Al Bernstein

     Al Bernstein was on my short list of people who I 
wanted to interview for Boxing Wise since I enjoy his 
work and respect his opinions. Some may question him as 
a announcer or analyst but no one can question him as a 
person, as he is the consummate gentleman and one of the 
good guys in boxing. I found Mr. Bernstein and his answers 
to be thoughtful, in-depth, polite, and above all honest. 
To this point Mr. Bernstein is by far my favorite 
interview, because of his engaging personality and the 
way he had me feeling at ease before, during and after the 
interview. After the first question of the interview Mr. 
Bernstein made the interview feel more like two guys 
talking about boxing over a beer rather than a interview.

Al Berstein's ringside report on the internet
To hear the latest news and opinions from Al Bernstein
please take the time to visit Al Bernstein's ringside
report on the internet.

     Al Bernstein, the voice of ESPN boxing since 1980, is a renowned
analyst who filled the blow-by-blow role on the network's weekly Top 
Rank Boxing series for 18 years. Al Bernstein also reports from the 
sites of virtually all major championship fights for ESPN's Sports
Center, and narrates and writes the script for most ESPN boxing 
specials. Besides his ESPN work, Al Bernstein provides analysis for 
closed circuit championship fights. He also served as analyst for NBC's 
boxing  coverage at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Al Bernstein was chosen 
Boxing Illustrated's 1994 Commentator of the Year. Previously, he made 
Sport magazine's "Top 100 in Sports" for 1990 the only television 
commentator chosen, was the World Boxing Association's Outstanding 
Boxing Commentator of the Year in 1989, received the 1988 Sam Taub 
Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America, and was the Rocky 
Marciano Foundation's 1993 Broadcaster of the Year. Al Bernstein has 
written for both KO Magazine and The Ring, was contributing editor for
Boxing Illustrated in 1978-80. While editor for Lerner Publications in 
Chicago from 1971-80, Bernstein won the Chicago Newspaper Guild Award 
in 1975 for The Best News Story. Al Bernstein is a western movie 
aficionado who competes in celebrity rodeo team-penning competitions 
with his horse Sunset Matt and is also a avid basketball player.

BW - Lets start with the question most people are asking themselves about  
you. Your'e more limited role at ESPN. Where you given any explanation as 
to why you were taken of the live boxing shows as a commentator by the 
new head of ESPN boxing Bill Cayton.

Al Bernstein - Well not exactly. No. My situation as is it exists, let 
me first let explain the facts of what is the case now. Then I can deal 
with that other issue. I am still under contract to ESPN for 2 more years 
and I am currently still covering all the major fights for Sportscenter 
and doing my "inside the ropes" feature which runs every two weeks. In 
the coming months I will be covering the Tyson fight, the Foreman fight 
DeLaHoya vs. Quartey and also Holyfield vs. Lewis. The other thing I am 
still doing for ESPN and I am going to New York to tape those and am in 
the process of taping, is the shows that air on Classic Sports called 
Big Fights boxing hour. Those are the things I am still doing for ESPN, 
those are all extra things in addition to my regular contract. So that's 
that situation. As far as the live boxing that I have done for 18 years, explanation was given to me. Of course I have read things in 
the newspaper but I was simply told "they wanted to go in a differen 
direction". That is the only explanation I was given. 
BW - Was there any kind of friction or bad blood between you and Bill 
Cayton at any time.

Al Bernstein - Not to my knowledge, I have not had that much dealings 
with Bill Cayton to speak of. Other than him being with a fighter that
was on our shows and I think I can say safely and I don't think I will 
be contradicted that my relations with about 90 percent of the people 
I deal with in boxing generally are trouble free. You know to the point 
where obviously I am in the job where I am saying things and have to say 
things (negative) about fighters in situations but in general I like to 
think that I dont have that many problems with people in the boxing world. 
And to my knowledge there were none with Cayton. 

