By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (Oct. 7, 2018) – HBO recently announced it was getting out of the high-stakes game of televising live boxing. Fight nights have been one of the staples of HBO’s sports coverage for decades, starting with George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier in 1973. One of its trademarks.
Versatile play-by-play man Jim Lampley, the network’s longtime fight announcer, looked back on his time at HBO in a recent interview.
He recalled his start at the cable network in 1988 and a memorable trip to Japan for the March 21, 1988, bout at Tokyo Dome. (For Lampley’s first HBO telecast, it was WBA/WBC/IBF heavyweight champion Mike Tyson vs. second-ranked challenger Tony Tubbs.)
Here are some of Lampley’s recollections of that trip and another one just two years later:
“There was a large earthquake the night before, but I slept through it (jet lagged) on the 78th floor of the New Otani. Then Tyson-Douglas (in February 1990), which is still to this day the fight people on the street ask about more than any other. Will never ever forget the eerie quiet, the slapping of the fighters’ shoes against the canvas, our shock that Tyson’s corner didn’t have an endswell and tried to treat his eye with cold water poured into a rubber glove. That calendar entry shows I called the fight in Tokyo, flew back to LA, attended the Genesis Fund Wildlife appreciation luncheon, anchored the five and six o’clock news at KCBS-TV, went out to dinner, anchored the eleven o’clock news, filed an overnight report on the fight for CBS This Morning. I was quite a workhorse back then, and that was the busiest day ever. February 11, 1990. Never another HBO fight in Japan.”
In a thoughtful interview with boxingscene.com, Lampley discussed the end of an era in further detail.
“Nothing lasts forever,” Lampley told the website. “Things wouldn’t have meaning if they did. Knew for a long time this day would come, and I made (myself) ready for it. Hope others did, too. No one ever televised boxing better than HBO, whether you are talking my era or Barry Tompkins, who preceded me. No one close.
“Basically what I do (is) try to say it well. Probably had some off nights but most of them reflected real work.”
Lampley was also asked about his recollections of Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Dave Anderson, who joined The New York Times in 1966 and established himself as one of the most distinguished writers in any — every — newspaper’s so-called toy department in the decades that followed. Anderson died earlier his week at age 89.
“No specific memories of any one column or columns,” Lampley admitted in an email. “He was interested in boxing and came to big fights, a friendly and dignified guy.
“In my youth I was thrilled to meet him (NY Times!!!) and sort of startled that he knew exactly who I was.”