Boxing commentator Bob Sheridan reveals greatest moments of his career

Boxing commentator Bob Sheridan. Photo / Getty Images
Boxing commentator Bob Sheridan. Photo / Getty Images

For half a century Bob Sheridan, the world's leading boxing commentator, has brought some of the sport's greatest moments into living rooms around the world. In Brisbane to broadcast Jeff Horn's win over Randall Bailey on Wednesday night, the 71-year-old has called more than 10,000 fights, 999 of them world title bouts.

You've called boxing all over the globe. What's been the most memorable moment?

It has to be the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The country was run by the dictator President Mobutu. The weigh-in was being carried live to America but there was a problem with the satellite. One of the locals hit a toggle switch and shut down the satellite link. Mobutu ordered him to be executed. Our head engineer solved the problem and Mobutu instantly made him Minister of Communications for the whole of Zaire. He told Mobutu that the local guy didn't need to die for a simple mistake.

Your co-commentator was the great British broadcaster David Frost.

That fight went out to more than a billion people. Frost was a professional broadcaster but he'd never called a live sporting event and he was so excited I had to tell him several times to calm down. Frost was yelling over the top of me at the end "Muhammad Ali has won by a knockdown". He meant "by a knockout" but like I say he'd never called a fight.

A year later you did the Thrilla in Manila?

Yes, 1975. Before that I also called Ali's fight against Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur. Joe was one helluva good boxer. The Ali-Frazier fight in Manila brought both of them to the absolute brink. Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch stopped the fight before the 15th round but Ali was just as spent.

You called the infamous Mike Tyson ear bite fight with Evander Holyfield a few hours after you had a heart attack.

I've had seven heart attacks, including the one before the Tyson fight. I went to hospital and they did an angioplasty and opened up the arteries. But that was a huge fight and I didn't want to miss it. I went to the fight, called it, saw Mike bite off part of Evander's ear, and then went back to the hospital in an ambulance.

How did you start in boxing?

The first fight I ever saw was Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, beating Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight title in 1964. I was at the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship and selling Coca-Cola at the fight for the promoter Chris Dundee, who was the brother of Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee. I thought "man this is something" with all the excitement. Cassius Clay was jumping around shouting "I shook up the world, I am the greatest". I got into radio at WGBS in Miami not long after and I started calling Chris Dundee's fights every week. It was also the early days of closed circuit and Chris helped me get a start doing TV commentary.

You had great fun with Ali.

Ali was sometimes my co-commentator. In the lead-up to The Rumble in The Jungle we called George Foreman's crushing win over Ken Norton in Venezuela. I was winding Ali up and I said "Ali, when you get to Africa you've got no chance against Foreman" and he said "Bob, when I get you to Africa I'm going to put you in a pot and cook you". I saw Ali a few years ago and he was pretty ill with Parkinson's disease and I had put on a lot of weight. Ali starts rubbing his stomach to make fun of me. I said "Hey Ali, I still look a hell of a lot better than you." He roared laughing. Ali always had a great sense of humour.

What do you love about boxing?

I still get goosebumps when the announcer says "for the championship of the world". Boxing is the purest sport there is. When they get in the ring fighters are totally exposed. No one can help them. I see 15-year-old kids from Mexico take a 36-hour bus ride to Tijuana to fight for 50 bucks and they put on shows worthy of Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard fighting their hearts out.

It's a brutal sport, though.

Yes, I've called five bouts where one of the fighters has died plus another one, Nigel Benn v Gerald McClellan in London, in which McClellan ended up blind and in a wheelchair. McClellan almost had Benn beaten but he was pushing himself so hard that his brain and his vessels couldn't take what his heart was doing. He had a stroke in the middle of the ring.

How good is Jeff Horn?

He wants to fight world champ Jessie Vargas now and he passed his big test against Randall Bailey. I called Jeff's last six fights in New Zealand, too. In his previous fight he beat the European Union champ Ahmed El Mousaoui from France and the very tough Victor Plotnikov from Ukraine. Jeff's the real deal.

Who's the best fighter you ever saw?

Ali was sensational but I've seen and called them all over the last 50 years: Leonard, Hearns, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Floyd Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker. Ricardo Lopez from Mexico is the greatest pure boxer I ever saw. No one knows him because of his size (48kg) but he defended his world title 21 times and never lost.


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