|. . . THE CBZ JOURNAL||
Table of Contents
Photo: Ray Bailey
Photo: Ronald Puc
Photo: Marty Rosengarten
Why Mark Beiro is Your Hero: An Interview with One of Boxing’s
By JD Vena
Since the inception of the microphone, most of boxing’s prominent ring announcers have used their own distinct routine which distinguishes them from other announcers. Today’s Jimmy Lennon, Jr. uses his, "It’s Showtime!" while Ed Derian likes to repeat a fighter’s last name. In his method, Michael Buffer likes to rattle the crowd with his copyrighted saying of, "Let’s get ready to rumble!" Besides being extremely proficient in each of his endeavors, silver-haired (no offense GorDoom) Mark Beiro prefers to use a little bit of himself before and after he’s declaring the names and vital statistics of the two combatants.
While I had covered the Kirk Johnson vs. Oleg Maskaev card for the CBZ at the Mohegan Sun Casino a few months back, there were some moments of the evening that stood out to me besides the explosive left hook that dropped the big Russian. For me and to probably most in attendance, one of those moments had to do with Mark Beiro informing the fight fans that the next bout would resume after a 20-minute intermission. The crowd, who had already seen a less than spectacular, all-heavyweight card booed lustily upon hearing the disappointing news. As the crowd expressed their dissatisfaction, Beiro charged across the ring, jumped up on the second tier rope and taunted the audience as if he were a despised villain seen on the WWF. In an instant, the crowd turned their scowls to howls of laughter.
If you have met anyone that knows Beiro, they’ll tell you that this is typical behavior for someone who once mocked his high school principal on the school’s live intercom. Whether it’s in or out of the ring, Beiro, a life-long resident of West Tampa has been able to get a rise out of people since he was young lad. But beyond the sharp wit and humorous side of Beiro, when having a conversation with him, it’s easy to get a sense of how deep of an individual he is and why he’s truly the people’s choice when it comes to the profession of ring announcing. Recently, I had a nice chat with Beiro, who had just taken a break from hedge-clipping funny shaped animals out of the bushes in his front yard. Okay, the last comment I made up. I guess I know Beiro a little too well now.
JD Vena: I’ve read that you called your first fight card when you were 9 years old at the Ybor City Boys Club. Has announcing always been a trip for you?
Mark Beiro: Unquestionably, yes. I don’t ever recall wanting to be anything else but an announcer. Since I was a boy, I’ve always been in love with old-time radio. I’ve always loved newsreel voices and knew who the sports announcers were of all of the big teams. As exciting as a World Series is for me, not only did I know whom all of the players were from both teams but also the broadcasters of the team. Often times I like to imitate broadcasters’ voices. Announcing is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
JDV: Sitting at ringside all of these years, what were some of the most bizarre moments you’ve encountered or been involved with?
JDV: Okay, give me two stories.
MB: I did a fight in Beaumont, TX that wasn’t televised. There was a light-heavyweight preliminary bout on the undercard and both fighters were very inexperienced. They may have had four or five fights between both of them. Getting ready to introduce one of the fighters, I noticed that one of them was extremely nervous as he approached the ring. You could really see it in his face. When I finally pointed to him during my announcement, his handlers pulled off his robe only to discover that their guy forgot to put his trunks on. Fortunately, he had his protective cup on. I’m telling you, he flew back to his dressing room and wouldn’t leave. They had to insert two fights ahead of his. Finally, his handlers coaxed him into coming back out again to the hoots of the Beaumont crowd. What made it worse for him was the fact that he was a hometown kid. That was one bizarre incident. An incident that involved chicanery on my part was a Hector Camacho fight at Madison Square Garden. He came running into the ring dancing to some mambo music as he normally does. When he got into the ring, he accidentally bumped me while he was moving backwards with his shoulder and I resorted to my love of wrestling as a kid: I went flying over the top rope and onto the hard floor. Everyone thought I was hurt. The EMS guys came running over to my assistance and saw me with a smirk and they were like, "You son of a bitch!" The whole place was busting out with laughter. People who don’t know me can’t picture me doing that stuff. When my friends found out they were all saying, "It’s always the same with you. It’s the same crap you’ve been doing since school." Once everybody knew I was okay, everybody roared. No one looks at a ring announcer like myself and contemplates whether that person has any athleticism. I was always the kind of guy that could fall down ladders or roofs of buildings. I think that if I had any kind of bulk I could have been a professional wrestler or even a stunt man.