BW - So you didn't make any kind of comments about Bill Cayton or his 
fighters, like the time Bill Cayton claimed that Vinny Pazienza had faster 
handspeed than Roy Jones. I remember the press gave Mr. Cayton alot of 
grief about that comment.
Al Bernstein - I don't even remember that. I did do that fight. I did the 
pay per view. I would like to think that nobody would be short sighted 
enough to try and alter programming on a network or affect the career of 
another human being based upon anything that petty. I have no idea but 
Bill Cayton has said in print on many occasions that he is the one that 
orchestrated the changes in the boxing on ESPN. I don't know if he is 
capable of doing that or not but he says it publicly so I guess I have 
to take it at face value. 
BW - You now work with ESPN classic sports doing the classic fights and 
also do boxing pieces for the ESPN Sportscenter. Do you still get 
fullfillment from your job now even though it is in a more limited role 

Al Bernstein - Well.....yeah. Here is the thing that happend. What I have 
done is just altered slightly. I enjoy the classic sports shows they are 
very enjoyable because you get to research them and they are shot very 
well, alot of care is put into those shows by the people at Classic 
Sports. Truthfully there is probably more care being put into those shows 
than maybe some other ones at ESPN. Because at ESPN clearly there are so 
many shows to put on, things like the superbouts and shows like that. 
That you don't always have the time, its like the difference between 
doing a feature film and doing a T.V movie. When they do a T.V movie they 
try and do their best but clearly there is not the budget or the timeframe 
to do it. With Classic Sports show it is a show where alot of effort and 
time is put into it, I wrote the scripts for the first 13 that aired and 
it was very fullfilling and enjoyable. So what I have done and what I am 
in the process of doing is taking this additional time, which luckily is 
being paid for by courtesy of ESPN (I laugh). If Bill Cayton did make 
them push me of the boxing, they are paying for the privilege of having 
to make that decision (we both laugh). What I am trying to do is take 
that time and utilize it to find additional things, not only to create 
revenue but to enjoy it and have a good time. I have several other 

BW - That is something I also wanted to ask. Your contract with ESPN does 
it allow to work such as writing for a boxing magazine or maybe doing pay 
per view events as a commentator.

Al Bernstein - Yes as a matter of fact it does. I can do a certain number 
of pay per view events and I will be doing those. I have a couple of 
people who are talking to us about me doing some pay per views. It also 
allows me to do non boxing for almost anybody. While I have been so busy 
with the boxing, I am currently talking to one of the stations here in Las 
Vegas about me doing sports for them and my manager is having discussions 
with alot of people about some non boxing stuff. The other thing that I 
have been busy with is a show called Al Bernstein's boxing party. Which 
is not a television or radio show, it is a live stage performance show, 
it has footage from different fights and it has sports music. I have had 
a couple of CD's out in which I sing and do sports music and we also do 
trivia on the stage show. It's kind of a multi media sports entertainment 
event that is designed especially for the Indian and riverboat casinos 
around the country and Las Vegas and Atlantic City. I have performed them 
all over, now that I have more time in my schedule I am really 
concentrating on doing those.

BW - Would you like to let the people know who read this know where the 
show will be held in Vegas.

Al Bernstein - Right now in Vegas we are talking to a couple of Hotels
about now doing it regularly. I have done it around the country and I 
just did it in the Las Vegas Hilton about two weeks ago. Right now we 
are talking to people to see where we are going to end up having a 
permanent home for it. I have done it all around, I did it at the Players 
Island Casino in Lake Charles, Foxwoods, Cripple Creek Colorado, I have 
done it in maybe 15 to 20 casinos around the country and now I am going 
to be going on the road more with it and also finding a home for it here 
in Vegas.  
BW - As you said your contract with ESPN runs out in 2 years, have you 
given any thought to what you want to do when it expires.

