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Harold Lederman’s Distinctive Voice Has Been Stilled and Boxing is Poorer for It

Bernard Fernandez

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Harold Lederman

Not so very long ago, perpetually cheerful Harold Lederman, stricken with cancer and getting more and more ill every day, was asked if he could recall the last time he had gotten angry, as is sometimes the case with, you know, most normal people.

“Who knows?” the longtime “unofficial judge” of HBO Boxing responded in the same high-pitched, distinctive and enthusiastic voice that was just one of his distinguishing features. “There’s not enough time in life to get angry.”

There is, however, always time to be sad, and this is another of those occasions. Harold Lederman, boxing’s happiest proponent and one of its most sincerely nice ambassadors, was 79 when he passed away Saturday in hospice care in Rockland County, New York. His family was at his side, and it just stands to reason he left this life the way he lived it, as upbeat and positive as ever. Not even the ravaging disease that slowly and painfully moved him ever closer to the eternal 10-count that awaits everyone could strip him of his smile. And why should it have? Harold enjoyed the whole ride, and he was never more in his comfort zone than when he was at ringside, scoring fights as an official judge (he worked more than 100 world title bouts until his retirement in 1999) or an unofficial one for HBO, a labor of love that spanned from his hiring in 1986 to the premium-cable’s last fight telecast, on Dec. 8 of last year, over 1,000 fights in all. His worsening health prevented him from traveling toward the end, but he remained on the job off-site, determined to go the distance.

“It was one of the greatest privileges of my broadcasting career to work with Harold Lederman, whose unique humanity and lifelong love of boxing brought joy to the hearts of millions of fans, show after show after show,” Harold’s longtime broadcast partner, blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley, said in a prepared statement. “The world waited for his moments, they were thrilled by his insights, they gloried in imitating his voice. No one in the sport had more friends, because no one in the sport was more deserving of friends.

“As deeply saddened as I am by his passing, I am equally deeply joyful that he made it to the final bell on Dec. 8. Nothing was more important to the legacy of HBO Boxing, so in that we can take solace now that his scorecard is complete.”

Similar tributes poured in from Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports, and one of Nelson’s predecessors at HBO, Lou DiBella, now a promoter. Even though the fight the beloved Lederman was waging was one he was destined to lose, that inevitability did not serve to soften the blow for his many admirers.

“I know Harold was suffering and I knew he was in hospice,” DiBella said. “Harold was truly one of a kind. He had no malice toward anyone in this world. No one loved boxing more than Harold Lederman. He was as loyal to boxing and to fighters as he was to his own family, and that was as loyal as can be.

“In a lot of ways, HBO Boxing is now dead, but nobody represented HBO Boxing better than Artie Curry (whose official title was manager of HBO Sports Talent Relations), may he rest in peace, and Harold Lederman. I’ve known Harold my whole 30 years in boxing. Any show that Harold could physically attend, when he was working in a pharmacy, he was there. Harold lived boxing, Harold loved boxing and Harold died boxing. He was one of a kind and there will never be another like him in boxing.”

That might be truer now than ever before. The Lederman brand of relentless optimism – about life, about boxing, about anything – was once shared by several marvelous individuals in the sport who had a special gift for making anyone who came into contact with them feel good. But one by one, those who shared Lederman’s passion for boxing, which also is populated by those with darker sides, have taken their leave. Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee was 90 when he passed away on Feb. 1, 2012; journalist and raconteur Bert Sugar was 75 when he died on March 25, 2012; Northern California promoter Don Chargin was 90 when he left us on Sept. 28, 2018, followed shortly thereafter by New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson, who was 88 when he passed on Oct. 4, 2018.

What all of the aforementioned shared, other than their professional acumen, was the ultimate tribute of being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lederman got his call to the hall in 2016, and during his four days in Canastota, N.Y., he seemed more like a little kid on Christmas morning who awakened to find every gift he ever wanted under the tree. Then again, Harold – his day job was as a pharmacist, but the Bronx native and Columbia University grad couldn’t possibly have been as satisfied filling prescriptions as he was chatting up fight fans – didn’t lack for validation in his other job, the one which made him famous. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 1997 and was twice honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, receiving the Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award in 2006 and the Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence in 2009.

