by Kieran Mulvaney
The third episode of ‘The Fight Game with Jim Lampley’ airs on HBO on Saturday night, following the re-broadcast of last Saturday’s victory by Sergio Martinez over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. We spoke with Lampley, while he was in Las Vegas preparing to call the Martinez-Chavez fight, about what we can expect from episode 3, and what he has learned from producing the previous two episodes.
It’s a very small sample size, but is there anything that has surprised you about the process of putting these shows together, if there is anything that has stood out to you?
My experience on ‘The Fight Game’ has affirmed my perception that there is a very large core within our audience: well-versed, well-educated fight fans, who are on the web maybe every other day and at least once a week, who are following the schedule, who understand the business conflicts and business parameters and how they contribute to what we see in the ring, and who are just as interested in following the business steps that take place from fight to fight as they are the fights themselves.
You threw out the script for episode 2, and went with a powerful editorial slant, including a segment at the end in which you called on fans to ‘occupy boxing.’ I’m curious what was the response to that?
The response from fans is enormous. I’ve always been recognized in the arena; there have always been people who’ve called out my name and wanted an autograph or photograph, something like that. That’s not new. But the intensity of it, and the number of people, is significantly larger than before. People are yelling at me about The Fight Game as soon as I walk into the arena; people are confronting me about it, and asking me what’s on the next show, and that’s very gratifying.
And I have people who send me emails or call me up, both from boxing media and from the fan group, who want to advise me on what to do next and what the editorial content of the next show should be.
What can we expect for episode 3?
You know, 9/22 is an interesting date, because it’s one week beyond this unusual business confrontation of 9/15, and so for me the lead story is obvious: What happened when Chavez Jr. and Canelo Alvarez went head-to-head with each other down the street in Las Vegas, and is that, as most people see it, a sign of the sport’s insanity? Or could it be seen as a positive? Is it a sign that boxing’s health is back, that 19,000 people [were] in the Thomas & Mack Center, and apparently [almost] 15,000 in the MGM Grand? And even though Mexico’s two great attractions were forced to split their audience that night, both business enterprises feel as if they’re going to be making out OK. So maybe our sport isn’t as dead as all those general media people think it is.
Which leads to my final question: Over the years, there has always been despair when the top fighters approach retirement, but there is always somebody else to take their place. As Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao near the end of their careers, did Andre Ward make the definitive case on September 8 that he is next in line to sit in the throne atop the sport?
He certainly came off the page in a big way, and he provided the kind of dramatic excitement that hasn’t always been the case in his other fights. He’s demonstrated extreme competence, and he’s shown that he can beat good opponents, that he can shut them down defensively and with his enormous intelligence, but he has not produced a real offensive explosion prior to last week. And now, viewers have the image of him knocking down Chad Dawson three times, and really exploding with that left hook, and that provides a tantalizing template for the future. Can he do that kind of thing again? Can he do what [Sergio] Martinez has done: going from having a good career to suddenly skyrocketing and saying “Wow, look at me, I’m really one of the best there is”?