JDV: I had read a humorous story about you where the FBI was at one time interrogating you. What were the circumstances involving that?
MB: (Laughs) That happened during the early 70’s. I was arrested along with about 68 other people in the Tampa Bay area in some bogus FBI gambling sting. Everybody was let off. But what happened was my voice was being recorded on one of the bookmakers’ phoneline. I was calling in these penny ante $6 bets for friends of mine and they recorded all of these conversations. So when the FBI finally brought me into the interrogation room I was nervous as all hell. I was basically just out of high school. When they saw my name on the docket, they said, "Manuel Beiro?" because my first name is really Manuel. And I answered, "Well everyone calls me by my middle name, Mark." The guy who was interrogating me then alerted everyone, "Hey, this is Beiro. This is the guy who was doing all of the impressions." I was calling in all kinds of bets in the voices of Walter Cronkite and Jerry Lewis. They thought it was hilarious. The story you are referring to was written by Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune. He roared laughing listening to the story because he talked to boyhood friends of mine who were there and told him about it. I remember telling him which was an appropriate quote that he used in his story, which was, "It’s nice to be appreciated."
JDV: Not many people out of West Tampa know you’re quite an impressionist. I’ve heard you chuckle like Barney Rubble and make comments in Howard Cosell’s voice. Have you ever introduced a fighter’s name in a voice of say, Jerry Lewis or is boxing too serious for you?
MB: I do take boxing seriously, however, I did it once on a card I announced in the Florida area. It’s too bad you can’t talk to a promoter and friend of mine in Miami. His name is Tommy Torino, a one time fighter and now a promoter and matchmaker of note in the South. There was a fight he promoted on the undercard of a USA Tuesday Night Fights broadcast some time ago but this particular fight wasn’t televised. When I looked at is name, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. When I was announcing him, "Weighing 147 pounds, from Brooklyn, New York……. Michael Corleone (says it in Vito Corleone’s voice, the character played by Marlon Brando in the Godfather Part I). People were bursting out in laughter. The funny part about that story was that I hadn’t seen Michael Corleone since that day until recently at the New York State Athletic Commission office for a Thunderbox card. I knew I recognized him and I approached him and said, "Hey, aren’t you Michael Corleone?" and he busted out laughing. I don’t like to take a fighter’s mind off his fight but he was a good sport about it. To this day, Tommy Torino tells me that that is his fondest boxing story. I think that it’s fun to not take yourself so seriously.
JDV: Speaking of being serious, during the 70’s, you started crusading about the JFK conspiracy theory. You made presentations and conducted a number of seminars that exposed the Warren Commission’s investigation and theory of the lone gunman. What prompted you to get involved with this? Why do you find the assassination so captivating? And do you still conduct these seminars?
MB: To answer the third part of the question first, no or not very often. The reason is, Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK fulfilled the desire for knowledge for the subject. The specificity in that movie and the mechanics of the assassination were accurately explored and detailed in a way to see what really happened. Let me tell you that the hits that that movie took critically from people who had vested interest in terms of the positions of the assassination and the lone gunman theory if you look at it had nothing to do with the mechanics of how Kennedy was shot and what people were doing that day. The criticism usually goes toward what Stone used as postulations of why certain things were done for example, who would have conspired to do this? All of that is theory but it’s a lot more solid than the official theory of the Warren Commission. Nobody anymore believes that the Warren Commission’s investigation is legitimate. Prior to the movie, it was unthinkable for most people to question the investigation of his assassination. I was in the 7th grade when it happened. President Kennedy was in Tampa four days prior to being assassinated. He was the first president ever to visit Tampa and as typical of redneck powers that controls our state, we were not let out of school to see the first president of the United States visit our area. In my neighborhood, Kennedy was very popular. You would have thought it was Massachusetts in my neighborhood. I think that with him visiting Tampa and hearing about his death, it kind of got to me. There is a lot of tell tale significance that really underlined the importance. When I got home from school and saw that my mother was watching TV, which she never did, I knew there was something wrong. She wasn’t a soap opera person. When my father came home, he was extremely agitated on what had happened. Two days later he was in church finishing his Presbyterian services when I called him to inform him about Oswald’s murder. Just seeing how the murder affected my parents and my whole neighborhood for that matter really alerted me. When it comes to news, I’m a news junkie. Although I love sports, I was the kind of kid that looked at every sport in the world, but one of the things I always looked at was the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. That was a daily ritual with my dad and I. I knew all of the reporters and knew what their beat was as well as knowing that Louie Aparicio was a shortstop for the Chicago White Sox. My friends thought that I would work for CBS one day because I use to draw the CBS eye to the left of my name on my papers in school. All of those things impacted me. I just kept reading everything I could on the subject. When the assassination happened, I never suspected a conspiracy. I was like most boys growing up in the 50’s and 60’s that felt there was no way that government could hide something like that from us. I’m not a pessimist by nature but it really brought out the hardcore cynic in me. To this day, before I hear anything negative, I want to hear the proof first. When I do my radio show on Sunday nights, I’ll get calls from teachers I had in school who say, "You know Mark, for the kind of kid you were in school, it’s really amazing to hear you being so serious."
