By Michael Rosenthal
The first thought I had when I heard that HBO was out of boxing were the voices that would go silent.
I occasionally stumble upon old sports clips on YouTube and hear the voice of a broadcaster from my youth. In boxing, it might be Howard Cosell. NFL, Pat Summerall or Lindsey Nelson. NBA, Chick Hearn. And baseball, Vin Scully. Nostalgia and some sadness invariably set in when I hear these men.
The thought that Jim Lampley – and to a lesser extent the others at HBO – have joined that group is unsettling.
Cosell will always be my favorite boxing broadcaster, as he brought an unparalleled combination of personality and energy to our living rooms. Who can forget, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
Lampley was No. 2. “Lamps” has been the voice of boxing for most of the 30 years he was HBO’s main blow-by-blow broadcaster. When you heard his voice, you generally knew you were watching something important.
He called most of the biggest fights of the past three decades for ABC and then HBO, from the Mike Tyson-Jesse Ferguson fight in 1986 to the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin fight on September 15.
Lampley gave us many memorable calls. The one that stands out for me came at the end of George Foreman’s historic one-punch knockout of Michael Moorer in 1994, which gave Foreman (one of Lampley’s broadcast partners at the time) the heavyweight title at 45.
“It happened! It happened!,” Lampley yelled after Moorer was counted out. Simple. To the point. And exactly what everyone was thinking at that moment.
I understand that Lampley will take part in other projects at HBO. But boxing without Jim Lampley? Unthinkable.
Max Kellerman had big shoes to fill after taking over for the great Larry Merchant but, in spite of his critics, has done a good job. His energy, obvious love for the sport, depth of knowledge and keen ability to articulate his thoughts added perspective to every broadcast.
I’m guessing that Kellerman will be OK in terms of his career; he has other gigs. He should do boxing, though. That’s his wheelhouse.
Roy Jones Jr. doesn’t have the voice of a traditional broadcaster and isn’t as articulate as some analysts but I’ve always been a fan of his. He has an uncanny ability to get his point across succinctly, quickly and in a way that’s easy to understand. I’ve learned a lot about boxing from listening to him.
I hope Jones finds work as an analyst for another network. He has earned it.
Unofficial ringside scorer and former judge Harold Lederman has been a secondary voice on HBO broadcasts but I was once told by a network employee that Harold resonates greatly with fans, which is no surprise. His high-pitched voice and enthusiasm jumps out at you even if you disagree with his scoring.
Harold is 78. If his television career is over, he can take pride in the niche he created for himself. His voice was important.
And what about Michael Buffer? Michael was the ring announcer for most HBO telecasts. He’s too popular to keep on the sidelines; he’ll find plenty of work if he wants it. But boxing without the words “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” ushering in another battle on HBO? That’s hard to grasp.
I realize that some people aren’t fans of the HBO crew or a portion thereof. That’s to be expected. Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to broadcasters.
That said, I think we all can agree that boxing without Lampley and Co. is a strange concept.
Of course, there have been many others who have come and gone on HBO boxing telecasts – Gil Clancy, Foreman, Merchant, Lennox Lewis, Emanuel
Steward, to name just a few. We adjusted to their absence and moved on.
We’ll do the same now … but it will take a little time.