Actually, Lederman made it a hat trick from the BWAA when, on May 11 of last year – ironically, exactly one year prior to his death – he received a special citation at the organization’s annual award dinner for being, well, Harold Lederman.

“Harold is the mayor at ringside of every fight he goes to,” Lampley said of his dear friend preceding that event. “Whether it’s in the United States or on foreign soil, Harold knows everybody and everybody knows Harold. He’s a global ambassador for boxing, and his enthusiasm for life is wonderful. Harold is ebullient about everything. He’s ebullient about what he ate for breakfast. That’s the glory of Harold.”

And if he wasn’t always crazy about breakfast, he likely wouldn’t have complained to his waiter in any case. My wife and I were privileged to be at the same table as Harold and his wife Eileen for the wedding of one of former BWAA president Jack Hirsch’s daughters. Harold’s unofficial scoring of the quality of the varied dessert items would have had any pastry chef beaming with pride.

“It’s unusual for someone who has been part of boxing for as long as Harold to maintain a wide-eyed enthusiasm for the sport,” another longtime broadcast partner, Larry Merchant, said prior to the BWAA awards dinner in 2018. “Harold has a wide-eyed enthusiasm for boxing that’s beyond compare. When we do a show at an arena away from the hotel we’re staying in, HBO arranges for a car to take us to the arena. Harold never goes with us. That’s because, without fail, he’s at the arena hours ahead of us, watching every preliminary fight, saying hello to every judge and shaking hands with virtually every fan in the arena.”

In addition to his wife Eileen, Harold Lederman is survived by daughters Julie and Iris. Julie followed in her father’s footsteps and also is a boxing judge who has drawn assignments to a number of big-time bouts.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Arne K. Lang

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Crawford, Canelo, Caleb Plant and More

Although a lot of disinformation comes out of the mouths of boxing promoters, Bob Arum was apparently serious when he broached the idea of a two-fight series between Terence Crawford and Conor McGregor, the first fight to be conducted under MMA rules and the second under boxing rules.

Crawford is amenable. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself,” he told ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “…I haven’t been in that (wrestling) environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background.”

Crawford, 32, last wrestled in middle school so he would certainly need a refresher course. However, he would have a better chance of defeating Conor McGregor in an MMA match than McGregor would have of defeating him in a boxing match. So, if Arum’s proposed two-fight series ever comes off, the tailpiece may be unnecessary.

– – –

As first reported by ESPN’s Steve Kim, Andy Ruiz Jr. has dumped trainer Manny Robles. According to Kim’s report, Ruiz’s father informed Robles of the decision and said it was Al Haymon’s idea.

Andy Ruiz appears to be one of those people that can gain weight just looking at food. He weighed 297 ½ pounds for his pro debut at age 19, carried 268 pounds for his first meeting with Anthony Joshua, and ballooned up to 283 ½ for the rematch after leading reporters to believe that he had actually slimmed down for the sequel.

Ruiz, noted Kim, went from a feel-good story to a cautionary tale in just six months.

– – –

Who ya’ gonna believe?

A certain disreputable web site, bragging that it had an exclusive, told its readers that Canelo Alvarez had settled on Billy Joe Saunders as his next opponent and that they would meet on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. The next day, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, a far more trustworthy source, reported that Ryota Murata had emerged as the frontrunner and that negotiations were underway to stage the fight in Japan.

Perhaps it makes sense for Canelo to promote his brand in a new market. However, if he fights Murata, who holds a WBA belt, he would reportedly be dropping back to 160 and at age 29 he appears to have outgrown the weight class.

Stay tuned.

– – –

If Caleb Plant were an NBA player, his name would be Kevin Love. Plant, who recently married FOX/PBC reporter Jordan Hardy, is the only U.S.-born, non-Hispanic white person among the various champions in the 17 weight divisions.

