|Jimmy Lennon Jr Interview: On Mayweather, Pacquiao vs Cotto, Tyson, Holyfield and so Much More!
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 28, 2009)
Jimmy Lennon Jr. is the regular Showtime Boxing Ring Announcer. Both he and his late Father, Jimmy Lennon Sr., are members of Boxing’s Hall of Fame. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Showtime!
David Tyler Jimmy, I was a big fan of your Father’s work with boxing here in Los Angeles where he was the main announcer for boxing and wrestling events at the Olympic Auditorium. Is that why and how you got started in the business?
Jimmy Lennon Jr. Yeah I grew up watching boxing whether it was on TV or going to the Olympic Auditorium. I thought it was a normal thing to see your Dad on TV so sometimes we would switch the channels. I was a boxing and wrestling fan as we went to the Olympic Auditorium regularly as a young boy.
DT When you got started in this business did Showtime have a presence in our sport?
JL When I started there was a Showtime but it really hadn’t got into boxing. So the first fights I did with my Dad at the Auditorium. He would open up the show and I did some of the undercard and he did the main event. So that was how I got my chops and got a lot of experience by doing a lot of amateur boxing off TV. I had already done many, many, fights before I started in TV work. I did a lot of fights at the Great Western Forum at that time the fights were on Fox Sports Net so that’s where I first started doing TV work. After that I got opportunities to do some fights on HBO, Showtime, and Saturday or Sunday fights. So, it just kind of grew from there.
DT Ladies and Gentlemen, “It’s Showtime”. Where and how did you come up with that moniker?
JL The first time I did it was at a Julio Caesar Chavez fight in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel. After that a few of us from Showtime got together and decided that it seemed clever to add that word Showtime since we were doing Showtime fights. I continued to do it more and more as I also did fights for other networks. I do it primarily for Showtime boxing here and overseas, but I have got to be careful not to do it while I’m on HBO.
DT What’s the process of deciding who will be the ring announcer for a fight?
JL Typically the promoter hires the ring announcer for the event. Some promoters have their preferences or their regulars. My situation is a little unique in the fact that Showtime hires me so I’m under the guidance of Showtime no matter who the promoter, Showtime is the one that takes care of me. Other times for some of the fights there are regulars and sometimes we trade off, Michael Buffer is sometimes on Showtime and sometimes I am on HBO. On October 17th, we have the World Super Middleweight Super Six tournament where on the same day one fight is in Berlin and the other in Nottingham, England which will require us both. I will do the fight in England.
DT It’s tough to be in two places at the same time.
JL Believe me I tried. The fight in Berlin takes place a few hours prior to the one in Nottingham, England. There is a private plane that could go from Berlin straight over to England after the fight. I was going to jump on that and do both fights but it was cutting things a little too close for comfort.
DT So you get the fight with Carl Froch and Andre Dirrell and Michael Buffer gets the fight with King Arthur Abraham……
JL and Jermain Taylor. What a night that will be for boxing. I think the fans in the United States will get to see a little of the wild enthusiasm or great enthusiasm for their local fighter and their support for boxing overall that the fans have in Europe. Just knowing the importance of this tournament I think it will be a big night for boxing fans on October 17th.
DT I personally think this will be a great tournament and on paper we have some epic match-ups.
JL Yeah on paper it looks like you can’t miss because of the great fighters and the brilliant thing is win or lose we will get to see them fight again. Andre Dirrell might upset Carl Froch because of his speed but then we are going to see Carl Froch fight again and Andre Dirrell fight again, win or lose and that’s what’s brilliant about it and makes so many in the sport excited about this tournament. It’s a ground breaking tournament and I hope it transcends into the general boxing fans as well because this is what could really bring out interest in all boxing fans.
DT This tournament will last about 18 months and hopefully it will gather more and more interest as it moves along.
JL Yes, it reminds me of a period of time when we had the fortune to see the great fighters fight each other when you saw Haggler, Hearns, Duran, and Sugar Ray Leonard and you can mix in some other great fighters, Pipino Cuevas. They would fight each other and you would see them more than once and they became virtually household names and I think we have the chance to do that with this tournament. These fighters deserve the exposure. Let me tell you something else, behind the scenes, I have heard only extremely positive things about all six of these fighters. They have been incredibly corporative with the production, and the promotion and being available. That’s a big task for these great, great, world champions. They’ve been nothing but corporative and that says a lot for their commitment to this event.
DT I personally have interviewed Andre Dirrell. I just wish that King Arthur Abraham could speak English.
JL You and I share something in common and that’s a great fondness for Arthur Abraham. The way he fights is so entertaining. He can take a punch and deliver a punch as well. He is very colorful when he comes into the ring and I think we will see him learn a little more English and that’s going to be icing on the cake for him.
DT Jimmy, you were the ring announcer during the second Mike Tyson/ Evander Holyfield fight that made history for all the wrong reasons.
JL I was in the ring for that and I had the opportunity to do that fight. In fact I did many of Mike Tyson’s fights when he was with Don King. That certainly was one memorable night. No so much great memories. There was a drama that unfolded there and an unbelievable turn of events. It’s one for the record books.
DT You were in the ring when all hell broke loose at the end of the fight. At any time were you in danger?
