It was an innovation that HBO Boxing came up with in the 1980s that was clearly decades ahead of its time. And, Harold Lederman was the perfect choice to introduce to most fight fans how rounds were being scored by judges.
His insight, educational appeal and high-pitched New York accent entertained fight fans on Cable TV for over 30 years.
Unfortunately, Lederman had been battling cancer in recent years and succumbed to the disease this past weekend at the age of 79.
To demonstrate just what kind of impact Lederman had on the broadcast team at HBO and boxing fans everywhere, here’s a tremendous tribute that was put together by HBO and narrated by lead boxing commentator, Jim Lampley on Tuesday:
As that tribute video relayed, Lederman almost became synonymous with the biggest fights on HBO, his famous “Well, Jiiim,” that was then followed by how he scored the previous round, giving real-time opinions on who was winning from a judge’s perspective.
So much was his impact, as Lampley pointed out, that Lederman received boxing’s ultimate honor and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. This, despite Lederman never having thrown a punch in a ring.
And, equally as big a compliment, Lederman’s role at HBO was “the forerunner” to what other tv networks have done now broadcasting other sports.
For example, the next former official to prominently carve out a second career by explaining the rules to the fans is Fox NFL officiating guru, Mike Pereira. The former NFL supervisor of officials has regularly been part a Fox’s broadcasts of the NFL now for the past 10 seasons.
Further, take into account that all the major networks that broadcast the NFL’s biggest games now have a former referee standing in the booth with the announcers to give them immediate insight into calls and feedback on whether they believe it’s the right one or not.
And, that comes back to Lederman and HBO Boxing doing it first.
It is sad that after 40 plus years HBO got out of the boxing business for lagging economic reasons at the end of 2018. And sadder, you have to believe that when HBO boxing died, part of Letterman in his cancer fight did, too.
He scored Hagler vs. Leonard in the 80s (for Sugar Ray), Buster Douglas’ upset of Mike Tyson in Toyko, Bowe vs Holyfield’s thrilling three fights in the early-mid 90s, and De La Hoya vs Trinidad in the 2000s (he had Oscar) all for the network.
And, you have to love that great clip in the HBO’s tribute of Lederman being dumbfounded at the judges blindly giving Timothy Bradley a split decision against Manny Pacquiao in 2012, when Lederman thought Pacquiao had won 11 of the 12 rounds that night in Vegas.
Lederman’s insight and delivery were an unmistakable part of their shows. And, the biggest compliment to him is: there are numerous other boxing broadcasts that now have judges doing the Harold Lederman role.
That’s, a legacy.