Michele Hewitson Interview: Colonel Bob Sheridan

By Michele Hewitson

He's a sweet man who has a funny old job in the brutal world of boxing and has not become a blowhard

Bob Sheridan is a professional, a performer, a big voice with a big presence. Photo / Greg Bowker
Bob Sheridan is a professional, a performer, a big voice with a big presence. Photo / Greg Bowker

Colonel Bob Sheridan, the world famous boxing commentator, did not arrive wearing his colonel's costume. This was a mild disappointment. I'd have liked to have seen that and so would anybody.

At his rented house in Vegas there is a portrait of him in his colonel's costume. It is rather grand - the costume, and the portrait. In it he is wearing his ribbons: 34 of them; one for each "tour of duty" he's done as a member of The Ancient (formed in 1638) and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, a now ceremonial unit. He likes to say that in his portrait he looks like Idi Amin. He's said it before, maybe more times than he has ribbons. He said it to me. He doesn't disappoint. He's a professional. A performer. A big voice and a big presence and a big fellow, although he has shrunk a bit lately.

He's not a real colonel but everyone called him The Colonel. Should I? He said: "You can call me 'The'." In the Ancient and Honourable Company, there are dozens of real, retired, colonels.

But if you turned up at the Company HQ in Boston and asked to see The Colonel, they'd say: "Oh, he's in Vegas."

He's an Irishman and so is easy to give a lunch to. We had spuds and he had a nice big bit of meat and he left the green stuff on the plate. I said to the waitress: "He doesn't eat green stuff. He's an Irishman." He said: "I don't eat orange stuff either. I don't eat squash or carrots."

I said we'd better share a serving of doughnuts. We both agreed we could have eaten a bowl of doughnuts each, easily. He said he'd tell the people at Duco Events who have flown him in for tonight's Fight For Life that I was stingy with the doughnuts. Fair enough. I was stingy with the doughnuts. We also had banana ice cream. Was I trying to kill him? he asked. He thought this was a hilarious idea. What a scoop! The last interview!

It's a wonder he's still alive. His knees are buggered, he's had his spine fused, he was in an induced coma for 30 days after which he was a quadriplegic for three months. He's had eight heart attacks. He likes to say that he has heart attacks the way other people have the flu. I said: "Your wife's going to kill me for feeding you doughnuts." He has a very big man's laugh and he laughed, hugely. He said to the photographer: "Hey!" and opened his famous mouth wide and dangled a doughnut in front of it. Then he did it again. He was having a good time. So was I. If you have lunch with the Colonel and don't have fun, you might as well have another plate of doughnuts and finish yourself off.

He was wearing what he always wears: Black from head to toe, with a bit of bling. He was wearing one of his 27 Championship diamond and gold rings and another, identical, Boxing Hall of Fame, one. They are enormous, heavy rings. Isn't it strange wearing those things? "Nah. It's all part of the show. It's all bullshit." Does he take them off to do the dishes? "I don't do the dishes! As a woman you'll love this. Before I got married, I said to my wife: 'I want you to understand, I don't do stuff. I don't wash the dishes; I don't take the garbage out; I dump my clothes on the floor. Listen, I'm a colonel. My job is to give orders.' So I give her approximately 200 orders a day and she carries out approximately none!"

He always wears the same thing: Black shirts from South America called Guayaberas - with his name, Colonel, on the sleeves. They are handy shirts, for concealing a belly, or a gun. At home, he always carries a concealed weapon. Why does he? "I have the right to." He loves guns and collects them. He also has an AK-47. Why does he? "You have a right in the United States, under the Constitution, to bear arms."

What would he be like? A blowhard, surely. A right-wing gun nut. I said: "Are you a Republican?" That might be the stupidest question I've ever asked. Of course he's a Republican. "Yeah! Sure! Of course."

He said: "Now you're going to think I'm a homo!" A homo! Yes, that is exactly what I thought the minute I laid eyes on him, as would any reasonable person. Why on earth had he suddenly decided I'd think any such thing? It was the dog. He had been telling me about his animals. He and his wife Annie have three ocicats, one called Tua, another called Tyson; and the dog. The dog is called Little Lucy and it has a pink collar and leash and it is a chihuahua. I'm not sure whether it is the pink accessories, the name or the breed which would, according to him, lead any reasonable person to assume he was gay, and I was laughing too much to ask. But why has he got a chihuahua, which, in my book, is barely a dog? That's what he said, he said, when his wife brought the thing home. "But she's the most loveable little dog. I called my brother and I said: 'You know, she's got the dog rigged out in pink.' And he said: 'You don't walk that dog, do you?' And I said: 'At night!"' That dog sleeps in the bed and the cats sleep on it. How big is the bed? "It's a big bed! But I can't get at Annie!" That was just a little bit more than I, or anyone, needed to know, but you complain that he doesn't tell you things.

