Hopkins vs. Jones from a commentator’s perspective
RingTV.com co-editor Doug Fischer (left) gives his on-air commentary during the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view broadcast as Joe Tessitore (center) and Sugar Ray Leonard (right) look on. The full-time boxing writer was as excited to work alongside the veteran broadcaster and his boyhood idol as he was calling the action to the high-profile main event. Photo / Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos.com
Ever wonder what it’s like to be part of the broadcast team for a televised fight?
If so, take notes while you read this column because I’m about to give you the first-person perspective of a novice boxing commentator.
As most of you know, I’m a boxing writer by trade. I started in the mid-1990s and I’ve done it full-time since February of 2000. However, starting with a few taped pre- and post-fight features for The Fight Network in 2006 and my first appearance on an HBO Countdown show (the one for the Juan Manuel Marquez-Marco Antonio Barrera fight) in 2007, I gradually began dabbling in on-screen boxing commentary.
I’ve called the action for about a dozen live boxing cards over the past two years but none were as high-profile as last Saturday’s rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Nobody asked for that fight, few bought the pay-per-view show, and everyone who did regretted wasting their hard-earned dollars on it.
To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about the matchup myself, but the combined name recognition of Hopkins and Jones trumped every broadcast I’d done in the past, including the live international feeds to Manny Pacquiao-David Diaz, Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor II and Chad Dawson-Antonio Tarver II.
I didn’t care much for the fight but like many others I did care about the fighters.
I was a huge Jones fan during his middleweight and super middleweight title reigns in the mid-1990s. By the end of the ’90s, when I started writing about boxing on a regular basis, Hopkins was not only emerging as an elite fighter but one of the best interviews in the sport. His nobody-to-somebody story was one I helped chronicle throughout the past decade.
I was also ringside for the pinnacle of Jones career, his unanimous decision over John Ruiz for a heavyweight title, and his abrupt crash when he was knocked out by Anotnio Tarver.
As corny as it sounds, as both fan and journalist, I felt a shared history with Jones and Hopkins
However, the history I felt with Hopkins and Jones was nothing compared to the connection with one of the broadcast partners I wound up working with on fight night. So without further ado, here’s a timeline of the events, big and small (OK most of them were small), leading up to what amounted to a dream broadcast for Yours Truly.
Monday, March 15
I received an email from David Itskowitch, the COO of Golden Boy Promotions, with the subject line “4/3/10 PPV Broadcast” at 6:20 p.m.
“Are you available to do color commentary?”
That’s all it said. Itskowitch likes to keeps things short and sweet, so that’s how I replied — with one word: “Absolutely.”
We exchanged 10 emails that evening, until 1:49 a.m., during which time I learned that the play-by-play announcer (or blow-by-blow commentator as they are known in boxing) would likely be Joe Tessitore from ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights series.
The possibility of working with Tessitore increased my anticipation of the Hopkins-Jones broadcast ten-fold. Tessitore and his FNF broadcast partner Teddy Atlas are so good I don’t even have to watch the fights to enjoy the broadcasts. I often turn up the volume and cook dinner, wash dishes, or do some other fatherly chore in another room during the opening bout and the main event. Between Tessitore’s call of the action and Atlas’ technical descriptions I get a perfect mental picture of what’s happening in the ring.
“We’re trying to get Tyson as the third man,” one of Itskowitch’s final emails stated.
Wow, I thought. It will be a very interesting evening if they get Iron Mike.
Tuesday, March 23
I received an email with my flight and hotel arrangements from Karla Loustaunau, travel coordinator for Golden Boy Promotions, early in the day.
Later, I sent Itskowitch a text asking how the broadcast booth was shaping up. He let me know that Tessitore was confirmed for the broadcast. I asked him how it as going with Tyson.
“OK,” he texted back. “It’s on and off again. You never know with Tyson.”
“Is Golden Boy or Square Ring thinking about anyone else for the job?” I asked.
“Ray Leonard,” Itskowitch replied.
The thought of possibly doing a broadcast with Leonard, one of the few boxers of the modern era I have no hesitation calling “great,” made my heart race.
To put it bluntly, Leonard, next to Muhammad Ali, is my boyhood hero.
However, while “The Greatest” was the first boxer I recognized and idolized, Leonard is the fighter who gave me an understanding and appreciation of the sport.
“I hope you get Ray,” I texted back to Itskowitch. “He makes more sense for the broadcast.”
