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In an attempt to surround Mayweather’s career from a myriad of expert angles, CBS Local Sports chatted with Jimmy Lennon Jr – the Hall-of-Fame ring announcer whose signature voice and trademark calls have been boxing staples for decades (including his tenure with Showtime, dating back to 1991). No one wrapped in a tuxedo has so blessed the ring with an amalgam of grace and and gravitas. Simply, it’s not a big fight unless Lennon is the vocal red carpet to the main event.
Fittingly, Lennon will stand in the center of the squared circle on September 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when Floyd Mayweather Jr defends his title for the final time on Showtime, against Andre Berto, ready to match Marciano’s iconic, 49-0 record.
Jason Keidel: How many Floyd Mayweather fights have you worked?
Jimmy Lennon Jr.: Not that many. The first one was Sharmba mitchell in 2005. Then the fights Floyd did with Showtime. I worked all of his fights since he signed with them. Berto will be my 7th Mayweather fight.
The first live fought I saw of his was against Angel Manfredy, back in 1998.
JK: Is there something different about a Floyd Mayweather fight?
Lennon Jr.: Well, there are a handful of fighters that bring that level of excitement and energy to an arena. You can charge exorbitant prices and the celebrities attend. Like with Mike Tyson, May weather’s opponent doesn’t matter so much. It’s going to sell out, it’s about more than boxing.
I notice a difference with Floyd. As much as anyone, if not more, today, it’s kind of like the place to be when he’s fighting, the who’s who of sports and politics and entertainment, and amazing array of people in attendance.
JK: Is 49-0 still important?
Lennon Jr.: It mattered more with Larry Holmes because he was a heavyweight, like Marciano. But it still means a lot. No one has come close for such a long time, I think it is significant, still means much. When you look at Mayweather, some folks can pad their record to get to 49 wins. But Mayweather doesn’t do that. There’s no asterisk needed next to his record.
He’s fought at least 7 current or future hall of famers. He’s fought 15 straight current or former world champions. This is his 26th world championship fight. and has fought 21 current or former champions.
Why fight Andre Berto?
Lennon Jr.: I heard his name for a while, and I wasn’t that surprised. Berto is never in a dull fight. He could potentially give Floyd trouble, though few have over his career. We thought Amir Khan was in the running, but that fell through.
I think we’ll see more offense in this fight, because of Berto’s style. We may even see a knockout.
Floyd has been fighting more explosive, more dangerous fighters, like Berto, Cotto, Manny and Canelo. I don’t know if it’s a conscious pattern. but Floyd is Floyd. we scratch our heads, but he’s fought so many champions, he’s earned the right to pick whom he pleases.
If he underestimates Berto, he could be in trouble. Berto has skills and power.
JK: What does Berto have to do to win the bout?
Lennon Jr.: I tell you, I think he’ll need to catch Mayweather making a mistake. Berto will have to be patient, and hope Floyd slips up. He’s not as quick as Floyd, he won’t out-jab him. Look at the fighters who had some success and they have charged Floyd and smothered him. It’s a tall order, but that’s what has to be done. For Floyd, he just has to not get old in one night.
JK: Do you think floyd will step away after this fight?
Lennon Jr.: Most fighters don’t. Floyd is different, unique in many ways. Look at the percentage of fighters who can’t call it quits. Look how close he is to the record, and it’s hard to believe he quits. I think he will be lured back into the ring.
When he fought Manny Pacquiao, I saw an earnest comment that he was tired of training, and it seemed very sincere. He’s such a quick and fast fighter, but when fighters rely on speed and lose a fraction of it, their careers go down quickly and they are never the same.
JK: How big a hole is Mayweather leaving?
Lennon Jr.: It will be a hole, for sure. But I think that’s a hole that promoters and managers will help to fill, and it could help boxing. When Floyd talks about giving up belts, it’s a good thing, gets more fighters involved. The biggest hole will be the big, PPV events. no one could make that happen like Floyd.
But we’ve had this discussion many times over the last few decades. Holyfield and Tyson and Chavez and Leonard. Yet the sport always finds someone.
JK: Who will assume the throne?
