In professional wrestling, if you're unable to provoke an audience with a microphone to a strong reaction in one direction or another, your shelf life is generally unmercifully brief, regardless of your ability in the ring.
Interestingly, it's not enough to be the best at what you do if you can't sell us on why we should care.
Conversely, any wrestler whose narrative finds a great deal of traction with an audience can be a miserably hopeless wrestler and still sell ungodly amounts of tickets and merchandise (Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Hulk Hogan for example) and have a seemingly-endless career recycling the same canned stuff.
The same rules apply––albeit without a team of writers assisting the performer––in boxing. We have to care about your narrative or no matter how good you are, we might not care all that much to bother spending any money to tune in.
This is why it's always especially interesting to me why fighters like Roy Jones Jr. had the raw, unbridled charisma of a stepping-stool despite arguably being the most talented fighter in the history of the sport.
It's no wonder he went broke.
What were his big paydays that come to mind despite sustained excellence for a lengthy career? His marketability would've been improved immeasurably if he'd never spoken a word into a microphone. Roy Jones Jr. speaking into a microphone makes Tiger Woods seem like a high-end phone sex operator.
My point with all this stuff is just to illustrate how important a soundbite can be––funny, insane, offensive, vulgar, disastrous, confrontational––even with a post-fight interview in framing a career for the public.
The ten I've lined-up are mostly ones that make me laugh. But others do make me think about the boxer himself as he comes up with a construct of who he wants to be to the public. Or, who he doesn't want to be.
Add to that that he's just finished fighting for his life in front of a huge crowd eager for the catharsis of blood, unconsciousness or something they've never seen before. It's a very unnatural, surreal setting in which to frame anything with a microphone shoved in your face.
As the son of a Hungarian (Transylvanian by blood) mother, I feel fully entitled to have fun with accents. When your mother has the same accent as Count Chocula, Abraham's pidgin English is Hooked on Phonics-clear by comparison. So please permit me a pass with Abraham's contribution here.
Abraham's summation of his sucker punch (and the logic therein) and his glowing compassion for his fellow boxer are what make this post-fight interview so much fun. "Yeah, heez a goot act-ah!"
As for Direll's, "Puh-leeese stop talkin'... I got dropped, man!" Even the "speakerman" is unable to offer any solace for the fallen warrior.
Special credit should also go to the person responsible for subtitles.
Andrew Golata's representatives have asked me to extend to all readers the news that Andrew Golata is now offering elocution lessons on the Internet along with babysitting services for your child.
Golata's career has to be one of the most bizarre in the history of boxing, and is highlighted by huge potential spoiled by a tremendous instability of character.
There's also just something about his eyes that give you the feeling he was voted "most likely to massacre everyone with a bazooka" at his high school prom by the yearbook committee.
From a safe distance, he's very amusing, though.
Arguably the first-round knockout Jones Jr. scored in his rematch against Griffin (after a questionable disqualification he suffered in their previous match) was the greatest display of Jones Jr.'s career.
This was finally the Jones Jr. everyone knew he was capable of being despite his tremendous, unremitting reluctance. It electrified the sport in under a round.
Then Jones opened his mouth and we remembered how dull everything else was about him. Jones Jr. can't even accidentally say anything compelling, interesting, or funny. Just have a look at his supporters' embarrassment listening to him go off about his greatness and God and his hometown.
Finally, Jones Jr. reveals what might be at the heart of his enduring lack of appeal: after the greatest performance of his life he assures his audience, "I didn't want to have to do this."
An all-time horrendous post-fight interview. but amazingly so.
While few things in life could ever hope to top "WHO NECKS!" barked at an audience for sheer brilliance, a couple things also certainly add to the fun.
What elevates this interview even further into greatness is trying to imagine what's going on with the strangely muted (and frozen-faced) Max Kellerman, along with the even more bizarre site of a contemplative Don King in the background.
Even King seems at a loss for words to spin the un-spinable of Peter's oratorial prowess. "WHO NECKS!"
Naturally Jim Lampley's "I didn't understand the answer" rounds out an all-time classic post-fight interview by Peter.
There's something about Prince Naseem Hamed's whole appearance, haircut and demeanor in a lot of post-fight interviews that seems as if he's auditioning for a career in gay erotica. Even the look he's casting at Larry Merchant seems a little too close for Merchant's comfort.
Larry Merchant, as spectator to this whole spectacle, adds a great deal. Especially his added thrill at having his microphone grabbed by Hamed as the especially creepy, lurid final mentions of Allah and Muhammad are offered.
Have a look at George Foreman's giggling reaction at the end of the clip.
If you step back from thinking of Mike Tyson as being crazy and think of him as a construct, a character created to market to the American public, few advertising geniuses have come close to marketing their brand better than Tyson has marketed his.
