Lederman on Boxing
by Derek Callahan
Harold Lederman’s unofficial scorecard has guided fans through some classic battles. An HBO boxing staple for almost 20 years, Lederman has experience as a judge in New York and now gives his two cents and more during HB broadcasts. He’s seen some of the best fights veer, and doesn’t hold back on what he thinks of them all.
Boxinginsider.com: You only get to talk for thirty seconds or so every few rounds, do you have trouble keeping it in time?
Harold Lederman: Absolutely. I try to add as much as I can before a director says, ‘Harold shut up!’ (laughs) I started with Ross Greenberg, who is now the CEO of HBO Sports and he made it perfectly clear what he wanted. It was a little bit unnerving but you knew exactly what he wanted. But still you always try to work in an extra thought.
Boxinginsider.com: You’re one of the first of your kind, the unofficial scorer. Was it tough for you to pave out what that position is supposed to be?
Harold Lederman: Not really, when I started with HBO in 1986, the first fight I ever worked was Trevor Berbick and Pinklon Thomas for the WBC heavyweight title and it all started because on their previous broadcast I was sitting home watching the fight saying to myself, ‘boy what these announcers are saying is not what I’m watching,’ and that’s when I started to realize that the announcers didn’t know a heck of a lot about the rules. I suggested to Ross Greenburg who was their boxing producer at the time that they hire a judge to keep score for them at a fight. He said it’s not a bad idea. Two weeks later he asked me to work a fight and that’s where it started.
BoxingInsider.com: Almost 20 years scoring fights, what’s been the toughest one to score?
Harold Lederman: I never really had much problem scoring a fight, you call it the way you see it. The most important thing is concentration you really got to concentrate. To answer the question and not sit on the fence, the toughest fights to score is where you get two guys that are holders. What you have to score is whose landing a punch before they grab each other. If you’re working a fight with let’s say John Ruiz and…anyone and Ruiz goes jab, jab and grab, you better see whose landing the punches before it becomes a wrestling match.
Boxinginsider.com: So the holders are the toughest to score.
Harold Lederman: Another thing is when you get a guy like James Toney who lays on the ropes, sometimes you’re looking at a fighters back all night, that could kill ya. If you remember when they asked Jean Williams about the 5th round of Lewis/Holyfield I, the real controversial round and she said she was looking at Lennox Lewis’ back the entire round, you could understand what she was saying. When the guy’s laying on the ropes and he’s opposite you, it becomes impossible to see the punches.
Boxinginsider.com: So the easiest rounds to judge are when two bangers are in there and the damage is visible?
Harold Lederman: Sure, most any other situation you can deal with. If the referee happens to be in the way you just yell, ‘move or I’ll break your ankles!’ which I used to do with referees. Some refs will stop and watch the fight it drives you crazy.
Boxinginsider.com: Do you ever get caught up in the drama of a fight and then when the bell rings think, ‘ah no I missed it.’
Harold Lederman: There’s no question you get caught up in the drama but I always concentrate on whose winning and whose losing that’s for sure. That’s one thing you can’t do in boxing is lose your concentration, watch your mind wander.
Boxinginsider.com: You’ve been ringside for so many fights, what was the best ever?
Harold Lederman: The best fight I ever saw without question, I was very fortunate to be a judge in the fight, between the then current WBC 122 pound champion Wilfredo Gomez, and the reigning WBC 118 pound champion Lupe Pintor. It was absolutely beyond belief. It was the semifinal to Wilfred Benitez and Tommy Hearns and to be frank, after Gomez/Pintor everybody was drained, nobody could even watch Hearns and Benitez. It took everything out of you. I’m virtually positive I had Gomez ahead at the time of the knockout. What happened was nobody knocked each other down. In the 14th round after going back and forth and back and forth Lupe Pintor fell down and Arthur Mercante Sr. counted him out. Interestingly enough Gomez walked out of the ring that night his faced looked like hamburger, Pintor walked out he didn’t have a scratch on him. Any of the great fights you’ve ever seen, Gomez and Pintor was just better.
Boxinginsider.com: The HBO broadcast team has been pretty renowned for years, any funny, odd, what-have-you, incidents stick out in your mind?
Harold Lederman: One night we did a fight outdoors at Wembley Stadium, and at that time it was Frank Bruno who was absolutely the hottest thing in England and ‘Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon who was absolutely out of shape. For that broadcast the announce team was Larry Merchant, Barry Tompkins, myself and Sugar Ray Leonard. That was the night when Larry learned the meaning of the word spitbucket. They had a funnel that was attached to a long rubber tube and at the end of the round a fighter would sit down, rinse his mouth and spit the water into a funnel. The water would go down that long tube into a bucket. We wound up crammed into the corner, we had absolutely no room to move anywhere it was so tight. They took the funnel that was in the corner and tied it to the ropes so it wouldn’t move. The fighter would spit all that blood, spit, DNA, mucous, saliva and anything else he had in his mouth into the funnel. What happened was, he was missing the funnel and everything was hitting Larry. By the end of the first 4-rounder you could see the smoke coming out of his nose he was so annoyed. It was hitting us all night it was awful.
Boxinginsider.com: Fernando Vargas is back, how do you see his fight with Ray Joval working out?
Harold Lederman: It shouldn’t be very competitive if Fernando is 100 percent but nobody knows what Fernando’ got left after this back injury. That’s a tough thing to recover from. Ray Joval has a decent record, I don’t think he can punch with Vargas at 160. But we’ll see.