Plant, who hails from tiny Ashland City, Tenn. (23 miles from Nashville) defends his IBF super middleweight title on Feb. 15 at Nashville’s 20,000-seat Bridgestone Arena. In the opposite corner will be Germany’s Vincent Feigenbutz who will be making his U.S. debut.

The 24-year-old Feigenbutz, who turned pro at age 16, has won 10 straight and 30 of his last 31. He represents a big step up in class from Plant’s last opponent, Mike Lee, who was in way over his head.

– – –

A sad note from South Africa: Five days after the death of trailblazer Peter Mathebula, his widow, Emma Gabaitsiwe Mathebula, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Peter Mathebula’s funeral, originally set for Saturday, has been pushed back until Tuesday and will now be a joint funeral.

Mathebula, who won the WBA world flyweight title in 1980, basically died a pauper, having sold all of  his boxing memorabilia to keep his head above water. His heirs had reached out to the government for assistance in defraying the costs of his burial.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 82: Jason Quigley Returns to SoCal and More

David A. Avila

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Southern California prizefighting heats up with Jason Quigley headlining a fight card in Orange County and then, two days later, another fight card takes place in the heart of Los Angeles.

Ireland’s Quigley (17-1, 13 KOs) faces Mexico’s Fernando Marin (16-4-3, 12 KOs) on Thursday Jan. 23, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, Calif. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight card live.

Quigley, 28, seeks to reclaim territory lost when he suffered a defeat last July against Tureano Johnson. Ironically, Marin would lose 10 days later in Hollywood to super welterweight contender Serhii Bohachuk.

For several years Quigley had trained in Southern California but decided to change trainers and location. He moved to Great Britain and still prepares near his native country but primarily fights in the U.S.

At one time Quigley clamored for a match against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez but now finds himself trying to prove he belongs in the upper tier of the middleweight division. It’s loaded with talent.

Also on the same fight card will be popular North Hollywood super welterweight Ferdinand Kerobyan who was headed to contender status when he ran into Blair “the Flair” Cobbs. At the time Cobbs was an unknown quantity but no longer.

Kerobyan (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Azael Cosio (21-8-2) in an eight-round clash in the semi-main event at OC Hangar. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Red Boxing International

On Saturday Jan. 27, Red Boxing International hosts its first boxing card of the year at Leonardo’s Night Club located at 6617 Wilson Ave. L.A. 90001. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Super welterweight Bryan Flores (13-1, 6 KOs) meets Brandon Baue (15-17) in the main event  in the first event of the year for the ambitious promotion company. For the past two years Flores fought primarily in Tijuana, Mexico where he racked up six wins. Now he’s back on Southern California soil.

Another match features lightweights Angel Israel Rodriguez (5-0) facing off against Braulio Avila (3-6) in a six-round fight.

Rodriguez fights out of Pico Rivera, Calif. but recently fought in Costa Rica where he won by first round knockout in November. He will be fighting Avila who just fought two weeks ago at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

It’s a long fight card with 11 bouts on the schedule.

JRock and Rosario

Boxing fans received another lesson on never underestimating a ranked contender regardless of the name recognition.

Jeison Rosario knocked out Julian “J Rock” Williams who was making the first defense of the WBA and IBF super welterweight world titles he won last year in my selection as “Fight of the Year.”

Rosario walked in with little recognition and was thought to be a soggy piece of bread for Williams. The long armed Dominican fighter walloped Williams in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia. It was yet another warning for fans to understand that anyone who steps in the boxing ring ranked as a contender can do the unthinkable. In this case Rosario knocked out the champion in five rounds.

Many felt Williams was far too skilled, especially on the inside where he showcased those skills last May against former titlist Jarret Hurd. It was a remarkable display of the art of inside fighting. But against Rosario, he never got a chance to exhibit those skills.

The loaded super welterweight division has another dangerous champion in Rosario.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. 6 p.m. DAZN – Jason Quigley (17-1) vs Fernando Marin (16-4-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. Showtime – Danny Garcia (35-2) vs Ivan Redkach (23-4-1).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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