He said: "I hate to admit it, but of all the prostitutes in Las Vegas, I don't know any of them any more." Any more! "Since I got married! I'll tell you a really funny story. Let's say I was doing a fight for Don King and Don King's company is not as organised as Duco and he'd tell you the morning you're flying to Las Vegas - and let's say I'm living in Boston - they'd tell you what hotel you're staying in that morning, So I'd get there and I'd see on the message thing: Nicky, Vicky, Ricky, you know, their stage names. So I'd call up, let's say Nicky, and I say, 'Nicky, let me ask you a question: 'How did you know where I was staying? Cos I didn't know until this morning.' [And Nicky said]: 'Colonel, we're professionals. It's our job to know where you are!' Ha, ha, ha! I think that's a pretty funny story! That's when I was young and a character. I'm old now and slowed down and married and that's probably why I won't have any heart attacks for a while."

He used to be a wildman. "They used to call me the Bunratty Cowboy." He was a cattleman and bull rider in Bunratty, Ireland. "My idea of a quiet Saturday afternoon was to drive 50 or 60 head of cattle down to the parking lot of a fancy hotel and all the tourists would be out there taking pictures of the cattle. But what they didn't realise was that the cattle'd be shitting all over their cars! Ha, ha, ha!" Now what did he want to do that for? "For the fun of it!"

He was supposed to be a professional baseball player, but he just wasn't good enough and instead somehow got himself on the radio as a boxing commentator and now he's a world famous boxing commentator and has been calling fights for 45 years. He says he can't retire because he can't afford to. I thought he was joking, but he's not. He has never been a millionaire because: "I spent a hundred dollars a day more than I made. I spent it on booze and women. And the rest? Oh, I suppose I just blew it."

The bank foreclosed on his house on 2010, when he had one of his heart attacks. He ended up in an induced coma for 30 days and died four times and then, when he came to, was completely paralysed. He was in hospital for seven months. He couldn't work and lost his house but he's not a bit bitter or unhappy about any of this. He sang: "Regrets, I've had a few ..." Has he? "Nah!"

He used to be really fat and weighed over 300 pounds and so his knees gave out but other than that, and the heart attacks, he didn't mind being fat. "Nah. Didn't bother me." His "most famous" heart attack was the one where he checked himself out of hospital 24 hours after an angioplasty to call the 2009 Tyson, Holyfield fight. He took the cardiologist with him, as insurance. The doctor, who had never been to a boxing match, before might not have had much of a say in the matter. He had been told by Pancho, the big guy's even bigger bodyguard: "Doc, if he dies; you die." This was a joke. "He's got a great sense of humour." Pancho, (whose real name is Joseph, but that's not as funny a name for a Mexican bodyguard) started out, in the telling, at seven feet tall. By the time we got to the end of the Pancho story, he'd grown, like a fish, by two inches. "He's the world's largest Mexican in captivity, as far as we know. There might be some bigger Mexicans roaming the Yucatan, in the jungle somewhere."

He has to have a bodyguard because boxing callers are not in a press box and people come up, while he's on air, wanting to have their pictures taken with him. When they try it, Pancho stands up, and, whether he's seven foot, of seven foot, two inches, they generally get the message.

He said: "I'm pretty well known in boxing circles." He likes being famous. "Everybody likes being stroked. You ask a dog: 'Do you like having your head patted?' Yeah, I like it."

He knows he's famous because of what he does; that the day he stops working, that's it, he's just another washed-up boxing commentator. "It's not me, it's the job." He said: "Jesus, I'm not going to win any beauty contests. I've got the mug of an Irishman."

He's a good sport. He's a performer. A performer! He's a total ham! "Of course I am!" We had a lot of fun. He's a sweet man who has a funny old job in the brutal world of boxing and who has somehow managed not to become a blowhard. He said: "Hey, Michele, you can forget the interview. I'm falling in love with you." Weirdly - he is a right-wing gun nut, remember - it was mutual.


The Woodstock Honey Fight for Life is on Sky pay-per-view tonight from 8pm.

- NZ Herald

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