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Will Boxing Announcers Hold Back?

A singular motivating force led HBO and Showtime to join forces this Saturday night in producing the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao rumble — greed.

The payday, the moo-la-dee, is what forced the suits (holding their noses no doubt) to mix and match voices from different sides of the aisle for this Pay-Per-View telecast. Their public proclamations promising a smooth fight night operation, and that all the announcers will remain neutral, are, at best, totally disingenuous.

Then again, these executives are involved in a sport where lying is simply a reflex action — kind of like breathing.

Each network has plenty at stake. The fighter who loses leaves Las Vegas as damaged goods to his network. The broadcasters working the fight know this. None of them enters the arena as a neutral commentator. At least one is honest enough to admit it.

“You can never completely erase that business relationship (between a fighter and your network), and what it means, from your mind,” Jim Lampley, the HBO voice who will call the fight, said over the telephone. “I know what our business relationship is in every fight we do. It seeps into your mind during a fight. It will Saturday night, too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t call the fight fairly.”

The gold-plated tracks Mayweather traveled from HBO to Showtime in 2012, when he left to sign a six-fight, $200 million deal with the CBS-owned company, are covered with bad blood.

Before leaving HBO, Mayweather tried to force a clause into his contract that would have prohibited Lampley and then-analyst Larry Merchant, from talking about any aspect of the fighter’s life outside the ring, including his history of domestic violence.

Merchant and Mayweather also verbally went at each other in a post-fight interview after the fighter’s controversial KO win over Victor Ortiz in 2011. Mayweather called for Merchant to be fired, adding, “You don’t know s— about boxing.” Merchant: “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass.”

No voice from Showtime would ever speak to Mayweather in such a harsh manner. Mayweather is not just Showtime’s biggest star. He also has an “executive producer” credit on all “specials” involving him and final say over all scripts. The network’s boxing voices mostly verbally genuflect to him. Al Bernstein, Showtime’s analyst, will join HBO analyst Roy Jones Jr. and Lampley for Saturday’s PPV telecast. Max Kellerman (HBO) and Jim Gray (Showtime) are ringside reporters. Steve Farhood (Showtime) and Harold Lederman (HBO) will be the unofficial scorers.

“There’s a delicate tension that goes with this production,” Lampley said. “Everyone knows these are two networks with conflicting business interests.”

Depending on whom we spoke with, either Lampley calling the fight was not an issue, or it was a huge one that was debated. On his show, “The Fight Game,” Lampley has consistently ripped Mayweather, once saying “for the betterment of boxing’s image, Floyd Mayweather’s retirement cannot come a moment too soon.”

Lampley said he won’t be dealing with Mayweather’s troubled past during the fight. “I don’t have to think about it,” Lampley said. “That’s for the host’s (James Brown) operation.” Through his career, Brown has not ducked issues.

But with Mayweather being such a controlling force at Showtime, will Brown dare to bring up Mayweather’s history of domestic violence during his segments? Considering his strong commentaries on cases of domestic violence in the NFL, Brown must know Mayweather once said that the NFL was overreacting to a videotape when it suspended Ray Rice.

Once the bell rings, the action inside the ring will dictate the voices’ commentary — or will it? Other than scoring figure skating, nothing is more subjective than analyzing, or scoring, a prize fight. This is when the relationship between boxing commentators can get contentious, especially if a fight such as Mayweather-Pacquiao is close.

Credit to the NY Daily News who originally published this article

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