TV SportsThe man viewers never see plays a big role in TV boxing
By Michael Hiestand, USA Today
- Dec. 7, 2012(Photo: Will Hart, HBO)
TV networks carrying boxing cannot show running scores, because there aren't any.
At least not any available publicly. And that's given Harold Lederman
a TV sports job for 27 years. On HBO's $60 pay-per-view Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET)
, he'll work again as a sort of human scoreboard.
Not that you'll see him as he scores the fight, but you'll hear him explain who he thinks is ahead and why -- or sometimes appear in graphics.
As he sits ringside alongside HBO's Roy Jones Jr., Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant, he intentionally won't wear headphones. He does not want to hear what they're saying.
"I judge the fight exactly the way the judges see it," says Lederman, 72. "Let me tell you the truth, the headphones magnify the blows and makes it sound like the roof is caving in."
As for hearing the announcers, Lederman says their points would only be a distraction. "I don't want to listen to them. I don't want to hear anything about, say, Pacquiao's family. My job is only to explain to the public how the fight should be scored. I worked that out a long time ago."
Not that it was the focus of his career. Starting in 1961, he began 50 years of deciphering scrawled prescriptions as a pharmacist in New York until he retired last year while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
A lifelong boxing fan, who began judging pro boxing in 1967, Lederman traveled to every continent except Antarctica to score what he saw, even as he kept "getting fired from my normal jobs because I wasn't around."
HBO hasn't never felt the need to show him on-air, except for one appearance last year for the sake of novelty. (HBO spokesman Ray Stallone suggests viewers shouldn't hold their breath for another: "He gets one on-camera appearance per century.")
But Lederman's voice became well-known enough that customers picking up prescriptions occasionally recognized it and wanted to talk boxing. "I'd take the time to talk as long as it didn't jeopardize my job," he says.
Something he saw while at home watching a fight on HBO in 1986 led to TV. "I thought that what I was looking at and what the commentators were saying weren't the same thing. So I called HBO and said I thought they should hire a boxing judge."
He did not expect to hear back. But weeks later Ross Greenburg, then with HBO Sports, gave him a tryout on a Trevor Berbick-Pinklon Thomas heavyweight title fight. Berbick was the heavy favorite, Lederman says, but he told his wife he was worried that "Pinklon is going to belt this guy out in the first round and my TV career will be over."
Turns out Berbick won in a decision. (Although he lost his first title defense -- to Mike Tyson.) "Berbick won because it was the only time Eddie Futch trained him. I told Eddie I owed my TV career to him," Lederman says.
Lederman quit judging in 2001 to avoid any perceived conflict-of-interest in the boxing world, where TV networks help organize the sport as well as cover it. "And my daughter Julie took over for me, working fights for the WBC and New York athletic commission. I'm very, very proud of her."
Fine. Some parents might worry about about their kids getting into a field where everybody is supposed to be authoritative but often end up looking inconsistent. And, sometimes, that includes Lederman. In June, he said Pacquiao won all but one round in a fight against Timothy Bradley -- but two of three judges gave it to Bradley.
The one judge who went with Pacquaio suggested that Lederman can add to judging controversies: "People watch television and they hear Harold (Lederman) ... and that's the way they see it."
Says Lederman: "I'm just trying to give the public my educated opinion based on 35 years of judging pro boxing."
Here's another one of his opinions: Having lost two decisions and gotten a draw in three fights in Nevada against Pacquiao, Marquez just might have a shot at a decision Saturday -- because those boxers will meet for the first time with judges from outside Nevada.
"Marquez has had nine different Nevada judges for three fights that all ended in controversy," says Lederman, who says judges can make $5,000 each to work mega-fights such as the ones involving Pacquiao. "Maybe Nevada just wants their guys to make the money. I've screamed they have to use judges that don't come from Nevada."
That'll happen Saturday, as a judge from New Jersey and from England will join a Nevadan on the scoring.
Why would Nevada judges favor Pacquiao? "We don't know," Lederman says. "We just know what happened."
But he has a theory. "Maybe it's because Pacquiao is more aggressive. Effective aggressiveness is just supposed to be 25% of scoring. But that's the textbook version. The true story is that 99% is for clean punching."Career tips:
John Kruk says being named as a game analyst this week on ESPN's marquee Sunday night MLB games wasn't part of any master plan.
"I never dreamt this would happen," he says. "I thought when I retired I'd never be seen again."
But, after retiring after 10 MLB seasons in 1995, he tried Fox Sports Net's now-defunct Best Damn Sports Show -- "it was free and loose" -- and did some local Philadelphia Phillies TV games until he joined ESPN in 2004.
He says he told ESPN he "didn't want to travel, didn't want to go back into stadiums" because he was done with all that. But after working occasional games in recent years, he felt "some excitement in being back."
Kruk replaces Terry Francona, who left to manage Cleveland, who'd replaced Bobby Valentine, who'd left to manage Boston -- and has since been fired. But, Kruk says, at least ESPN won't have to worry about losing him to managing: "There's no way in the world I'd ever manage anything. And if I ever coached anything, it'd be women's softball."Back on-air:
ESPN's Sean McDonough, after last week having successful surgery for what he had described to USA TODAY Sports Media as a "hole in my head," will return on-air with assignments including the Valero Alamo Bowl with Texas-Oregon State on Dec. 29 and the Allstate Sugar Bowl with Louisville-Florida on Jan. 2.http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/hiestand-tv/2012/12/06/manny-pacquiao-boxing-hbo-harold-lederman/1751537/Edited by dad1153 - 12/7/12 at 2:29pm