Saturday, March 27
I got an email from Itskowitch: “Sugar Ray is our third guy.”
Tuesday, March 30
I got an email from Tessitore with the subject line “call.” It had his cell number in it. I called him and we talked for over an hour. Family first, then boxing.
I’d never worked with Tessitore prior to the Hopkins-Jones broadcast but we’re familiar with each other. Tessitore never had a problem telling anyone that he was a fan of my mailbags and the weekly The Next Round show I did with Steve Kim back when I was with MaxBoxing.com. And from my very first live boxing commentary experience — a Boxing After Dark try-out with Bob Papa and Lennox Lewis during the Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley fight — he’s been supportive of my budding broadcasting career.
Tessitore and I went through every matchup on the pay-per-view portion of the card, and as we discussed the recent history and various story lines of the fighters, I realized why he is such a pro’s pro. He is as meticulous as he is passionate about the sport.
He loves boxing, knows it well and he wishes to learn more. Add his broadcast experience and the fact that he takes his job very seriously to that thirst for knowledge and you know why he’s one of the best.
Later that day I received an email with an attachment of the “PPV Format” from producer Frank Belmont. The format is a detailed outline of the how the show will flow from start to finish. I immediately printed it out along with the fighter bios and records that had been sent earlier by Itskowitch and Monica Sears, Golden Boy’s public relations coordinator.
I put all the printouts into a folder and I studied them every chance I got during the next two days (when not occupied by my father responsibilities and RingTV.com editorial duties).
Wednesday, March 31
I woke up to more emails regarding production schedules and information, including the time and location of the fighter meetings, from Belmont.
Later in the afternoon, I received a press release from Sears and Swanson Communications, Kelly Swanson’s PR firm that works directly with Hopkins, entitled: “SUGAR RAY LEONARD FEATURED ON BROADCAST TEAM FOR HOPKINS VS. JONES.”
I read it, knowing that it was in the inbox of anyone remotely connected to the boxing industry, and for the first time since accepting the gig, I felt a tinge of nerves.
They put my name next to Tessitore and Leonard’s.
Oh ÔÇª my ÔÇª God.
I quickly quelled the wave of anxiety.
“Joe’s a pro and a good guy,” I told myself. “Everyone tells me Ray is the coolest. Frank is producing this puppy. I’ll be fine. Hell, I’m gonna have fun!”
I work with Belmont every month with Golden Boy’s Fight Night Club series. He also produced the “Lightweight Lightening” pay-per-view card I called with Hopkins and Barry Tompkins last April, so I’m familiar with his style and was confident that he’d make sure everything would run smoothly during Saturday’s broadcast. Like Tessitore, Belmont is a pro’s pro.
Thursday, April 1
It was a hectic day as I tried to pack, coordinate childcare for my two daughters and wrap up a few features for RingTV.com.
I managed to finish a “New Faces” on light heavyweight prospect Ismayl Sillakh, who is scheduled to open the pay-per-view broadcast against Daniel Judah, before my taxi arrived to take me to LAX.
I had hoped to finish my Friday mailbag, post the Weekend Preview and upload a video interview with Sergio Mora, who is also part of the pay-per-view show, before I left my house but as usual I had fallen behind schedule. I would just have to finish up those features when I checked into my room at the Mandalay Bay, the site of Saturday’s fight card in Las Vegas.
I didn’t feel good on the way to the airport. There was a scratchy feeling at the back of my throat and in my sinuses. I had to wonder how real the feeling was, though. I could have been overreacting to stress or nerves, or I could really have something. My 2-year-old daughter, Jeanne-Imani, had a runny nose all week. Perhaps she gave me whatever she had.
I shared the ride from the airport to the Mandalay Bay with John Montelongo, Mora’s longtime manager and cornerman, and his teen-age daughter.
We talked about Leonard, who he met and got to know a little bit through Mora’s experience on The Contender. Montelongo told me what Tessitore, and everyone else who’s met Leonard always tells me, that the man is a prince.
Once I checked in and was settled in my room, I uploaded the Mora video, read co-editor Michael Rosenthal’s feature column and finished up the Weekend Preview and my mailbag.
I got to bed around 2 a.m., knowing I had to be up and at ’em by 8 a.m.
Fighter meetings would start with Hopkins, who was staying at the MGM Grand’s exclusive SkyLofts suites, at 9:30 a.m. An email from Belmont informed me to meet him and “the others” at the casino level Starbucks at 9 a.m. sharp.