JDV: What kind of radio show do you run? Do you talk sports?
MB: That’s what most people assume but it’s not a sports show. It’s a political talk show. It’s current issue driven. We’re a news talk radio station in Tampa called Newsradio 970 WFLA. On Sunday nights when I assume no one is listening, I do three hours of current issue oriented talk from 7PM to 10 PM. I categorize the station as a fanatical right wing station and I’m the left wing liberal on the station. I’m basically one step left of the rest of the station which makes me a liberal. Politically speaking, I look at myself as moderately liberal. I’m less shock radio. I like a nice conversation. You can listen to it on the Internet at www.970wfla.com. There is a link where you can listen to the station.
JDV: Getting back to JFK, do boxing conspiracies intrigue you as much? Do you have any theories that fans need to be made aware of?
MB: I’m not a conspiratorialist by nature. I’ve seen a lot of things in boxing that I wish that I could have something to do with to strengthen it but I don’t envision that kind of radical shake-up. The first thing I would be interested in is a rating’s system that would be based on merit and is journalist oriented. I would rather boxing writers form a network whereby journalists are rotated in a monthly basis so the ratings can be more objective, something very similar to magazines such as Boxing Digest and Fight Game Magazine. They both have the same type of rating system. They say they impanel approximately 50 writers from around the world to form a consensus. The ratings that I’ve noticed in those magazines are obviously much more accurate than the alphabet soup’s ratings.
JDV: As well as announcing boxing events, you have been announcing for another deadly sport called Battlebots which airs on Comedy Central. Tell us what the show is all about?
MB: There is only one word that can describe Battlebots and that’s hilarious. On a personal level, thank God that this came along for me. When I first saw the show, I thought, "Only in California could something like this be conceived." I’ve done three of their tournaments and I’m scheduled to do the next one in late-May. For me Battlebots is lucrative and it’s galvanized people towards me. Most people in boxing or wrestling know who I am, but I’ve been getting stopped at airports with people asking me, "Hey aren’t you the Battlebots guy?" It’s really opened a lot of doors for me that I otherwise never knew existed.
JDV: Besides the additional pay checks, what excites you about Battlebots?
MB: I can’t explain why it’s so exciting. I learned about it from doing it. Until a few years ago, I didn’t know that remote controls could be used for anything other than for the TV. I am not what you call mechanically inclined. In fact I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t the announcer. With Battlebots, the job is very hectic and tiring because during 2 days, I end up announcing over 100 contests. During those two days I have to be able to keep the energy level up and make each introduction as concise as I can. I’m a very small part of the operation and yet it’s paid me a lot of compliments from the people that run the tournaments. Initially, they didn’t want me. They were looking for a professional comedian. The writing staff who writes my introductions is my biggest supporters. They know my inflection and I’ve taught them a couple things about the way I think it should be written and we trust each other’s judgement. I don’t really find it as amazing as everyone else does at least when it comes to my work because everyone who knows me has been saying, "You’ve been doing this kind of stuff all of your life," which is true. I like entertaining. I can’t explain why it’s so fun and popular, I just enjoy it.
JDV: Back when USA Tuesday Night Fights ruled the weekly boxing scene, your face was featured nearly as much on the TV screen as Sean O’Grady and Al Albert’s. As well as your various ring announcing responsibilities, I’ve heard that you had many other unseen activities going on to help out the show. What were some of the activities?
MB: With the USA network, the boxing coordinator was Brad Jacobs and he entrusted me with handling some of the extra duties because he knew of the background I had in boxing and the reputation I had for possessing organizational skills. A lot of people don’t know that I was the chairman of the Florida Association in the amateurs. We were the only association in the entire country that had defendable titles that I created. We also had a rating system among the managers. So my involvement in boxing is everything form the guy who puts the posters upon telephone poles to writing the media releases and coordinating the shows. I made sure that the fighters are able to get to and from the ring. Brad knew I was experienced and I became more or less his right hand man. In addition to announcing, on days when Brad may have had other business to attend elsewhere, I would go on his behalf and make sure that the show worked.
