Earlier this evening, legendary boxing broadcaster Al Bernstein took the time out to chat with me about Floyd Mayweather’s May 4th fight against Robert Guerrero and some other boxing topics. Al will be announcing all six proposed Mayweather fights that will be featured on PPV Showtime, along with tons of exciting fights coming up this year. He has written a book about his experience serving as a boxing broadcaster. The book is called “30 years, 30 Undeniable Truths about Boxing, Sports and TV.” The audio version of his book will be released later this week. Both can be found at amazon.com or any book related sites.
Ok, so let’s start with the biggest story for Showtime, being that you are a Showtime broadcaster. HBO and Bob Arum vs Showtime and Golden Boy. How big was this for a network like Showtime, and how do you feel that it affects the fans?
Bernstein: Getting Floyd Mayweather was obviously a huge move. He’s the most marketable boxer in the sport of boxing today. Him and Pacquiao. His track record in PPV numbers speaks for itself. As far as the situation with the promoters, these things change all the time. One day it’s one thing and the next day it’s another thing. As a broadcaster I just want to call exciting fights, and right now we have a lot of those coming up. We have Canelo-Trout, Mayweather-Guerrero, Maidana-Lopez and so many more. I believe that will continue throughout the rest of the year. These things happen and change so we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Right now we are getting great fights and that’s what I’m the most excited about.
Absolutely, and speaking of Canelo-Trout. That’s an amazing fight to be covering with a lot of people not only going, 30,000 seats sold, but torn as to who they think is going to win. What do you think about this fight?
Bernstein: It’s a huge fight. The interesting thing about this was that Canelo was supposed to be fighting Paul Williams to make this big step up. Now it’s Austin Trout because of the Cotto fight and obviously the sad thing that happened with Paul. It’s huge because they are both good fighters that both hold a lot of questions still. There are questions about both men that will be answered. We don’t know if either one is just a good fighter or if they are capable of being a great fighter. For Trout, he looked very good against Cotto and controlled the fight, but is he that good? We don’t really know after one big fight. For Canelo, he’s exceptionally good at everything but he has some defense issues and there are a lot of questions that the general public have about what he can become in the sport. Is he going to be what everyone expects him to be? Is he really this great fighter? It’s a huge fight because of this. Which one of these guys is going to win and get to that next level, and which one is going to lose and take that step back? We have to wait and see.
Let’s get to May 4th. You’ll be calling your first Floyd Mayweather fight in awhile. I remember talking to you about his pro-debut and you couldn’t remember but you had actually called his pro-debut many years ago. How does it feel to be calling a fighter as huge as Floyd again? I know you have covered the Hagler’s, Leonard’s, Tyson’s, and Pacquiao. Is this six fight deal with Showtime, and getting to cover Floyd Mayweather one of the biggest events to happen to you as a broadcaster?
Bernstein: Yea, I did call his pro-debut and I didn’t realize. What can I say; the 80’s were good to me. I think it’s more intriguing now calling his fights, now that he’s older. He’s getting up there in age. You have to think that as the years go by he’s had some erosion on his body. His fights have been more competitive. He takes the risk of finding himself in jeopardy with each fight that passes. This will make his fights far more exciting and as a broadcaster it will be exciting to call his fights in what is expected to be his final years. So I’m looking forward to it. As far as being the biggest event to happen in my career well I don’t know. My first big fight I called was Hagler-Duran. I called a lot of fights in the 80’s and back then boxing was more mainstream that it is now. It was covered more and there were a lot of huge fights. However, with that said, Mayweather does compare to that. His fights are huge. So it’s comparable.
You’ve been really open lately about big media networks not covering boxing. I’ve seen some comments about ESPN not giving boxing any coverage and about the USA Today also not giving it a fair share. Why do you think that is? Is it boxing’s fault or is it the media’s fault for not giving it fair treatment?
Bernstein: Well, I think that the mainstream media coverage stopped covering boxing in the late 90’s and early years of 2000. I think boxing, the product, wasn’t what it should have been around then and that caused the rift between boxing and mainstream media. There wasn’t a lot of huge interesting fights that were being made. The last decade though has been excellent. Even the beginning of this year has been excellent. I mean we had some good upsets like Hopkins beating Cloud, Alvarado beating Rios in an exciting battle, and Rigondeaux defeating Donaire. Right now the product is good so why isn’t it getting its fair share? I don’t understand it. I’m not saying that boxing needs to be covered like the NBA, NFL, or MLB. I’m just saying that it should at least get some proportional coverage. To complete ignore the sport is annoying. A Showtime fight generates one million viewers. A HBO fight generates one million viewers. A PPV bout featuring Mayweather brings in 1.5 million PPV buys. So how come this isn’t being covered? There are fans that want to see this sport covered. ESPN will spend at least thirty seconds covering a basketball game between two teams that won’t make the playoffs, but won’t cover thirty seconds of an epic battle between Rios and Alvarado. They won’t cover Canelo-Trout which has sold over 30,000 tickets? I just don’t get it.
Bernstein: Well, you are right. Floyd is better in all aspects. He’s great defensively, and offensively. He’s very intelligent and moves better. Sometimes when you look at the matchup between two opponents or teams, we see all the checks on the left hand side. One team or person does everything better. But then there is that one check on the right hand side. And sometimes that one check wins it for them. Now, am I saying that’s going to happen? Not really. But there are some things about Guerrero that could win this for him. He can take a welterweight punch. He’s a good guy, very spiritual and delightful to be around. But he can rough you up too. He’s also willing to bend the rules here and there when he can to win a fight. He wants to win. One thing about Mayweather lately is that he’s been putting himself on the ropes a lot. And he’s not being forced there; he is purposely putting himself there. Guerrero can rough him up on the ropes, but it could smother his punches too. It’s all about whether Guerrero can impose his will on Floyd when they get on the ropes. Can he do it? I don’t know. But that will be the interesting part about the fight to watch.
If Guerrero doesn’t beat Floyd, in your opinion, who has the best shot to beat Floyd Mayweather? Who is the next PPV superstar in boxing?
Bernstein: Canelo obviously has the most marketability. He wanted the Mayweather fight but Mayweather wouldn’t sign to fight him in September yet and that’s how we got Canelo-Trout for April 20th. He’s the best coming up if he beats Trout, and continues to do what he does inside the ring. I don’t think that anyone coming up from 140, or anyone even in the 147 weightclass is going to beat Floyd. If he’s going to lose it’s going to be at 154. Cotto gave him a bit of a hard time, but even Cotto started at 140. He’s a small 154 pounder and he showed that in the Trout fight. Canelo or Trout would give Floyd problems. They are both bigger and pose different threats to him as far as styles, but very sincere dangerous threats. Whoever beats him it will be at 154, unless Floyd’s skills erode over the next few fights and someone at 147 can do it, but I don’t see it.
Thank you Al. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I look forward to see you broadcast all these fights.
Anytime. Thank you for having me.