I tried to get some rest but I had a post-nasal drip, which made for a miserable night.
Friday, April 2
I got out of bed around 8:15, feeling like dried up dog doo doo. A quick hot shower loosened me up a bit and I hoped some hot green tea would do something for my raw throat.
I went to the Starbucks near the Event Center, where there was a long-ass line and no sight of Belmont or anyone I recognized. I sent a few neurotic texts to both Itskowitch and Belmont to make sure I was in the right place.
It turned out that Belmont meant the coffee shop in the lounge by the elevators when he said “Starbucks.” I grabbed my green tea latte and downed an all-day antihistamine before high-tailing it to the rendezvous spot, where I met up with floor producer extraordinaire Tami Cotel (hardcore fans recognize her as the pretty lady in the ring coordinating post-fight interviews on HBO broadcasts), veteran commentator Dave Bontempo, who worked the international broadcast with Col. Bob Sheridan, and boxer Jose “Shibata” Flores, who did the Spanish-language broadcast with my Fight Night Club cohort Mario Solis.
We all chatted and caught up with each other as our driver took us to Mandalay Bay’s THE Hotel to pick up Leonard, who arrived on time with his son, Ray Jr., the “kid” from the 7-Up commercials who is now 36.
It was 9:41 a.m. as the van made its way to the MGM Grand and we were already behind schedule. Leonard, Bontempo and I were warned not to ask too many questions. Fighter interviews for the rest of the card, including Jones, were scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. back at the Mandalay Bay and, well, I think most fans know that Hopkins can be rather long-winded at times.
As the group shuffled through the door of the beautiful suite, I heard Hopkins, who was playing pool, yell out “Legend!” at the site of Leonard.
Soon we were seated around a table with Hopkins. Bontempo asked the first question, which led to a tirade about how Jones had sought to keep him out of the spotlight for many years following their first match.
Leonard noted the bitterness in Hopkins’ voice and asked him whether it was as personal as the pre-fight hype made it out to be.
“It is,” Hopkins said.
“That can be a problem,” Leonard said calmly. “It was personal with me and Duran. I f___ing hated the guy and it took me away from my game.”
I don’t know what it says about me but I got a thrill hearing Leonard use the F-word.
I asked one question about how their styles might mesh 17 years later and we wrapped the session up in about 40 minutes, which I was told was a record for any broadcast crew with Hopkins, who reportedly carried on for two straight hours in the fighter meeting prior to his bout with Enrique Ornelas in December.
On the way back to the van, Leonard and I finally spoke. He asked me my thoughts about some up coming fights, including Andre Ward-Allan Green. Hopkins’ trainer, Naziim Richardson, who accompanied us back to the van, chimed in on the discussion.
“I’ve known Andre since the amateurs,” Richardson said. “When he was only 12, I remember him asking me questions about boxers and their styles, technical things, the way a grown man would. He always took the sport seriously, which is why I favor him to win that tournament.
“Ward’s the closest thing to a young Bernard out there. He can shut down any style.”
Leonard nodded in agreement as Richardson spoke.
It’s nice to know he follows the sport and has an interest in its potential stars.
On the van ride back to the Mandalay Bay, I noted that my nose wasn’t running. If need be, I thought, I could take one of these before tomorrow’s broadcast and hopefully be straight.
The rest of the fighter meeting took place in a board room near the media center, where I grabbed a quick cup of coffee before it began.
The room was almost empty. Not a good sign so soon before the weigh-in. Doing the broadcast for this card may have been a big deal to me, but it looked like most fans and members of the media were going to pass on watching and covering it.
The few folks who were in the media center congratulated me on the gig. One of them was Golden Boy’s staff photographer Tom Hogan, who said he would snap a few shots of me with Tessitore and Leonard. (He kept his word.) Another was retired judge Chuck Williams, who reminded me that he thought I would make a good broadcaster years ago when we first met.
I thought about it and recalled the conversation we had six or seven years ago.
“See, I told you,” Williams said as he gave me a firm hand shake. “The camera likes you.”
Back in the meeting room, Calvin Green, Mora’s opponent was already seated. I sat next Leonard and listened to what the Texas journeyman had to say in response to our questions.
In my opinion, unknown guys like Green are what the fighter meetings are all about. Everyone knows Hopkins and Jones’ stories. Nothing was known about Green, who was the fourth replacement opponent for Mora. Whatever Leonard and I were going to say about the man and his background during Saturday’s broadcast was going to be learned in the 15 minutes we had with him in that room on Friday.