JL No, I’ve been in plenty of riots, especially in LA at the Olympic Auditorium as we first started talking about, I have seen people fist fighting with police and tear gas being sprayed everywhere, total chaos all around so I’ve been part of those wild days in boxing. There were so many police in the ring and there was just one man who was going off. Security was completely in control of the situation. It probably looked worse on TV. It was chaotic in that a lot of us didn’t know what happened because we weren’t watching TV and didn’t have the luxury of seeing instant replay and when the fight was stopped the live audience didn’t know why for a long time. I couldn’t make the announcement for a while because they were interviewing Tyson and Holyfield so the live audience didn’t know why the fight was stopped. They didn’t know and I had people screaming and yelling asking why was the fight stopping? They simply didn’t know that Tyson had bit him a second time. It was 10 minutes later when I finally got to make the announcement. So there was a lot of chaos and confusion that night and that’s especially what I remember about that fight.
DT Being the fourth man in the ring, you’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of good referees. Who are some of the best?
JL Well, you go through the years and we were speaking of Holyfield and Tyson and Miles Lane was the third man there so he was of course a great referee. You know referees in Las Vegas were really great referees, Joe Cortez, Larry Cole, Richard Steele, Mitch Halpern; all those guys were good referees. I think that Raul Caiz Jr. who is from California is a really great referee. Some people might question this list of good referees, but they are all caught up in controversy because they are doing the big fights which get lots of exposure. It’s a very difficult job and when I watch different sports, baseball and football, I’m so impressed with how well officials do their jobs with instant replay it only helps.
Referees in this sport and of course any sport will make mistakes. They work very hard and I know personally how many seminars they are required to attend and workshops that are designed to tone their skills.
DT How about New York referees?
JL Arthur Mercante Jr. first comes to mind. A great referee coming from a lineage of great referees. What I like about him and his Father is that they kept themselves in such good physical condition, their very decisive, they make good judgments. What I like about Mercante Jr. is that if you’re a fan watching at home you don’t wonder if he made a mistake because he is so emphatic about his decisions that he must be right. I very much like his work and he has been consistent through the years.
DT Your thoughts about the Mayweather/ Marquez fight last Saturday?
JL - Well, in retrospect it’s easy for us to say that Mayweather fought an opponent that’s two weight classes below him, he was faster, more brilliant a boxer. Some critics say that Mayweather should have knocked out Marquez, Freddie Roach being one of them, but I think going into the fight there was a lot of questions, Mayweather was off for a long period of time and Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the great fighters in the sport, but Marquez just didn’t have much of a chance, especially with not only the natural weight but just moving up in weight overall. I’m not sure that this was a good test for us to determine just how good Mayweather really is, especially against fighters who are bigger than him. It was a good comeback for Mayweather and for boxing when you study the buys for this fight, over one million buys, that’s very serious and one of the few non-heavyweight fights to sell a million.
DT Let’s go down the road, in November, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao.
JL I got to say that if Manny Pacquiao beats Miguel Cotto, especially in a spectacular manner, he has got to go down as one of the all time greatest boxers. Because he is taking on a huge task. In my mind he can’t miss because just moving up in weight and taking on a great champion is amazing. In truth I’m having a tough time with this fight, I think of upsets in the last two years in boxing and it makes me question my ability to understand the sport. This is one and I think Cotto has such a size advantage but I don’t put anything past Pacquiao so I’m having a tough time picking a winner.
DT How would Pacquiao or Cotto fare against Mayweather?
JL David I’m not sure. Cotto is certainly not too small, he is a big fighter. I think Mayweather’s speed and let’s not forget he is a tremendous defensive fighter, so it would be a good fight and the question would be if Cotto could get past Mayweather’s superb defense. With Pacquiao I think that’s a great fight. I think though again that Mayweather’s speed is his primary weapon and it will end at some point. Sometime during the fight he will slow down which will be enough to make him very beatable. So I would say that it would depend if his speed holds up in a fight with Pacquiao. Certainly this is a very close fight. But with Mayweather it’s been a very long time since we have seen a close fight with him and actually seen him lose some rounds.
DT Jimmy, what is your feeling about the overall health of boxing?
JL Well, I’m encouraged in many ways. There are people talking about the death of boxing and so forth, boxing has gone through its ups and downs a lot during the years. I am encouraged, I see these large numbers for the pay for view buyers, not only for the Mayweather/ Marquez fight but in the last couple of years we have seen a peak in the overall number of buys. What I see boxing doing is the networks getting together and making great fights. They really are doing a better job. They not protecting records, they are not protecting their golden goose. They are putting top fighters on such as the super six challenge in the Super Middleweight division, everybody’s excited about that because we have a number of great fighters in the tournament and they will all be fighting each other. So boxing is responding to the competition that Mixed Martial Arts is bringing and I think that’s a very good thing. I see boxing doing quite well south of the border, I go to Mexico regularly and other parts of South America the sport is doing quite well. I am concern about the lack of young fighters in America and very concerned about the coverage of boxing on TV, by that I mean the coverage of free networks where more could view the sport. I am also displeased about the lack of coverage in the Olympic Games and the judging in the amateurs has me concerned and that’s where we need to see the sport develop a following. Fans looking at the amateur boxing and the great Olympians. So I certainly have some concerns but I do like the way promoters are responding. I hope for the best with boxing and I hope it will continue on this positive track.
DT Jimmy thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and opinions about our sport. Good luck with your future work on Showtime Boxing and we all look forward to seeing you often during the Super Middleweight tournament.
JL - David, it’s been my pleasure, let’s do it again sometime soon.
***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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