Boxing: Top 5 Commentating Crews of all time
By Jeff Fenster: Over the hundreds of years that boxing has survived, there have been hundreds of boxing commentators and analysts. Spanning from around the globe, these men formulate sentences with brilliance and relative ease, and describe the action with such beauty and grace that the video feed hardly matters. This list is of the greatest of the greats (in my opinion of coarse), all of which represented our sports voice brilliantly and respectfully.
Article posted on 02.02.2008
NOTE* Sorry UK fans, I'm an American, and I have rarely heard your commentators speak. I've heard Lacy-Calzaghe and Hatton-Mayweather being commentated, but I do not know these mens names nor have I heard much of their work. Sorry guys.
5. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Roy Jones Jr. - Of all the guest commentators for this crew, and there have been many (George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Emanuel Steward, Ray Leonard...) I always liked Roy Jones the best. Of all the fighters I have heard speak in the last 10-15 years, it is my belief that Roy Jones knows his craft the best. His insight into a fighters mind is unique and he is rarely wrong. Roy always struggled putting words together, and didn't have the grace that Leonard or Foreman had, but Roy was less biased and more reasonable.
And unlike Foreman, Jones was straight up "sane." Combine that with one of the greatest sports Journalists of his time, Larry Merchant, and one of the greatest Color men in the sports history, Jim Lampley, and you get one amazing crew.
4. Barry Tompkins, Larry Merchant, Sugar Ray Leonard- The crew here was an almost perfect match all around. Its a shame that they lasted so few years. Tompkins was only with HBO maybe four or five years before making a move to ESPN's Thursday Night Fights. But during those years he commentated some of the great fights of his time, and gave great calls during them. Famously, during round 14 of Pryor-Arguello, Tompkins would famously shout out, "Arguello...oh! Arguello is hurt!!" A line that is almost engraved into my mind, and is surely the case with anyone else who has seen the fight.
Another one of Tompkins' great lines was when Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion of all time by knocking out Trevor Berbick, and at the top of his lungs Tompkins shouted, "And we have a new era in boxing!!!"
Larry Merchant's witty comments came out at a speedy paste at the time, and Leonard's insight was incredible. I don't understand why Leonard stepped out of boxing commentary. Maybe it was because he got sick of all the traveling or just preferred to watch the fights from his home and not talk about the fights all the time, but he has been sorely missed by me and many others. Interestingly enough, this is one of the few commentary crews that I have ever listened to, that rarely had an interruption or had two guys speaking at the same time. Thats why I called them a near perfect match.
3. Steve Albert, Ferdie Pacheco, Bobby Czyz- This was another classic crew that fit together entirely to well. It was almost unfair to the other commentating crews that these guys were so good together. Ferdie Pacheco, famous for being Ali's fight doctor, had a great voice for his position. Having spend so many years with Muhammad Ali, he became so inept and in tune with the business and preparation side of the sport, that he was perfect for the job, giving us insight and facts that we had never heard before. Steve Albert was another great boxing commentator, and still is although he's lost a small bit of what made him special with this crew. Many have said that Marv Albert, when he used to do boxing, was better then his brother Steve.
I disagree, I thought Marv was robotic and sometimes boring when commentating. That man was born for football. Steve on the other hand, has always had a knack for making the final call extremely memorable. Who could forget his famous call for Castillo-Corrales 1. Its one of the few calls that I remember almost perfectly by heart and don't need any reference for. "Castillo steps back, Corrales winging, Castillo's in trouble, Weeks' steps in and the fight - is - over!" But since that wasn't with this particular crew, I'll give you an amazing one that was with this crew.
The dramatic finish to Holyfield-Tyson 1. "He stops the fight and Holyfield has won!" to which Pacheco responds, "I can't believe what I'm seeing, it's the most unbelievable thing I've ever been privileged to witness." I will always remember Steve for this line in particular during Holyfield-Tyson 1. "No matter what happens from here on in, we are looking at a sports legend in the purple trunks. Evander Holyfield!" The more i think about this particular crew, the more I love them.
2. Don Dunphy and... nobody. Just Don Dunphy and a radio microphone- Talk about an old timer, this is about as far back as i can think. Famous for his quick paced Radio calls during what I like to call "the Louis era," and also commentated for the first boxing show of its kind in Gilettes Friday Night Fights. The voice alone is enough to entice your average human being. He has a high pitched and almost squeaky voice and presented his blow-by-blow commentary in a fast and highly descriptive fashion. Don Dunphy commentated for nearly all of the biggest fights of his time through the radio.
But probably most famously was his call for the infamous Joe Louis-Billy Conn fight in June of 1941.Conn who had won much of the fight in convincing fashion, would be stopped late by a Louis rally, done to the beat of Dunphy's call, "He is badly hurt but he wont go down... another left to the jaw by Louis, a crushing right to the jaw and Conn slowly goes to the canvas." Dunphry gets a special place in my heart, as no black and white fight is complete without his voice to go along with it.
1. Howard Cosell and again, nobody else- Of all the sports announcers, Cosell had one of the most interesting lives I can think of. Born into a Jewish family in North Carolina, Howard actually started off as a Lawyer and worked his way over to representing athletes. Eventually, he would host radio shows and TV. Despite his voice, which at the time was thought to be all wrong for radio, he made a big splash and became very popular. Knowing very little about boxing at the time, he jumped at the opportunity to take on a commentating job. During his reign as commentator for NBC and the likes he would cause controversy, speak his mind freely, and revolutionize the position. Sure, he had a guest commentator from time to time, such as Muhammad Ali or George Foreman, but it is of my opinion that these men would only hamper Cosells performance.
His best nights were when he went it alone, or with a quiet, soft spoken man like Ken Norton who only spoke when Cosell asked him to speak. Most importantly though, Cosell "told it like it was" and would never back down from bad mouthing a fighter, even when that fighter was seated right next to him! Some famous quotes include, during Ali-Lyle, "Ali smells blood!" during Frazier-Ellis "Down goes Ellis! He is beaten!" and during Holmes-Cobb when the ref let the fight go on far to long, "I wonder if that referee is [conducting] an advertisement for the abolition of the very sport that he is a part of?" But probably most famously was during Frazier-Foreman 1, "Down goes Frazier, Down Goes Frazier, Down goes Frazier!" and the forgotten second half of that great call, "And Foreman is as poised as can be in a neutral corner!"
previous article: Boxing The Sport vs Boxing The Product
next article: The Heavyweight Boxing Scene (February 2008)