Despite his modest record, Green, who was trained by former middleweight contender Thomas Tate and was accompanied by 1984 gold medalist Frank Tate, had an extensive amateur career. He began boxing at age 9, compiled over 200 amateur bouts and made it all the way to the 1995 Olympic Trials. He didn’t appear to be in great shape but he sounded very confident and promised to take the fight to Mora. We believed him.
Judah, an 11-year veteran with 30 bouts under his belt, was next. The older brother of former welterweight champ Zab Judah was shocked the management of Sillakh, who had an 11-0 record but had never fought past six rounds, would match their prospect with him.
When Bontempo asked Judah whether he planned to take Sillakh into the late rounds to test the young man’s stamina, he said he might try to take him out early. He said he was in great shape and was more focused than usual because he didn’t train with his brothers for this fight.
Sillakh, a native of Ukraine, doesn’t speak much English but he oozed confidence at the fighter meeting. In fact, he was downright cocky. When asked whether he had any concerns about fighting past six rounds (his fight with Judah was scheduled for 10), he laughed as he said: “Judah can’t go six rounds with me.”
Jason Litzau, who would defend his NABF 130-pound belt against five-time world title challenger Rocky Juarez in a 10-round bout, was next.
The 26-year-old native of St. Paul, Minn., was extremely animated. I think seeing Leonard in the room added to his enthusiasm. When talking about how well conditioned he was, he took off his shirt, which isn’t that unusual for young fighters, but Litzau took it a step further by standing up and dropping his pants to show off his thigh muscles.
“Whoa! Whoa! We take your word for it, Jason!” Bontempo, Leonard and I blurted out as if rehearsed.
Once he got his pants back on I asked him whether the three victories he scored last year gave him confidence going into the Juarez bout.
“It’s not about what happened inside the ring, it’s about what happened outside of it,” he said. “I finally grew up. For years I had been so caught up in a custody battle with the mother of my two daughters that my mind wasn’t right. I was training but I wasn’t training the right way. I was eating junk food, partying, drinking, and chasing girls. I’m married now and I’m in a better place. I feel like I finally had a real camp.”
Leonard told Litzau he never understood why he didn’t use his height, reach and speed in his matches, electing to slug it out instead. “Things could be so much easier for you in the ring, Jason,” he said.
“Don’t worry, Ray,” Litzau said. “I’m going to go back to boxing the way I did when I first started out in the amateurs, back when people used to call me ‘Sugar Ray Jay’.”
Before he left, Litzau took pictures with Leonard and brought up an episode of Punk’d that featured the hall of famer. “That show almost brought out the mean side of Ray,” he said. “All of y’all got to check that out on YouTube.com. I got it on tape and I’ve probably watched it seven times.”
Though they weren’t as charismatic as Litzau, all of the undercard fighters were thoughtful and candid during the meetings. They were in awe of Leonard, as can be expected, and all seemed to speak more from the heart in his presence.
Juarez talked of “soul searching” after his loss to featherweight titleholder Chris John last year.
“I was so frustrated with myself and my career that I thought about retirement,” he said. “After some time, I went to my old gym to train alone at night, so I could be with my thoughts. I went there to find myself. I went to the original track where I used to run in the amateurs to think and meditate.
“I found that I was still hungry. I still wanted to win a world title. I wanted to do it badly for my grandfather while he was still alive, but it didn’t happen.”
Juarez dropped his head, choked up with emotion, as he spoke about his grandfather.
Leonard listened closely to what each fighter had to say and spoke earnestly with them.
When Mora complained about boxing politics keeping him out of the ring last year, Leonard told him to leave the business side of the sport in the hands of his management.
“Sergio,” he said. “I’ve told you this before. It’s OK to be mindful of your business but when it’s time to fight, be a fighter. We’re too close to the fight for you to be thinking about all this other stuff. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. Don’t keep it in mind.”
Mora listened the way a student would to a teacher. I’ve seen fighters react this way to Hopkins in the past, but it was different with Leonard. Hopkins is like a cross between a college lecturer and a drill sergeant when he talks to young fighters. He tells them exactly what to do. Leonard is more like the wise man on a hill. He calmly imparts wisdom.
The weigh-in began two hours after the fighter meetings ended.
A decent-sized crowd gathered in the Event Center, half of which was closed off, to witness the “old men” step on the scale. Jones, who skipped the fighter meeting because he was still trying to make weight at that time, weighed in half a pound over the contracted 175 pounds. (He made the weight by stripping down a few minutes later.) Hopkins, ever the professional, weighed in at 175 pounds on the nose.