Al Bernstein - Thats a good question. That what this next 2 years is all 
about really. I would like eventually of course to get back into doing 
live boxing, and we have had inquiries from people. But I cant really do 
anything right now. ESPN has shown no inclination to buy me out of the 
contract and I don't know if I do want them to buy me out. It is naive 
not to admit the fact that people are interested in me doing live boxing, 
but right now I cant. I would say when that 2 year period is over, there 
are obviously people out there..... the people that are doing boxing are 
obviously the people who I would have to go to. Theres alot of people 
doing boxing Showtime, Fox, HBO, USSB. In fact I may very well end up 
doing a pay per view on USSB thru one of the promoters here in Las Vegas 
in january. So there is alot of people out there and I am just trying to 
be patient and do everything kind of in order and not jump the gun on 
anything. I enjoy doing live boxing events it is how I made my name. I 
like it and for now I have to admit I don't miss being on the road, thats 
the one thing about the 18 years of doing the ESPN boxing show was that 
there was quite a bit of traveling. I just found out I am going to be a 
dad for the first time, so because of that I am happy not to be on the 
road so much. I'll look into to doing boxing matches more probably in 
the future but it is early to speculate what would happen at the end of 
that contract.

BW - Could you tell us how you prepared for a live boxing show at ESPN 
and what kind of work went into that as far as studying fighters and the 
other work done to prepare for the show.

Al Bernstein - For any remote broadcast that you are going to do, I think 
theres a couple of things you have to do. The one thing that was a little 
different about our shows is that you are always going to see 4 to 6 
boxers that you are going to have to announce even if it is a pre-taped 
fight. Sometimes 8 boxers. You want to get whatever data you can about 
those boxers which is usually a process that begins during the week thru 
some phone calls. We were very fortunate at ESPN and they still are to 
have COMPU BOX  which is the company that counts the punches they also 
do research and they put together a niece package on at least the main 
event fighters. You go over that package and you augment it with some 
phone calls and then when you got on the site more often than not we 
would go to the weigh-ins and chat with the fighters. All of that 
combined should give you a pretty good picture of what the fighters 
are all about.

BW - I thought you and Barry Thompkins made a excellent team, do you 
still keep in touch with him or any of your other co-hosts.

Al Bernstein - It's funny you should say that, I just talked to him a 
couple of days ago. In fact there is a possibility he and I may work
together on a pay per view for a tough man contest in March. Barry 
Thompkins and I worked together for about 7 years and I believe overall 
it was the strongest partnership I've had in all the years. I've worked 
with over the years at ESPN....they counted them up once and I worked 
with something like 40 partners over 18 years which is amazing. Barry 
was there the longest and I felt like we were pretty well in sync. Barry 
and I have remained very good friends, of course he is doing great over 
at FOX network. Not only doing the boxing but also doing basketball, I 
think Barry is one of the best basketball announcers in the world.

BW - I have seen him do everything from PAC 10 football, basketball, 
boxing and even women's volleyball.
Al Bernstein - Yeah Barry is really a great all purpose announcer. You 
eluded to it earlier, I thought we had kind of a special blend. Somehow 
ESPN never got that, they never really......of course in those days 
their emphasis on boxing was much less. As long as it went along and did 
its thing I guess they were happy. They never quite understood what Barry 
and I were about and I dont think they understood what that chemistry was 
or what our act was. And thats a shame because I think they could have 
promoted it more and I think it would have been something they could have 
utilized better.

BW - Looking at some of the boxers you have covered in the past and even 
today, who do you think would do well as an analyst or commentator.

Al Bernstein - He is not a boxer though he did box, but he is a trainer 
that I always thought would be a excellent analyst is Tommy Brooks. Of 
course he is so busy now with fighters that I don't think he would be 
interested in doing it. Of the boxers that we covered, I have to think 
about it for a moment, because there are some. There are some guys who 
I thought under the right circumstances would be very good at it. 

BW - I always thought Kevin Kelly might be a good choice.

Al Bernstein - Kevin would be good, Kevin would have to be careful about 
editing himself a little better because he talks alot (laughs). He can do 
it, there is no question about that. I tell you someone else who could do 
it and this may surprise you is Michael Nunn. Michael I think could do 
it, if again he would just edit himself a little bit. And that just comes 
from somebody showing him the ropes and practicing with him. Dana 
Rosenblatt could do a good job, he is a guy that I think under the right 
circumstances and if given the chance do to it could be good. So often
boxers are not groomed to do it, they don't get the chance like other 

BW - With Las Vegas (Al Bernstein lives in Las Vegas) currently in a 
boxing lull, do you fly out to any fights or are you like the rest of
us and just catch the fights on the television.