JDV: Do you still have these responsibilities as working as ESPN2’s most frequently used ring announcer?
MB: I think that if it was up to a large amount of people that have something to do with the show, they would recommend using me for all of their shows. I think that they would force the promoters to use me to announce their shows. I make it my business to go to the weigh-ins. I like talking with the fighters to get their information. When I attend weigh-ins, I’m getting first hand information from the fighters themselves to talk to me. I make sure that the information I have is coordinated with the truck. They don’t have any worries that when I announce a weight it’s going to be the weight that the fighters had. The network people like the fact that they don’t have to do any of my work for me and that they like the fact that I will do anything I can to make sure that their broadcast is accurate. I remember doing a show for CBS in the Bahamas years ago. I noticed that they spelled a fighter’s name wrong on one of their test broadcasts and I went in and told the truck. These are some of the little things that I’ve always been kind of anal retentive about. I also consider myself a media guy. My job foremost is to announce fighter’s names, hometowns and weights and give them the respectful kind of introduction that I think they are entitled to. When the fights are over my second responsibility is making sure that the photographers get the shots that they want in the ring. A lot of times, I’ll stand there in the ring and coordinate fighters for poses for the photographers. The media seems to depend on me. For example, if a writer comes to me and asks me, "Do you know who the fighter’s manager is," I’ll do that kind of legwork. I guess it’s the PR director in me. I’ve always been that kind of a guy since I was a kid anyway. It’s my lone stand-up of credibility (Both of us laugh).
JDV: Other than the format of the two shows do you notice a difference in the degree of greater level of excellence between ESPN2 and USA?
MB: I think that ESPN2 is excellent but the people that directed and produced ESPN2’s shows are the same people who produced and directed USA’s. A lot of people don’t know that Lenny Stucker and Rob Beiner performed the same functions at USA as they do now with EPSN. Personally, the only problem I have with ESPN’s shows has to do with the ring introductions. They want to create a setting whereby you go from watching the studio with Brian and Max right to the action in the ring. They actually join the contest when the two fighters are joined in the middle of the ring to listen to the referee’s final instructions. To me, as a boy I enjoyed watching the ambiance that a good ring announcer brings to a fight. I think announcing adds to the suspense of the fight that they’re doing without. But all in all, (ESPN) has always been big supporters of me as their ring announcer despite the fact that they don’t use the ring announcer for anything other than the decisions. They like how I handle the crowd or talk to the fighters. They are very comfortable that I know their system. I tell you what, in this business it’s always good to have those people sanction you as a ring announcer. It just helps your credibility a lot more.
JDV: As a media person, when you’re sitting at ringside do you score the fights?
MB: I never let people know what I’m thinking but yes I do score fights, particularly the main events. When someone comes up to me and asks me how I’m scoring the fight I tell them but I normally keep to myself. I always have an opinion of how I think a fight went. I like scoring fights whether it’s at ringside or home watching it on the TV. Most people don’t go through with the trouble of scoring and then wind up with this tainted vision of how they thought the fight went based on the last couple of rounds they’d seen.
JDV: Is it difficult for you to announce a decision that you know should have gone the other way? When you look at a judge’s final tally do you say to yourself, "You’ve got to be kidding me?
MB: No. There are two stories involving decisions where I have reacted inside. When Roberto Duran fought Hector Camacho a few years ago in Atlantic City, that decision enraged me. I really believe that Duran won that fight. It was a split decision win for Camacho, whom I have nothing against. I get along with both fighters but I just couldn’t see how Camacho won the fight. My wife even noticed that I was enraged. There is a picture of me on the wall taken of Roberto and I after the fight. She said, "Mark do you know that’s the only picture on the wall where you’re not smiling?" She attended the fight with me and knew that I was hot over that decision. But when I announced that decision, I gave no clue that I was enraged. The other decision happened when Winky Wright challenged Fernando Vargas a year ago. I announced that fight for HBO and scored that fight from ringside. I knew Wright from St. Petersburg across the bay but when I judge a fight I really feel that I’m being objective even if I have an opinion of the fighter. But even being as objective as I could be, I thought that it was a very close fight and even thought that Winky did enough to win that fight. When I read the split decision for Vargas, Carl Moretti of Main Events came up to me and said, "Mark, are you sure you read that one right?" And I said, "Yeah, I don’t mess up decisions." He couldn’t believe that.
