HBO needs to bring back "Big" George Foreman
06.10.05 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Two weeks ago, I was thrilled by “Big” George Foreman’s unexpected return to HBO’s commentating booth. It was like a breath of fresh air! Just hearing the clever words and witty remarks of the man who used to be the best part of HBO’s commentating team, bar none, made the entire evening of boxing that much more enjoyable. That’s the type of professional George Foreman is – he’s so good, that his presence alone can help elevate the entire overall boxing experience for fans across the globe. The night Wladimir Klitschko defeated Sam Peter was an example of such. “Big” George helped elevate the overall quality of the boxing broadcast with his magnificent commentary. Sadly, HBO missed the boat this past weekend, and didn’t invite Foreman back.
Article posted on 07.10.2005
It’s no coincidence that the quality of HBO’s broadcasts has been in steady decline since the departure of Foreman. The official story is that Foreman retired in order spend more time with his wife and family.
This came in the immediate aftermath of two controversial decisions that occurred in back-to-back weeks back in September of 2003. On September 13, 2003, Shane Mosley defeated Oscar De La Hoya in a narrow points decision; on September 20, 2003, Chris Byrd escaped with a controversial win against Fres Oquendo.
Is the official story true? Did Foreman really want to spend more time with his wife and family? Or is it possible that perhaps Foreman was a convenient scapegoat?
Foreman took a lot of heat from the boxing world over what many considered to be "biased commentating" on his part, but this is not a fair assesment of what happened. First of all, this wasn’t biased commentating on the part of Foreman. The entire HBO broadcast team called those fights as if De La Hoya and Oquendo should have been declared the winners. After all, it was pretty obvious to everyone who watched that Oquendo should have been given the nod over Byrd, and it appears that a majority of fans seem to believe that De La Hoy beat Mosley (I actually had Mosley beating De La Hoya in their rematch, but that’s neither here nor there). So why was Foreman singled out? Especially in light of the fact that the entire HBO team seemed to believe that Byrd and Mosley did not deserve their respective victories?
Frankly, I have no idea why Foreman was singled out by the boxing world for supposedly being "biased", but any such accusations were complete and total bullshit! By comparison to the other members of the HBO team, Foreman clearly has more to offer than any of them, as can be evidenced by last weekend’s broadcast in the Klitschko-Peter fight.
I was reminded of how much I miss "Big" George while listening to Jim Lampley, as he stumbled and bumbled his way through calculating simple mathematics. Perhaps a course in remedial math can help remedy Lampley’s troubles? In any case, when Lampley isn’t being challenged by grammar school math problems, he usually comes across as one of the most biased commentators on the team, in my opinion. In fact, it seems to me that Lampley often acts like a cheerleader for the HBO house fighter. Yet people accused Foreman of being "biased"? Ridiculous!
Then we have Manny Steward, who’s actually quite good. Steward usually brings forth a unique perspective to fans and is usually able to breakdown fights into technical terms. He excels at analyzing style match-ups, and usually provides great insight into how different fights unfold. Steward’s problem is that he has zero entertainment value. Listening to Steward analyze a boxing match is almost as boring as listening to Congressmen discuss the annual budget. Steward usually has something interesting to say, but his delivery stinks.
Next we have the man who just lost a lop-sided decision this past weekend, Roy Jones Junior. Jones is actually a pretty good commentator, and much like Foreman, his experience as a boxer helps him in this regard. His fighting experience helps him bring forth a unique perspective to fans much in the same way Steward’s training experience helps him bring forth a unique perspective. Sadly, Jones shares something else in common with Steward – lack of entertainment value. Perhaps Jones doesn’t sound as boring as a Congressman discussing the annual budget, but surely he’s no more entertaining than an actuary explaining complicated statistical probabilities.
Finally, we have the best member of the current HBO commentating team, Larry Merchant. Merchant is the best in the business right now, by far. The main reason for this is that Merchant is extremely entertaining. His clever play with words and his brilliant analogies are always a joy to hear. Perhaps at times, it sounds as if Merchant might be inebriated, but that just adds to his overall charm. He is an outstanding commentator, and always has been. The only thing missing from his repertoire is his former counterpart, “Big” George Foreman.
Foreman & Merchant were like a dynamic duo in the commentating booth. Together, they produced the most important aspect a commentating team is supposed to provide – pure entertainment! They were the Oscar & Felix of the boxing world – that is, the Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of the boxing world, not to be confused with Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.
The bottom line is, HBO ought to do the right thing and bring back George Foreman. He was “The Heart & Soul of HBO Boxing”, and their broadcasts have suffered considerably in his absence. None of the current members of HBO’s commentating team posses anything close to Foreman’s unique combination of experience, insight, humor, charm, straight-forwardness, and entertainment value. Simply put, he is the complete package, as far as commentators go.
HBO – please bring back, “Big” George! You don’t want to lose him to Showtime, do you?
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