Al Bernstein - I have been to most of the fights here, I haven't been
on the road too much the last 6 weeks or so. I am going to be going to 
the Foreman vs. Holmes fight to cover that for Sportscenter and I will 
be in New York for the Holyfield vs. Lewis fight. And December 12th 
because I am going to be in the area, I am going to be at that double 
header, which I think is going to be a tremendous double header. 
Robinson vs. Gatti and Campas vs. Vargas. That might be one of the best 
double headers in the last 5 or 6 years. I have to say HBO, the HBO 
after dark and the regular HBO championship boxing series in the last 
2 years has been the best boxing I think consistently thats ever been 
put on T.V. They have just had a great run of boxing.

BW - I have a couple of fantasy questions for you: If you could go back 
in time and announce any 3 fights in history which ones would they be. 

Al Bernstein - Oh boy let me think about that. I would want to do one
Sugar Ray Robinson fight thats for sure, and I think.....let me think 
which one it would be? I guess it would be (short pause) maybe his fight 
in Chicago with Carmen Basillio would be one possibility. Even though I 
am a great Sugar Ray Robinson fan it might also be dramatic to do the 
one where he failed to win the light heavyweight championship from Joey 
Maxim. I guess you would want to go of the fights I did do, 
that I might want to put in that category is Hagler vs. Hearns. I did the 
pay per view on that. If it's ones I didnt do, one of those Ray Robinson 
fights. I would have loved to gone back and done the Muhammad Ali vs. 
George Foreman fight in Zaire. I thought that was as dramatic as it could 
possibly get. I would have loved to have done the Ali vs. Frazier the 
first fight. I know you only said 3 but there are a bunch more I would 
love to add. Does it have to be a fight where there was television?

BW - No not at all.

Al Bernstein - I tell what I would have loved to go back in time to do
something like the Joe Louis vs. Max Schmelling fight. Something where
world events played into it where there was so much riding on it. Or one 
of the Jack Dempsey fights where he fought Firpo before 90,000 people. 
Those would have been fascinating events.         

BW - What about doing commentary with another announcer, who would you
select as your partner if you could choose anyone.

Al Bernstein - Don Dunphy for sure. He was the voice of boxing. Don Dunphy 
should be everybodies idol for boxing. No matter what happens to me the 
rest of my life and what did happen. The best thing that ever happend to 
me as a boxing announcer was Don Dunphy saying publicly and in print 
several times that I was his favorite boxing announcer, of all the guys 
he had seen in the contemporary group. To me there couldn't be any higher 
praise than that and in my getting to know him I found him to be the most 
charming and wonderful man. I was priviliged to give him, when  The Ring 
magazine had it's 75th anniversary, I was priviliged to give him the 
award for best announcer of all-time. Don worked alone and liked to work 
alone. I'd like to believe if there is a analyst he would have worked 
with it would be me, since he did say that he liked my work. I think he 
and I could have worked well together.  
BW - You mentioned earlier you are going to be a father. If your son was 
to be a boxer, who would you send him to train under to learn about the 
fight game and also about life.

Al Bernstein - If he  were lets say a amateur boxer or any kind of boxer 
I would like him to train under somebody like a Jesse Reid (has worked 
with fighters like Roger Mayweather, Orlando Canizales and Johnny Tapia) 
There is a gentleman in Louisiana who is not well known but is a 
tremendous trainer and manager Phil Bailey. Phil is great, great teacher 
of the sport and a great guy. Tommy Brooks is a good man who tries to 
bring the best out in people. I would want any of those 3 guys to be a 
influence on my son in every way including boxing. I like their approach, 
its a nuts and bolts approach which doesn't demean people and I respect 
BW - Have you ever announced a fight from Madison Square Garden or is 
there a venue where you would like to do a fight from before you retire.

