their 75th anniversary event, they were giving him the award as best boxing announcer ever, and he asked for me to present it.
“So those two memories were really important. And then, to add to that, Bob Dunphy, his son, is the director of the Showtime shows, so I’ve had this consistent kind of connection to Don. And the fact that he’s in the Hall of Fame along with those other announcers, and I’m there, is very special to me.”
BoxingScene.com: Obviously everyone sets out to do good work, but what is it about the way you go about doing your job that you think brought such acclaim?
Bernstein: “If there’s a quality, a specific thing that I think has given me the longevity, it’s been that I approached every fight the same way, every four-rounder on ESPN, every pay-per-view with Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler or Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson or whoever, anything I’ve done over the years, I’ve approached every one of those boxing matches with the same level of work and importance. I think that resonates with people, because they feel a consistency.
“And the other thing I think is I’ve tried to present information and analysis to them, and done it in a way that was fair. And I hope that resonated with people, and I think it does. You know, I’ve made my share of mistakes. I’ve had my share of gaffes. I’ve probably miscalled some fights along the way. But I think the consistency of work, more than anything, is probably the thing that I hope people appreciate.”
BoxingScene.com: This isn’t like boxing where you’re eligible to be inducted after being retired for five years — so are there certain things you still want to accomplish?
Bernstein: “I’ll answer the second question first. The thing this award means to me is it validates my past, but energizes me for the future. Obviously I’m still very active with the world of boxing. I do the boxing on Showtime. I’m executive producer of The Boxing Channel, which is a very important project to me, where I’m pioneering again, getting video to boxing fans, just as I was a part of in the early ‘80s with ESPN.
“So this award is an interesting one because when you’re a non-participant/observer and you get one of these awards, you’re often times still very much often involved in your career, as opposed to the great fighters, who are not. It’s really a great thing that pushes me for the future. There are a lot of things I still want to accomplish. I want to help bring boxing to people through the Internet.
“And the other thing I want to do is help people understand that boxing, for the last 10 years — and this is not me being a cheerleader for the sport — it’s given the best product it’s given in many years to boxing fans. The mainstream media stopped covering boxing, which is shameful. I understand, partially, why they did. But they’re coming back a little bit. I want to lead the charge.
“The last thing I want to do in my career is lead the charge to get people to pay attention to the sport, because if they only pay attention to it, they will like it again, people that were boxing fans, because the product is a good one. It has its snafus, obviously, but for the most part the product is good.”
BoxingScene.com: Are there certain moments from your career that stand out?
Bernstein: “As far as fights, for instance, probably the fights that are right at the top of the list, probably the greatest fight I ever announced was Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales on Showtime about six years ago. It was so spectacular that it eclipses the second fight on my list, Hagler-Hearns, only because it was Hagler-Hearns times three. And it was an extraordinary fight. Hagler-Hearns is No. 2. Obviously that was a remarkable night. I still think about being there at that fight, and it was extraordinary.
“My tie for No. 3 is a cult classic fight, John LoCicero and Caveman Lee. It was in the early ‘80s, and it had in it the most insane round of boxing that I’ve ever seen in my life. John LoCicero was knocked down by Caveman Lee. They were middleweights who were on the verge of getting a title shot. He got knocked down, got up, barely beat the count, landed, and I’m not exaggerating, 20 or 25 unanswered punches against Caveman Lee. Caveman Lee looked completely out. Caveman Lee came back to knock out John LoCicero in that round. It was extraordinary.
“And the other fight that I put on there was my most magical night of actual broadcasting, and that was the Roberto Duran-Iran Barkley fight. 1989, in Atlantic City. It was important to me for a number of different reasons. My other great mentor and idol in boxing was Gil Clancy. I was doing play-by-play and Gil did color. It was just the most memorable night to me in terms of a broadcast and fight coming together. Big snowstorm, we didn’t think anyone was going to show up. Fans braved the weather to come. And what Duran and Barkley produced that night was magical.
“And I’ll never forget — I’ve watched that fight four or five times, especially recently, because I’m writing a book — I’ve never had a night where it was so much fun to announce. Gil Clancy was a boxing savant, and that night reminded me of it. Listening to that fight again, I think I’m fairly good at doing foreshadowing of things to come in a boxing match and paying attention enough and having enough background to be able to do it. Comparing what I do with regard to Gil Clancy is like comparing Phyllis Diller to Loni Anderson. That’s how far above me Gil Clancy is. It was extraordinary listening to it. That night was pretty special as well.”
BoxingScene.com: So, you’re writing a book?
Bernstein: “I am. I’m writing a book. It’s going to be out in the first half of 2012. It’s called ’30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths.’ Obviously it’s looking back at a little more than 30 years of broadcasting. It’s been fun researching it. A few serious things, but for the most part, it’s fun and lighthearted, and I hope there’s a lot of humor in it.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]