Harold Lederman Interview
By Mark Pickering - Many boxing fans may not even know what he looks like but his authoritative tones have decorated HBO broadcasts since 1986.
Article posted on 02.02.2010
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author, award winning judge and acclaimed analyst Harold Lederman.
Q: For many you’re the voice of authority on the HBO team - looking back was there a moment when you realised you'd made it as a judge?
A: I started judging Professional Boxing in 1967 after two years of judging amateur boxing and a lot of experience as a fan keeping score at the fights. I knew from day one that I could judge. I was a dedicated judge, and I knew what I was looking at.
Q: What would you say are the most commonly mistaken rules in boxing? Or glaring errors fans and even commentators make?
A: A lot of fans think that if a fighter is being held up by the ropes and the referee calls it a knockdown it is a standing eight. There is no such thing as a standing eight. If you get hit by a legal punch and the ropes prevent you from going down, the ref can rule it the same as if your gloves touched the canvas..
Q: As a judge is there an ideal fight to score?
A: Who wants to score a decisive fight? Anybody can do that. If you are a judge, you want the tough calls that fans will remember for a long time. The more challenging the fight the better it is to judge.
Q: Do you ever look back on fights and come to a slightly different result?
A: I never change my mind. My best calls are my original ones.
Q: Do you ever second guess yourself while scoring?
A: I never second guess myself while scoring. I call it the way I see it, but I try to have some justification based on the four points which we score, clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defence.
Q: Do you think a judges preferences, styles and tactics he likes for example, factor into his officiating?
A: Judges shouldn't have preferences. If a guy is a boxer (like Malignaggi), give him credit for his boxing. If a guy is a hard puncher but lands fewer, decide who did the most damage in the round and that’s who you give it to. Don't favour one over the other.
Q: How difficult can it be to block out a raucous crowd cheering on their man to concentrate on judging the fight?
A: The crowd influences the judges in close rounds. It shouldn't, but until machines do the scoring it will. Humans are born with ears. No cutting out the crowd. Any judge who denies this is lying.
Q: What have been the loudest and most hostile crowds you’ve encountered?
A: Madison Square Garden for a popular Latino fighter is pretty loud and hostile. So is Staples. Of course the York Hall when a Brit is fighting someone from outside the UK can be wild.
Q: What feedback do you get from judges on your role at role for HBO?
A: Some judges have told me I do a good job. Some rip me pretty good. I listen to all of them and then digest what they said and try to understand their point of view on a fight. It makes me a better judge.
Q: If you had the power what rule changes or amendments would you make?
A: I would change the rule about low blows. The bottom of the waistband should be the point for a low blow. You can't see a fighter’s belly button, so how do you judge what’s low and what isn't if you can't see it? A low blow would be anything below the waistband in my opinion.
Q: Do you think technology such as CompuBox could play a bigger role in officiating?
A: Sure. Technology always improves things. We don't use CompuBox to score, but hey, who knows what the future holds? How do you like HBO's new punch track which tells you where the blows are landing?
Q: Do judges feel the pressure of their position and the power they hold during the fight?
A: A judge shouldn't feel pressure. Nothing should interfere with what he is watching and scoring. My daughter Julie is a supremely confident judge and she never worries about anything, just scores the way she sees it, which is the way it should be.
Q: What does a typical fight day involve for a judge? Is there anything fans might be surprised to learn?
A: The judges are there at least two hours before the fight goes on. The commission ASSIGNS THE JUDGES FOR EACH FIGHT. Sometimes they keep you in the dressing room (official’s room) until you are working, and other times you sit in the audience when you are not judging. It varies from place to place. I tried to not talk to too many people because I didn't want anyone accusing me of favouritism.
Q: Have you ever fancied becoming an on-screen member of the HBO team? Or do you think your current role works just fine?
A: My current role works fine at HBO. An on camera announcer gets paid better than I do, so I wouldn't mind doing on camera work, but I'm fine with what I do.
Q: What are your most memorable and cherished experiences in the sport as a judge and as a fan?
A: I loved getting elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles. It was a huge honour for me. I loved judging Holmes-Spinks one outdoors in Vegas for the heavyweight title. No matter what Larry said, he lost the first fight between those two guys, and it was a huge thrill to be there as a judge. On Monday morning after that Saturday night fight, I was explaining my scores as a guest on, "Good Morning America".
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