Al Bernstein - I have done one from Madison Square Garden. I did the 
Mancini vs. Romero fight, I did one other one from Madison Square Garden. 
I have never worked believe it or not The Forum in California which of 
course is a good boxing venue. That would be fun. Madison Square Garden 
is of course a place you want to do because it is special and now of 
course they are getting back involved.  

BW - The Ring  magazine recently listed their top 50 heavyweights of 
all-time. Who would be in your top 3 or 5.

Al Bernstein - Obviously you would have to go with Ali in that group,
Joe Louis. Joe Frazier would be in there for me because of what he did. 
I never saw him fight but I guess you would have to go with Jack Johnson 
I've seen the tapes of him and for his time he dominated certainly.

BW - Is there anyone you feel is underrated at heavyweight.

Al Bernstein - Evander Holyfield is pretty underrated. I don't know if 
I would put him in the top 5 put he would be darn close. He and Larry
Holmes would be guys that are underrated. Holmes was a pretty amazing 
heavyweight champion. Let me think. I tell you a guy who would have been 
in the top 5 had he gotten a chance earlier to be a heavyweight champion. 
Sonny Liston but he came on the scene so late, and was over shadowed by 

BW - Is boxing your favorite sport or something you just became fascinated 
with and learned to analyse. Bert Sugar for instance has been quoted as 
saying that baseball is his favorite sport.

Al Bernstein - In my case, probably my absolute favorite sport is 
basketball. I like playing it, I like watching and I coached it with young 
kids. It's really my favorite. Boxing I got involved because, I did amateur 
boxing as a kid and I wasn't expecting to get involved with boxing. But I 
wrote a book on Boxing and that is kind of what got me into the 
broadcasting end of it. I never expected to be that well known for boxing, 
I really didn't. It kept escalating and you have to dance with what brung 
you. Boxing is a amazing sport. I know it's not for everybody because of 
the nature of it but I respect the athlets very, very much. When it is 
treated as a sport not a brawl or wrestling. And I always tried to treat 
it like we were looking at the same kind of event as when they covered a 
college basketball game, football game or whatever on ESPN. Without taking 
any shots, if there is one thing I regret about not only my predecessors 
but also what has gone on since I have not been on that show is that I 
don't get that feeling.     

BW - Would you like to expand on that as far as the current ESPN2 
boxing shows.

Al Bernstein - Let's put it this way. I would be lying if I said I wasn't 
disappointed with the way boxing is presented there. But that is really 
up to them, that is really their mission to go forward with. The one thing 
I have to say, is that I will let my work speak for itself. I have a body 
of work that is 18 years long and I will just let that speak for itself 
and I will let the fans decide about that show. 

BW - I have a couple of questions on current boxing news. Do you think 
Oscar DeLaHoya was cut or cut bad enough to postpone his fight with Ike 
Quartey or do you think he was just not ready physically or mentally.

Al Bernstein - I believe he was. I know there is some cynicism about that, 
but I don't see the big advantage for them to postpone that fight. Even 
to just get a little more time to promote it, I don't know that it is 
some magical elixcir. I don't think that it was a suspicious thing because 
they rescheduled it immediately and he didn't try and duck him. So I 
suspect he was cut.
BW - Do you feel Mike Tyson can or will regain any of the 3 major belts.

Al Bernstein - That is a big question. The big question now is will he
stay out of jail. It looks very bad for him, my feeling is that right now 
you would have to say if he does get one of the belts back it would be a 
upset. They are going ahead with the petition in Indiana to point out 
that he may have violated his parole, which he probably did. That doesn't 
mean they have to punish him and if that is the he still 
has the sentencing to worry about in Maryland. So he has alot of legal 

BW - Do you think  some of the young stars in boxing today are being 
rushed to title fights.

