Harold Lederman Will Be Sorely Missed. Here’s Why.
Biographer James R Mellow once claimed the most important part of writing is a writer’s style. Some may argue that’s not entirely true, though the man had a point. The same could be said for the art of commentating – perhaps especially for the art of boxing commentating. Although boxing broadcasts aren’t over the top affairs like the WWE and – to a lesser degree – the UFC deliver, no one wants them to sound like golf broadcasts, either. Harold Lederman, who died this past weekend at the age of 79 after a fight with cancer, excelled at his delivery as a commentator for HBO for three decades. He will be sorely missed.
Lederman, who was a pharmacist and boxing judge, acted as the “unofficial judge” of HBOs fight programming. When it came time in a given bout for the man to weigh in, he did so with raspy voiced enthusiasm that was absolutely contagious. Starting off with his famous: “Okay, Jim…” Lederman would follow Jim Lampley’s intro by explaining how and why he was scoring the fight as he was. Fans might not always have agreed with the man, but it was obvious to anyone that Lederman was passionate and knowledgeable about the fight game.
One of the most frustrating things about boxing commentators is that sometimes they simply aren’t very good. They may be knowledgeable, even experienced in the fight game, but ring skill and mic skill are two entirely different things. Lederman, besides being a top notch official (and unofficial) judge, excelled at mic skill. His fast, upbeat, confident delivery let viewers know they were in good hands even during the most uneven of broadcasts. Lederman was steady. More than simply a good employee of HBO, he was an enthusiastic one who brought consistency to his profession. He may have mis-scored rounds, but he never let down his audience.
A New Yorker through and through, Lederman was born in the Bronx, attended Columbia University, and began judging fights in the late 1960s. At the same time, he was also a pharmacist by trade, balancing his two divergent lines of work while making a name for himself as a high level boxing official. Lederman won numerous awards, and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. Julie Lederman, one of his two daughters, is a noted ring judge in her own right. Lederman will be remembered most of all for the energy he brought to his position on the HBO team. It was an energy that was contagious. Even fights that were less than thrilling became matters of interest once Lederman weighed in on them from behind the mic.
More than anything else, the cheerful Lederman made it clear that boxing was consequential, that it was a sport worth getting excited about. He’s left quite the legacy.
On the passing of Hall of Famer Harold Lederman…
“Harold Lederman had a lifelong love affair with the sport of boxing. Over the past fifty years he was universally respected and celebrated by the many people who make the sport what it is. Harold was happiest when seated ringside, studying the action and scoring the fight. When he joined HBO Sports in 1986 he added a new and critical component to live boxing coverage. Viewers embraced his unique style and his command of the rules while his broadcast colleagues relished his enthusiasm and boundless energy. He was an historian and walking rulebook. He always had time for you whether you were a heavyweight champion or just a spectator looking to say hello. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Eileen and daughters Julie and Iris. There isn’t a person in the sport who won’t miss our Harold Lederman.”
Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports