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News  


Cancer survivor ready to rumble again


PhilBoxing.com




Boxing announcer Michael Buffer survived a serious bout with cancer in 2008 and when HBO decided to leave the fight game last year, the speculation was he had nowhere to go since the other network Showtime was linked to his rival Jimmy Lennon, Jr. But just as Buffer overcame cancer, he has weathered the storm of HBO’s departure.

For over three decades, Buffer was the voice of HBO boxing and Top Rank. He became a ring announcer at 38 and now at 74, the US Army veteran has signed a two-year deal to be DAZN’s exclusive boxing mouthpiece with a side role in promotions. DAZN (pronounced Da-Zone) is a live, on-demand streaming service that has a tie-up with Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn. The contract involves Matchroom staging 16 fights in the US and another 16 in the UK annually over the next eight years in a $1 Billion agreement. So there will be more than enough fights for Buffer to announce.

Buffer recently admitted that he seriously considered retiring at the end of last year. When Buffer saw HBO’s fortunes in boxing turn from bad to worse, he thought it was time to exit. Buffer, however, wasn’t exclusive to HBO. Neither was he exclusive to Top Rank. He was a free agent who just happened to be Bob Arum’s favorite and why not? Buffer brought class and flair to boxing. His trademark battlecry “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” was iconic. Not too many fans remember that before Buffer came up with his call to arms, he used to cry out “Man Your Battle Stations” and “Fasten Your Seatbelts” which were both corny. Buffer registered “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” as his personal property and because of his license, he’s earned over $400 Million in royalties.

Buffer was only 11 months old when his parents divorced. He was raised by foster parents, a bus driver and a housewife. After a three-year stint with the Army, Buffer became a car salesman and tried out modeling as a career at 32. Arum gave Buffer his big break in 1983 and he hasn’t looked back. In 2012, Buffer was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

What nearly destroyed his announcing career was the cancer that ravaged his throat. Doctors found three cancerous tumors and performed surgery to extract the lumps from the left side of his neck and tonsils. Luckily, Buffer didn’t need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. A month after surgery, Buffer was back holding the microphone in the ring.

Buffer said he created his battlecry on an inspiration from Muhammad Ali. “Ali would say, Rumble, young man, rumble and I’m so pretty, I’m ready to rumble,” he said, quoted by Paul Zanon in Boxing Monthly magazine of London. “So I came up with Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. I think I started with the phrase in 1983 or 1984. It wasn’t with the same energy I say it today but still, it was becoming popular. Next thing I knew, car dealers were playing ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’ in their ads on TV. That’s when I realized this thing was getting legs. It was my creation so I claimed it as intellectual property and trademarked it.”

Buffer grew to be a byword in boxing that his popularity led to appearances in over 20 movies. He’s gone to over 20 countries to serve as ring announcer. The word is he collects anywhere between $25,000 to $50,000 for each appearance. Two of the most exciting fights that Buffer said he announced were Roberto Duran’s win over Iran Barkley in 1989 and George Foreman’s knockout over Michael Moorer in 1994.

“It’s really crazy that this has turned out to be how I’ve earned a living for over 35 years,” he said. “As a kid and avid sports fan, one of the most exciting things always was the introductions. To be that guy who makes the presentations and do my best for both the person being introduced and for the fans, is still very exciting for me. Boxing is more alive and well than ever before.”

It took Buffer a few fights before he pronounced WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s surname correctly. He used to say something like “Pakiyoo” but practice makes perfect and he finally got it right. When Pacquiao battled Floyd Mayweather in 2015, Buffer introduced the Senator while Lennon introduced Money as both HBO and Showtime were involved in the fight.

Since Pacquiao is now linked to Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime, it’s Lennon who makes his introductions. Buffer will do Canelo Alvarez bouts and those of fighters linked to DAZN like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Khalid Yafai and Anthony Joshua. Buffer’s survival story is one for the books.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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