Hall of Fame Boxing Announcer Jim Lampley Chatting Up the Sweet Science on PPV.com (Q&A)

 Veteran boxing announcer Jim Lampley.
Veteran boxing announcer Jim Lampley.
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Pay-per-view content aggregator In Demand’s PPV.com digital service will look to engage boxing fans with a exclusive live chat that will run during its distribution of Saturday’s Devin Haney-Ryan Garcia super lightweight championship PPV event.

The live text chat, hosted by International Boxing Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley, allows PPV.com fight purchasers to discuss the PPV event’s in-ring action in real time with Lampley along with boxing journalist Lance Pugmire and Inside Boxing Live podcast hosts Dan Canobbio and Chris Algieri.

Also Read: DAZN Weighs in With Content Ahead of Haney-Garcia Fight

In Demand senior VP of programming and marketing Mark Boccardi said since Lampley began hosting the chat in 2023, the platform has consistently increased the total number of overall messages and the number of messages per buyer. PPV.com’s most recent fight card, the March 30 Tim Tszyu-Sebastian Fundora event, set record marks in both categories, although Boccardi did not reveal specific numbers.

“We want to have fans chatting and talking about what’s going on in the fights — that’s what differentiates our product and we’re definitely seeing that,” Boccardi said. “So much of that is attributed to having Jim on board … he is still beloved by fans, and he’s been a terrific addition to our team.”

Lampley, who serve as the blow-by-blow announcer of HBO Boxing for 30 years as part of a 50-year sports television career, spoke about his his new role at PPV.com as well as the evolution of boxing on television and its future prospects in an interview with Multichannel News. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.

Veteran boxing announcer Jim Lampley
Veteran boxing announcer Jim Lampley

MCN: How much of an adjustment has it been for you from announcing live boxing matches to text chatting about the fights in real time? 

Jim Lampley: When HBO folded its boxing tent in December of 2018, I fairly confidently expected that at some point I would wind up doing blow-by-blow for some other boxing television purveyor. And that turned out not to be the case, so I was fairly certain that I was out of boxing. And then [In Demand and PPV.com president and CEO] Dale Hopkins approached me and asked if I would be interested in participating in a new media form, which is live chatting. It consists of texting out observations during the fight, not verbally expressed in speech form, but rather via a keyboard text during the fight. I've done about a half-dozen fights so far and commented in text on what I see, getting feedback from audience members and from the other media people who have worked with me on it, and it’s great fun. It's a terrific way to be back in the game and back at ringside. Every once in a while somebody will ask when they will hear your voice. I just say, ‘Imagine my voice when you look at the words that I'm texting because it’s like talking, but it's not exactly the same.’

MCN: Do you expect the Haney-Garcia bout to generate a decent amount of live messages given the hype around the fight and Garcia’s huge social media following?

JL: This weekend’s fight is very much a social media fight because Ryan Garcia seems to be a 23-hour-a-day social media user. All of these things figure into the ongoing process of telling stories and attracting fans to the stories of the fighters. I’m sure there will be a discussion about whether Garcia is crazy or crazy like a fox, given what he’s done on social media leading up to the fight. There's no rational explanation for why he jumped into Haney’s face and had a shouting match with him on the top of the Empire State Building and shoved him aggressively the way he did this week. I'm not sure what any of that accomplishes other than to draw attention to the event itself. In the ring, they’ve competed against each other as amateurs six times and the official record shows that each man won three, so that alone tells you that there’s every potential for a legitimately competitive fight.

MCN: You have seen the evolution of televised boxing from broadcast TV to premium cable and now predominantly the pay-per-view and streaming platforms. Is the current distribution model helping or hurting the sport's efforts in drawing in a new generation of viewers?

JL: Boxing is a storyteller’s sport, and it will thrive in certain audience segments and with certain kinds of events as long as the stories can be effectively told. I grew up watching [NBC’s] Gillette Friday Night Fights on what we called free television back then. Shows like that, [ABC’s] Wide World of Sports, and CBS Sports Spectacular were the places where boxing was distributed to a much broader audience. Then in 1971, the pay model was more or less created for the fight of the century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The unique nature of intensifying and exploding demand by providing it only to the people who were willing to pay to get the signal served as a clarion call to boxing promoters and television distributors that there may be better ways to capitalize on the appeal of the sport rather than to do it in the old traditional broadcast format. Then HBO and Showtime became the model — you were still paying a monthly fee, but that became a more-efficient way of collecting money for the fights and pay-per-view. But wherever it is shown, boxing thrives when it can attract fans to the stories of the fighters. It’s the most human sport as long as that can be conveyed effectively in some way, shape or form. I'm confident there will always be an audience. I've seen boxing declared dead many times for some fairly valid reasons sometimes, but my response has always been that as long as human beings can stand up and walk on their own two feet on this planet, people are going to fight each other face-to-face for money. It's just too obvious a capitalization not to take place.

MCN: If you could call a boxing match between any two current fighters, what would that fight be?

JL: I’d like to call a fight between [undisputed super middleweight champion] Canelo Alvarez and [undefeated contender] David Benavidez. I hope that fight actually takes place.