The SportsNewser Interview: Emanuel Steward

By Marcus Vanderberg 

How does one of the premier boxing trainers get involved in broadcasting?

For HBO commentator Emanuel Steward, filling in for a conflicted Roy Jones one night turned into a broadcasting career.

Roy Jones was scheduled to broadcast,” Steward said. “He had a fighter on the card and he said he didn’t want to broadcast so they asked me and I filled in for him that night.”

The rest is history as Steward has gone on to split his time between HBO and training the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Miguel Cotto.

Steward chatted with SportsNewser prior to Saturday’s HBO pay-per-view between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito.

SportsNewser: How did you get involved as a boxing commentator?

I was filling in for one fight that Roy Jones was scheduled to broadcast. He had a fighter on the card and he said he didn’t want to broadcast so they asked me and I filled in for him that night. I predicted a fight was going to end a certain way and just as I got the words out, Diego Corrales scored a knockout. There were a few more times they brought me on to do it and after a while, HBO said they would give me a permanent job and a position. It’s grown and grown and I’m just now feeling a little comfortable doing it, believe it or not. The biggest thing is I’m use to being at fight as a trainer or manager. I’m studying the opponents and looking for weaknesses and I’ll forget to talk.

What’s it like working with Jim Lampley?

What’s great having someone like Jim Lampley is Jim will say, ‘Now, Emanuel Steward, Marcus just got hit with three left jabs in a row. Shouldn’t he doing something to block those left jabs?’ And I will say to myself I have to talk. If you notice, I still don’t speak as much as the other broadcasters because I will be so engrossed in watching and looking for weaknesses.

Larry [Merchant] and Jim have been very helpful to me. I have gotten a lot of advice from the both of them. Jim is great at making sure I don’t go into a lapse of observing and not speaking. And Larry speaks to me a lot about boxing in general, because he’s a real hardcore fight fan. It’s a good chemistry. Max [Kellerman] brings in the energy. He’s a real student of the game. Between the three guys, I’m very fortunate to have some guys like that to work with.

Which current boxer do you think would make a good commentator?

I have talked to a lot of these guys and they were all very good. I was very impressed with Nate Campbell. The boxers today like all athletes in other sports are very articulate. They analyze and speak way better than the past. Sometimes I think we underestimated their knowledge of boxing. Sometimes they are more knowledgeable of boxing and boxing strategies than the trainers, even though we get the credit.

What’s the most exciting fight you have called during your broadcasting career?

I would have to say that crazy fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. They were just going back and forth and I saw Gatti getting pummeled to the point where he turned his back almost and was sideways, leaning in the ropes like he was going to crawl out the ring because he was in so much pain. To see him storming back with punches from all angles only to see him hurt again. You could see his right hand was broken and him shaking it. The fight went back and forth and by the time they fought the third fight, Gatti and Ward were trying to outdo the first two fights. It was a great series but the first fight was one of the most exciting fights I have seen in my life.

Are you objectively able to call a fight that involves a former fighter you have trained in the past?

When I’m broadcasting, I put all emotions aside. I think it was one of the things that HBO was watching for when they gave me the job. I’m quite sure they were still watching the first year or two. I look at it objectionable and as if I have no emotional ties. I can see that with some broadcasters and it’s pretty obvious to the public that they bring in emotions or hatred of a certain fighter. You can’t do that. You shouldn’t be a broadcaster.

How legitimate of a threat is the UFC to the sport of boxing in your eyes?

If the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao happened, it would have exceeded anything that the UFC could have come up with. The problem that we are having is not so much UFC. They appeal to a different audience. You aren’t going to get the sophisticated world-class people that follow the big fights like a Tommy Hearns or Ray Leonard. The biggest problem with boxing is the fights that the fans and the public demand, we aren’t making them happen. The fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather would have been phenomenal and even a fight between David Haye and one of the Klitschko’s. The public will say we want to see this fight and each case it comes up that the fight doesn’t take place because one of the fighters will say I don’t want to fight. We need one or two big super fights.

What’s your prediction for Pacquiao-Margarito on Saturday?

That’s a very intriguing fight. If you mentioned it two years ago, I would have said that’s a total joke because of the size difference at the time and Margarito seemed to be invincible. But based on what has happened the last two years, between Margarito losing to [Shane] Mosley and not really seen by the American public too much, it makes me for feel for certain reasons that I would give Pacquiao an edge, something I would not have said two years ago. If Margarito fights a smart fight and takes advantage of his tremendous size advantage, mainly by punching short punches up through the center, he has a pretty good chance. You know you’re going to get a fight and you won’t get any clinching or wrestling. It spells action.