Both 40-something fighters exhibited the bodies of 30 year olds. Of course, that didn’t mean they could still fight like younger men.
I finally saw a few esteemed members of the press, including ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael and Tim Smith of The New York Daily News, at the weigh-in.
I probably would have seen more boxing writers had I attended one of the two fight cards that were held in Las Vegas that night. TKO Boxing put on a show at The Rio, and Golden Boy’s first ShoBox-televised card was held at the Hard Rock Hotel, but I decided to stay in and watch Friday Night Fights in my hotel room.
My antihistamine began wearing off before the weigh-in ended and I suddenly felt drained as I sniffled my way to my room. I ordered chicken soup and hot tea from room service and watched FNF as I wrote the analysis portion of RingTV.com’s Head to Head feature on Hopkins-Jones.
I was in bed by midnight, which is early for me.
Saturday, April 3
I stayed in bed until 11 a.m. and felt better than I did Friday morning when I got out.
The final production meeting, scheduled for noon, was an important one because it was specifically for on-air talent and included Tessitore, who caught a red-eye from the FNF show in Connecticut and literally drove directly from the airport to make it.
Leonard showed up dressed in a suit.
“Was I not supposed to be dressed already?” he asked with a laugh. “F__!”
Then he turned to me and said: “You were supposed to call me and tell me not to wear my suit for this meeting!”
We had a good laugh and then got down to business.
Belmont told us to be ringside by 4:15 p.m. Amateur star Frankie Gomez would make his pro debut at 4:30 and he wanted us to do the call even though it wasn’t part of the live pay-per-view broadcast. Belmont wanted to test our sound levels, give us an opportunity to practice calling a fight together, and have something in the bank in case the televised undercard bouts all ended early.
If we did wind up using the Gomez fight during the broadcast we would also have to comment on footage from another undercard bout involving 140-pound standout Ray Narh. The reason, Belmont explained, was because Gomez is signed to Golden Boy Promotions and Narh fights for Square Ring (Jones’ promotional company). Since the pay-per-view show was a co-promotion and co-production there had to be “equal time” for the fighters of both companies.
After the Gomez fight, we would rehearse the opening stand-up shot until the live broadcast began at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Tessitore went over the questions he planned to toss to Leonard and I about the main event and undercard bouts. Leonard wanted to talk about Jones, so I got Hopkins. Leonard felt a connection to Litzau and Juarez’s situation so he wanted to speak on their fight, which left me to talk about Mora and Sillakh, both of whom I know from the Southern California scene.
I would read the rules of the bouts and the Tale of the Tape and Leonard and I would share the replays. Belmont said they would definitely hold the main event until the Duke-West Virginia college hoops game ended, a little after 8 p.m., which meant we would have time kill if any of the pay-per-view televised undercard fights ended early. I had to be ready to conduct in-the-ring interviews and perhaps even venture to Hopkins’ dressing room to talk to the man who is never at a loss for words in order to fill that air time if need be.
After the meeting, Tessitore and I accompanied Belmont to one of the production trucks to watch two pre-shows and pick one to be played just before the main event. We went with one that focused on the first fight and chronicled where Jones and Hopkins went from there. I also went over a graphic that I helped put together on notable ring rivalries of past decades.
Then it was back to my room, where I practiced my opening comments out loud as I got my on-air clothes together. To my horror I realized that I had packed two different dress shoes.
I considered rushing out and trying find a new pair to purchase but opted to take Leonard’s advice for Mora and not “keep it in mind.”
It wasn’t fight time for me but it was almost air time and I decided to forget about my shoes, which aren’t seen on camera anyway, my runny nose and scratchy throat, and all the other distractions I carried in my head.
If I was sick, I wasn’t going to be for the three hours I was on air. If I was nervous, I wasn’t going to be once the mics were hot and red light on cameras flashed on.
I reminded myself that in less than an hour, I would be among friends. Not just Tessitore and Leonard, Belmont and Cotel, the fighters and their corners, but the fans who were crazy enough about boxing to order Saturday’s card.
Those are the people I would be talking to, and I’ve basically been doing it through my writing for the past 10 years. That’s what I had in mind as I listened to Tessitore open the show and ask me what the main event means to Hopkins.