Lennon Jr.: We have Gennady Golovkin, and then Canelo vs Cotto. We’re seeing tougher fights between great fighters, which is what creates the star power. Klitschko draws huge, though more in Europe.READ MORE: Chicago Night Clubs Gear Up For Looser COVID-19 Restrictions As State Prepares To Enter Bridge Phase
Deontay Wilder is a potential star. He’s got personality. He’s a young man. Not much wear and tear on him. He works hard, and is always in shape. Lots of potential for him. And he’s an american, which helps.
JK: Do we need an american to assume the throne?
Lennon Jr.: I don’t know if we need one but it’s a dream scenario. So many American athletes are being lured away to other sports. It’s not necessary but it would help.
JK: What do you make of Floyd’s top 5 list?
Lennon Jr.: Floyd is very hard to predict. He’s very smart and a shrewd businessman. It’s hard to say what’s on his mind. I’d put Ray Robinson in the top five, if not number one. There’s no old timers in his list. No Archie Moore or Henry Armstrong or Joe Louis. Maybe he kept it contemporary.
JK: It it fair to compare eras?
Lennon Jr.: It is one of the most interesting and common questions that we boxing fans banter about. It’s fun. But impossible to do. It would be fun to consider Floyd vs Alexis Arguello or Roberto Duran or Ray Leonard. Or against Aaron Pryor and Thomas Hearns and Julio Cesar Chavez.
JK: Does he benefit from a weaker epoch?
Lennon Jr.: Floyd would have flourished in any era. You could argue that fighters are better athletes today than they ever were. They train around the clock, around the calendar. Better equipment, training, and nutrition.
The pool that boxing is drawing from certainly has greater competition. Boxing competes with other, team sports now. but as a whole, a boxer today is a better athlete.
JK: Can you recall a boxer being this good this late into their career?
Lennon Jr.: It’s just tremendous how he really makes fighters look bad. He made Canelo look bad. He made Manny look bad. Manny is a surefire Hall of Famer, the second-best fighter in the world, and he schooled Pacquiao. The takeaway over the last few years has been the opponent isn’t that good, but that’s not it. Floyd just is so good he makes them look bad.
Even the great Ali had to rely on his chin, his rope a dope, his defense, his stamina. he didn’t have the same offensive skills. Floyd still has them, for the most part. And he can take a punch. he’s gone against some potent fighters and proved it. He’s not a prima donna. He takes head-butts, low blows, and doesn’t whine about it.
JK: Do you get to enjoy the fights you work, especially a Mayweather fight? or are you too buried in your work?
Lennon Jr.: I absolutely enjoy it. Even the preliminary fights. But i’m thinking to the main event. By the time the bell rings on a Mayweather fight, I’m totally relaxed and just watching as a fan.
I didn’t do most of his early fights. but since he signed with showtime, I’m seeing an athlete and artist in action. People say his fight with Pacquiao wasn’t interesting, but it was to me. Pacquiao kept charging but Mayweahter in his artistry was able to take control. the fight just flew by. I love knockouts like the next guy but it wasn’t boring.
JK: Whom does Floyd remind of you in history?
Lennon Jr.: I agree with the comparison to Pernell Whitaker, so unbeatable in his prime, untouchable, beautiful fighter. Not sure when he started to slow down. But for his prime he was unbeatable.
JK: Favorite Floyd fight?
Lennon Jr.: The fight i went to in person, i wasn’t working, when i saw him drop Manfredy with a jab. It only went two rounds. My jaw dropped. He’s got speed and power and dropped a very tough fighter with a jab.
A fight that i worked that i particularly enjoyed, I’d say the first Maidana fight. It was a dirty fight but brilliant. Against Canelo, he just dominated a much younger, stronger fighter, with ease. Canelo has everything. Yet it was’t close at all.
JK: Floyd vs Four kings?
Lennon Jr.: He could have fought in any era. He would have struggled against Hagler and Hearns, for sure. But with his defensive skills and speed I wouldn’t bet against him in any era against anyone.
JK: Will you miss Floyd Mayweather/What will you miss?
Lennon Jr.: Oh, absolutely. The show, the bodyguards, to the special anthem singers, to his performance in the ring. One thing I’ll add is just about after every Floyd fight he thanks me in the most humble and gracious way. It makes me blush, frankly.
He makes mega events. We will miss that. He’s controversial. He gets attention. We are seeing one of the best the sport has ever seen. And we will miss the opportunity to watch him fight.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.MORE NEWS: Saint Joseph Catholic School Principal On Administrative Duty After Former Teacher Charged With Child Sex Crimes