Also, consider that Tyson, by his own admission, had given up caring about boxing as early as 1990, but he boxed until 2005.
So if you accept my premise that he was marketing himself all along, it becomes far more interesting to examine why his marketing to us was (and remains with his latest re-branding) so successful.
While we've always claimed he's the lunatic or the wreckage on the highway we can't bear to look away from, he's cashed in on our addiction to such disturbing material. Over and over he found new ways to package what we kept demanding of him.
As soon as he reached the end of the road with boxing, he cashed in on his own redemption. Now Tyson is all over technology with Twitter and Facebook, along with Oprah marketing a benevolent version of himself for laughs.
It's funny how he just always seems to be relevant as a celebrity despite being on the scene for 25 years.
I guess that's a fluke.
My point here is that if you look at his soundbites as something he cultivated for his own marketability, they're far better than any writers have come up with for heels in movies, books or wrestling.
Putting it mildly, Tyson is the greatest interview in the history of entertainment.
Stack up anyone you want against him, Tyson is more compelling. We don't know what he's going to do next. That's part of it, certainly, yet Tyson sure seems to know what we want him to say.
The lasting impact of his comments is the other element here. His quotes are memorable to the point that they reach outside the sport into the realm of entertainment that is globally embraced. Few have ever done that, and far less have on a consistent basis.
This clip of Tyson taunting Razor Ruddock is another classic quote.
Floyd Mayweather took a lot of cues from Jones Jr. about being boring in interviews and having an overall dull personality in general.
A dramatic change in Floyd's marketability occurred right around the time "Pretty Boy" transformed into "Money."
Cleverly, Floyd abandoned his stale, non-marketable "babyface" routine and turned heel. It worked like a charm.
The more ill-will Floyd generates in the ring, outside the ring or in his private life, the more tickets will sell in the hope of watching him lose.
This is textbook heel marketing from wrestling and many other forms of entertainment. In radio, Howard Stern had the listeners who hated him listening far longer than the people who loved him. The movie Se7en was mentioned by Kathy Lee Gifford as a film that no one morally should ever view (the best advertising possible for a future-blockbuster success).
Floyd continues the show in classic style with Merchant.
What makes this interview even more fun is that people assume, as with Tyson, that Floyd really is this much of a punk with an elder statesmen of boxing like Merchant. Floyd has always bathed in similar controversy since he turned heel.
It benefits him enormously, as it's his entire marketing plan behind this brand that actually turned him into a household name. Prior to him being heel, nobody cared about him despite his obvious legendary ability.
James Toney is my personal favorite interviewee in all of sports.
It's true, I can seldom understand a word he's saying, and when I do understand I have no idea what he's talking about most of the time, but I just love the man being in boxing.
His career is one of the most amazing achievements in the modern era, even without considering how horribly he's treated his body and his complete lack of discipline.
Toney's greateness as an interviewee is that he's incapable of being phony. He's always James Toney, he's always on, and he loves being the center of attention.
"Don King, kiss my ass!" and "BURGER KING!" are the obvious highlights of this clip coming near the end.
Well, first of all, considering what Holyfield did to Tyson, Toney's KO is nothing short of amazing here.
Toney not only dominated Holyfield throughout the fight, but you can see, round by round, how his confidence broke the will of Evander.
Toney did nothing short of dawg Holyfield throughout the fight (sticking out his tongue, that amazing strut, a gesture here or there) and you can see on Holyfield's face the realization that there's nothing he can do to meet Toney's will.
This is Evander Holyfield we're talking about! Giving up? Knocked out by a body shot?
The post-fight interview, somehow, thanks to Jim Grey's contribution, is almost equally as compelling as the fight.
"I got milk, baby!" springs out of nowhere.
Jim Grey as a counterpoint asking for a "decent" interview as James goes off is my favorite highlight. Finally Grey gives up himself and seeks out Holyfield.
Some will remember him for the illegitimate children, blowing all his money, wars against Bowe, upsetting Tyson and a litany of other accomplishments. However, nothing defines Evander Holyfield's greatness in my mind more than his arresting stupidity when given a microphone.
After Tiger Woods won a major tournament younger than anyone in golf history, he was asked what he was doing to celebrate. He asked the press corps if they'd believe he was going home to sleep. Someone in the crowd answered, "Yes!"
Little did we know in Tiger's case...
But with Holyfield, a post-fight interview was turned into a performance art.
With only a minute or two to distill achieving major moments in boxing history, the man left us snoring. More than that, he left us imagining the women who'd been involved with him. His friends. His parents. His children. His bill collectors.
How could anyone sentient remain in contact with this man for any period of time and suffer from instantaneous narcolepsy?
Nobody in the history of civilization competes with what Evander could do with a microphone. Insomnia was cured the moment Evander was born.