To be honest, I can’t recall exactly what I said in response to that question. It didn’t go as smoothly as the rehearsal takes we did twice before we went on air but I’ve done enough stand-up openers to know that I got my point across and didn’t eat up too much time.
Before I knew it, I was reading the first rules of the evening and going through the Tale of the Tape for the Sillakh-Judah fight, mostly by memory since the graphics didn’t pop up on screen immediately when I was cued up for it. Tessitore and Leonard took their seats as I read Tale of the Tape from the stand up position.
Once I joined them at ringside, everything felt very familiar. It was like we’d worked together before. Sillakh, a young man I’ve been high on for about a year now, exceeded expectations by stopping Judah in the second round.
I had to be in the ring and ready to interview Sillakh before the ring announcer declared him the winner. Audio assistants Paul Hoggat and Joe Thomas quickly re-attached my IFB ear plug from the show opener and escorted me through the ropes. Cotel staked out a spot near a neutral corner, positioned two cameras and a monitor in front of me, and quite literally corralled the fighter and his team to be interviewed.
Post-fight in-the-ring interview can be very disorienting as this one was. I can hear Tessitore’s call in my IFB, as well as the voice of the producer, who cues me up and tells me how long to conduct the interview. I’m also watching Cotel, who points to the camera that I’m to look in and to the monitor when it’s time for the fighter to comment on his handy work. All this goes on as I gather my thoughts for what I’m going to ask and try to listen to what the fighter has to say (which wasn’t easy with Sillakh, who doesn’t quite have a grip on English yet).
I can do all of that but I don’t do it smoothly. With practice, I know it will all flow more naturally, but for now that in-the-ring time is not my favorite part of a live broadcast.
Commentary during the fights does come naturally and I enjoyed looking to find my spots between Tessitore’s call and Leonard’s observations. Tessitore did a great job of teeing us both up with different questions. Leonard and I just went with the flow during the replays between rounds.
We enjoyed the Mora-Green fight and said so. For stretches during that fight and the Litzau-Juarez bout, it felt like I was at home or at a friend’s house, watching the fights from a sofa, and just saying whatever came to mind.
Who could have predicted that Mora’s fight would be the most entertaining of the night, or that “The Latin Snake” would score a stoppage? Who would have thought that Litzau would box a controlled — and rather boring — fight, and beat Juarez on points (although it appears that Rocky was correct in claiming that the fight-ending cut was caused by one of his punches and not the accidental headbutt called by referee Jay Nady)?
That’s boxing. It always throws you curve balls. It’s one of the many things I love about the sport.
The post-fight interviews seemed to go more smoothly as the night went on, although Cotel gave me a bit of tongue lashing for directing where Juarez should stand on camera after she brought him over to me. Duly noted. I was sure to let her place the fighters after the main event.
I joined my broadcast partners for another on-camera stand-up immediately after Litzau-Juarez post-fight interviews. And once again, I’ll be honest, and admit that I don’t recall much of what was said during this time.
I remember Tessitore asked me something about Jones and his questionable chin but as I answered his question my mind was on how dry my mouth was and my IFB plug, which kept popping out of my damn ear and wasn’t transmitting sound at times. I also had to piss like a racehorse because of all the water I had consumed during the undercard bouts. Damn Las Vegas and its dry air, I thought.
By the time Jones and Hopkins walked to the ring, the night took on a surreal edge for me. I was as relaxed as a guy who really had to pee could be, but it was strange reading the tale of their tape. It was weird to hear my own voice describe what was happening — or what wasn’t happening — once the bell rung.
For most the 17 years since their first fight, it was HBO’s Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant calling the action to their fights and I almost expected to hear their voices during the fight, which was somehow worse than the uneventful 12 rounder that took place in 1993.
Then Jones and Hopkins were nervous prospects fighting for their first world title. Now they were stubborn old vets whose bodies were unable to back up the heated words of their pre-fight build up.
If anything good came out of the rematch, it’s that it let Hopkins and Jones know that it’s time to hang up their gloves. Jones seemed to acknowledge this fact during his post-fight interview. Hopkins, who claimed to still be woozy and “seeing spots” from the rabbit punches he took during the fight, wasn’t convinced it’s time to say goodbye.
He should reconsider. Like Jones, he can still be involved with the sport as a promoter, and I think he has a terrific future as a boxing commentator.
So does Leonard, even though he predates Lampley on HBO’s broadcasts. I’d love to see him make a comeback as a commentator, at least on a semi-regular basis.
If I’m lucky I’ll get to work with him and Tessitore again.