Editor’s note: Judge Debra Barnes scored the fight 116-112 for Vargas.
JDV: Speaking of Winky Wright, I’ve heard that you had the opportunity of seeing him and Roy Jones, Jr. fight when they were youngsters. Did you have any expectations that either of them, especially Jones would be as successful as they have been?
MB: As for Jones, I thought that he’d be a good amateur and I didn’t really know Jones well enough to know that he had any aspirations to be a professional. When I saw him as a youngster at a function called the Sunshine State Games, which is a state-wide Olympic Style event, I thought that he was really something to watch but I never thought he’d be the dominant fighter he is today. I figured he’d be a good contender. There are very few people who I’ve seen that I can say that someone was going to be a world champion some day. When I saw his fight in the Olympics when he got screwed out of the gold medal, I cried that day. He’s such a good guy and he really deserved to win the gold. I think if people really look back to see how Roy Jones handled that situation, they would understand just how astonishing an individual he really is. I also thought that Winky Wright was another dedicated fighter with promise. The thing I like about both fighters is that they have friends, who they are real friends to. I’ve seen Roy Jones take many championship fights and take a pay-cut in exchange for putting a fighter that’s a friend of his on the card. I don’t know anyone else who does that. Both Winky and Roy are the kind of people that when you hear them talk to kids you can tell that they are sincere and really trying to reach out to them. They don’t care about what anyone else thinks. They are not doing it for a camera. They both feel that they can save youngster’s lives by doing these things and they do it gladly and without cameras. I see how they are and I admire both of them.
JDV: Jones has been all over the news the past several weeks for not trying to make a fight with Dariusz Michalczewski in Germany for the simple reason that he could wind up with another situation that he encountered in Seoul. Do you think that those reasons are sincere or legit the way some feel they are not?
MB: Yes and in addition to that, there’s no one who is going to tell me that Jones is actually afraid to fight this guy. Even the people who are suggesting otherwise are conceding that they know Jones would beat this guy. It’s too bad that this happened to Roy and I think it really has affected his trust of anything going on overseas. There’s no question of that. There is simply no way that he’s afraid of any fighter. He’s very cognizant of the business and the worms that exist in this business and while I may not necessarily agree with his reasoning on other aspects of boxing I don’t deny for one second deny his integrity. What he says you can bet that it comes from his heart. He’s not trying to impress anyone and he’s not trying to be anyone’s best friend either. If anything, he really does have a clear head about these things and learned enough where he might be overcautious in the eyes of some, but I don’t know anybody who has better reasons for rationalizing the way he does.
JDV: Do you think that his criticism is derived from spiteful media types?
MB: I think that I’m a media apologist but I think that there are some of the writers out there who say he’s ducking someone but if he actually signed to fight this guy they’d also be the one’s saying, "What does he have to gain by fighting this guy?" There is really no way he can win which is why I say he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I don’t dine with Roy Jones. If there have been more than 15 sentences spoken between Roy and I, then I would be lying to you. So I don’t have any reason to take his side on this subject. My conviction stands. I’ve seen him with his friends, which is all that matters to me. I see the way he treats his friends and that’s exactly the way I would want to treat my friends if I had that kind of fame and fortune that he has.
JDV: I’ve heard you say many times that you love your job and you’re living a dream. But is there a more ideal job for Mark Beiro? If so, what is it?
MB: I’ve always wanted to be a baseball play by play announcer but I think that time has passed. I love baseball and would have loved to have been a voice for one of the teams. While most boys grew up wanting to play baseball for a team, I would have wanted to announcer for one. But realistically, I know that that’s a boyhood dream. Other than that, growing up watching Johnny Addie on Gillette Friday Night Fights and he being an idol of mine, I never thought that I’d be doing what he’d be doing. I never in all my life thought that for a boy from West Tampa, I would be getting national recognition and meeting so many people who tell me that what I do they enjoy. It’s funny because I really don’t look for that specifically but it’s so nice to be appreciated. The greatest tribute I ever received was when a network couldn’t use me because of a network dictating another announcer and the promoter told me, "Mark, if the networks didn’t step in and force me to use this guy, you would be my guy all of the time." That’s a nice thing to hear from someone and you don’t hear many nice things in this business.
Hector "Macho" Camacho
Photo: Leonard Miller