Showtime is setting the standard for boxing commentary
By Kirk Jackson
2013 was definitely a big year for the Showtime network. Acquiring the exclusive services of Floyd Mayweather and Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime established itself as the premier network for broadcasting live boxing events and as a result more viewers have been exposed to their superb commentary team.
This is a team full of experts, displaying a higher level of accountability and professionalism over the past decade or so compared to the HBO commentary team. The only problem for Showtime was the lack of big stars and blockbuster fights under their network. Which is obviously is no longer a problem.
Listening to commentary from the Showtime team, is like listening to the sound of music on a wonderful day during the spring season. Especially with the huge mega fights, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a break from the consistently biased commentary from the HBO team, viewers have been subjected to over the last several years.
HBO’s Jim Lampley is as an inaccurate play-by-play man you will ever hear; often mistaking hooks for uppercuts or even lead punches for jabs.
He will come out with strange phrases and somehow find a way to insert himself into the storyline just to get attention. Saying things like “BANG! BANG!” or “Take that Islam!” during a fight in which Marco Antonio Barrera was pummeling Naseem Hamed, who happens to practice that faith.
Or suggesting that African American fighter James Kirkland should increase his punch output and get “Ghetto” on his opponent during one of his fights is not the gold standard of professionalism.
Often times the HBO team tries to manipulate viewers into thinking a certain way. Before, during and after the fight featuring Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux, the team consisting of Max Kellerman, Roy Jones and Lampley tried to make excuses for Donaire’s poor performance. Makes sense because Donaire is a talented fighter the network had spent time trying to market as the next big megastar.
They prematurely try to build stars and try to manipulate the viewer into believing in these network created stars. Gennady Golovkin, Adrien Broner, Brandon Rios, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Nonito Donaire are good fighters, but don’t push them down our throats and put over-emphasize their skills and talents to make them appear as better what they are. That’s the promoter’s job, not the network.
Sometimes it flat out sounds like they do not know what they are talking about. Like earlier in the year, when WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson defended his title against Tavoris Cloud. The team kept referring to Cloud as a boxer throughout the fight, when he’s actually known as a pressure styled fighter, more so of a brawler than a boxer. Then after the fight, they refer back to Cloud as the brawler/pressure fighter.
The one bright spot on the team was Max Kellerman. Brought in to be the replacement of long-time commentator Larry Merchant, Kellerman offered a refreshing opinion on matters, possessing a boxing-purist perspective and not being dismissive of tactical ring-fare, unlike his predecessors.
But it his attitude/persona has changed since his introduction to the team. He now expresses some of the ideologies Merchant once did. Instead of being his original self, he has conformed to what the network wants; which is a younger Larry Merchant.
There so many inconsistencies with the team, like ring side judge Harold Letterman’s scorecards, it also seems like the team lacks chemistry.
The Showtime team on the other hand is different. Steve Farhood and Al Berstein are experts on the sport and always display a high level of professionalism throughout the broadcast, leaving out any biases during their programming.
Listening to them discuss and analyze boxing, you can tell they genuinely love the sport. The addition of boxer Paulie Malignaggi as an analyst is a huge addition to the team because not only is he knowledgeable, he knows how to clearly articulate his thoughts so the common fan can actually understand what they’re watching and he gives viewers great insight as to what the fighters are thinking and or what they can do for strategic adjustments.
Another feature that sets Showtime apart from HBO is their post fight wrap up. They have an open forum of discussion at the end of the event, featuring the entire crew which would include Brian Kenny, Steve Farhood, Paulie Malignaggi, Al Berstein and Mauro Ranallo. It’s basically an overview with reaction to the fight we all jut witnessed, along with perspective of the impact of the fight and the future plans for each fighter involved.
No shameless self plug ins for a television show (Jim Lampley’s show “The Fight Game”). It’s just straight business. No biases, there is insightful commentary, it’s how it should be.