Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |



Class of 2017: Barry Tompkins



If the 1980s made you a boxing fan, chances are good that Barry Tompkins’ voice is part of your memories of those glory years.

If the round robin between Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran, or the meteoric rise of Mike Tyson sucked you into the wild world of boxing, you remember these calls:

“And WE have a new era in boxing!” Tompkins declared after Tyson’s second-round demolition of Trevor Berbick in 1986.

“How do you like it? How DO you like it!?” Tompkins exclaimed after the final bell of Leonard’s upset of Hagler in 1987.

These moments and a four-decade body of work as a blow-by-blow commentator have earned Tompkins a place alongside former HBO broadcast partners Leonard and Larry Merchant in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Joining Tompkins in the Class of 2017 is current broadcast partner Steve Farhood.

“Barry is not just a boxing commentator, he’s a great broadcaster,” said Farhood, who has worked alongside Tompkins on Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” series since 2012. “He’s called almost every sport known to man. He’s seen everything. Nothing rattles him. Boxing throws curve balls, but a nuclear blast could go off and Barry wouldn’t miss a beat. He’s got a relaxed, conversational style that comes across to viewers but also makes him a pleasure to work with. His partners value how easygoing he is but he also brings energy to the broadcast. I’ve never heard Barry complain about being tired. I’ve never seen him yawn!”

Tompkins, a 76-year-old San Francisco native who got his start on local TV in 1968, credits his enthusiasm and longevity to a busy and diverse work schedule. Along with his ShoBox duties he calls Bay Area football and basketball – prep, collegiate and professional – for syndicated cable companies.

“I think doing other sports has kept me around for as long as I’ve been around,” Tompkins said. “I get stale if I stay in the same sport all the time.”

He has won acclaim for his football, basketball and tennis commentary, but Tompkins is known as a “boxing guy” thanks to his work on NBC during the 1970s, and on ESPN and FOX in the ’90s and 2000s. However, it’s his tenure at HBO from 1979 to ’88 that longtime fans remember.

“The ’80s was a very special time for me. I was new at editing THE RING, and unforgettable fights were taking place,” Farhood said. “Barry called Aaron Pryor-Alexis Arguello I. He was the voice of the great fights at that time and I associated him with only the biggest events.”

Tompkins downplays his role in those epic fights but admits that there was plenty of action during that decade.

“It’s probably more fascinating in retrospect, but it did seem like every week there was a fight worth talking about to people who didn’t follow boxing,” he said. “It only happens a couple of times a year these days, but it was almost every month in the ’80s.”

Still, Tompkins is happier now than he was during the glory years.

“I’m lucky,” he said. “The ShoBox family is the most fun group I’ve ever worked with.”

ShoBox color commentator Raul Marquez, who considers Tompkins a close friend and broadcast mentor, believes the best is yet to come.

“Barry doesn’t act his age,” said Marquez, who first met Tompkins while still an amateur boxer. “He’s not stuck in the past, he’s sharp and up on current things. He’s got a lot of years ahead of him.”