Merchant, Lampley, and the Rest: Ranking the Best Commentators in Boxing

James FoleyCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2011

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 19:  HBO Commentators, Lennox Lewis and Jim Lampley discuss the fight prior to the WBC Eliminator Middleweight fight at FedExForum on May 19, 2007 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

This list excludes print media and is limited to television personalities, studio hosts and announcers.

1) Larry Merchant

If we're judging by current performance and recent quality of work, I can understand an argument against the legend taking the top spot. The venerable Larry has seemed disinterested at times, resorting to platitudinous throwaways far too often for a man capable of the profundity displayed over the years.

But Larry is a true master at his craft; at his best, a poet lacing the action with insightful, rhythmic, refreshingly honest speech. When the occasion calls for it (Marquez-Katsidis comes to mind), he rises like the shining phoenix that he is.

The man has truly seen it all. He doles out wisdom like a sage wizard, as in his ominous pre-fight comments at Bradley-Alexander, where he rightly anticipated the evening would unfold in a less than satisfying way.  For his Floyd Mayweather post-fight interviews alone, he deserves this spot, probably for life. 


2) Jim Lampley

Complimenting Merchant on the HBO broadcasting team is hands-down the best play-by-play man in the business. While many PBP guys simply toss it to the color analyst for opinions, Lampley is completely comfortable issuing his own edicts throughout an event, and deservedly so. His knowledge and passion for the sport are unyielding.

And when he calls the action, he is never not in the zone. This man doesn't have off nights. Every action in a fight is punctuated with crisp, colorful words, timbre rising and falling along with the momentum in the ring, truly engaging the viewer and letting them feel the emotion at ringside. Maybe the "Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang..." move was a bit ridiculous during Pacquiao-Clottey.

But who else brings it at such a consistently high level, offering unbridled enthusiasm and classic sound bytes fight after fight? I'm already second-guessing not giving Lamps the top slot.

3) Brian Kenny

He is a man of many things, but a master of nothing, according to Floyd Mayweather. I would have to disagree with the great Money May on this one.

Kenny is an incredibly knowledgeable, fiercely intelligent personality with an obviously deep passion for the sweet science. His voice lends respectability to a sport that's somehow fallen to the fringes of the mainstream. As he said to Floyd in their infamous exchange (and if you haven't caught it, here it is, "I'm just a guy with a job, Floyd."

And he IS a master of that job. He was never afraid to ask the tough questions to a fighter, and this was never displayed more sublimely than in the incredible Floyd Mayweather interview. One of Floyd's most entertaining fights, by the way.


4) Al Bernstein

Have to give a nod to the anchor of Showtime's boxing team. Bernstein is one of the best color analysts in the game. He knows how to call a fight. His presence is never overbearing. When he offers his opinion, it carries some weight.

And while Merchant can be abrasive, Bernstein is a teddy bear. Very likable, constructive in his critiques, and genuinely enthusiastic for the sport, Bernstein has definitely won me over through the years. He won't give you the golden one-liners of Merchant, but he is consistently engaging and thoroughly informed.

5) Antonio Tarver

Have to show the young pup some love. Tarver has been a great voice on the Showtime broadcast. I have to admit, I personally prefer other commentators, including Roy Jones and Max Kellerman.

But the masses have spoken. Tarver's broadcasting career has gotten rave reviews, virtually unanimous praise. Kellerman is too polarizing. I personally think he does an exceptional job, but he has his fair share of critics. I think Jones is a great personality on a broadcast, but he has had a few goofy moments on air that show a lack of experience and some might say professionalism.

So, Mr. Tarver, it appears you deserve the fifth slot. No question; he has done a great job on the air, very sharp and likeable. He conveys the unique perspective of a former fighter without the ego that often rears its head on Roy Jones' trips down memory lane.



Max Kellerman

Teddy Atlas

Roy Jones