Al Bernstein - I don't think they are being rushed. Because there are so 
many title belts in boxing and that is the major problem with boxing. Too 
many weight division and too many championship belts, so guys can get 
there faster. I think that some of these young stars like Shane Mosley, 
Floyd Mayweather, and Fernando Vargas who is fighting for a title and may 
or may not win. That is a fifty, fifty fight. There is a certain pressure, 
David Reid is a example he will probably be fighting for some kind of 
title fairly soon. There is pressure just like there is in baseball, 
basketball and football. Look at Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning although 
Manning has handled it better, people are forced too justify contracts 
and the same is true in boxing. Young men that come out with a certain 
amount of publicity and expectations are pushed along. I think it is part 
of the landscape now. 

BW - Evander Holyfield vs. Lennox Lewis is now a done deal (or as close  
as we can get in boxing) what are your initial thoughts on that fight and 
who do you favor.

Al Bernstein - I think it is really a good fight and I think it is a 
great fight for boxing fans. I'm really, really happy for the sport that 
the fight got made. It's funny. I was one of the people criticising 
Holyfield for not making it, and I stand by that criticism. I believe 
he and Don King were the people that obstructed it. However having said 
all that and done all that I lean toward Holyfield in the fight. I 
believe that if he gets past the first couple of rounds against Lennox 
Lewis and doesn't get nailed with a big right hand or really hurt badly. 
I think as the fight wears on it will be much more Holyfields fight. 
Holyfield fights up and down to the level of his opponents so I think 
he will be really prepared for Lennox Lewis and because of that I think 
ultimately his heart and determination will take this fight. I think it 
is going to be a great, great fight.   

BW - Naseem Hamed what are your opinions on him and do you think he can 
beat everyone at featherweight.

Al Bernstein - At featherweight probably. Although I think it is 
intersting, watching Luistito Espinoza the other night. Espinoza while 
he is a vulnerable guy in some respect brings a interesting thing to 
the dance. He is tall, he throws those looping punches that could get 
to Naseem whether they will hurt him I don't know. Naseem Hamed is 
obviously very skilled and talented though he is unorthodox, and though 
he is maddening to many people to watch. His big liabilities are that he 
is short, he can be hit and he can be knocked down. He should never ever, 
ever, ever, ever move up to face the really good jr. lightweights. He 
would loose to Floyd Mayweather jr., Angel Manfredy, I think he would 
even loose to Arturo Gatti. I don't think at that weight if he moves up, 
he will be able to do anything. At featherweight he clearly can beat the 
featherweights and he is fighting alot of guys who are jumping up from 
jr. featherweight.

BW - His next proposed opponents are also moving up. Barrea and Morales 
are perhaps next.

Al Bernstein - Thats right, so he has that working for him also. Now 
Erik Morales would be a intresting match for him. I think probably we 
have to give Naseem his due, he is very talented and he can punch. We 
saw against McCullough if he chooses to be a boxer and a runner he can 
pretty much handle that situation also. 

BW - Although I like Hamed. I pointed out that Espinoza is pretty much
a carbon copy of Manuel Medina only he as a much better punch, and Medina
 gave Hamed fits in Dublin, Ireland.

Al Bernstein - That's right, that is a very good analogy. Espinoza clearly 
is the guy that I think would be very interesting to see him in against. 
Were going to find out a little something about what Prince Hamed thinks 
of himself and see whether he fights Espinoza, because you know the HBO 
people will be probably pushing for that fight. This is as big as Espinoza 
is going to get.

BW - Who do you rate as your top 5 fighters pound for pound of all time.

Al Bernstein - Lets see. Sugar Ray Robinson definitely at the top of my 
list, I wont necessarily do this in order. Archie Moore is in that list, 
Henry Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, and probably Joe Louis.

BW -  What about current fighters, any thoughts on the pound for pound
fighters now.

Al Bernstein - Yeah I like Shane Mosley in that top 5. Roy Jones Jr.
obviously, Oscar Delahoya, Evander Holyfield even though he never gets
put in anybodies top 5 list. The guy is the heavyweight champion and he 
keeps beating people. The other thing about Holyfield is when he does 
the job, technically he is a very sound fighter. What's that 4 people?

BW - Yes.

Al Bernstein - I would toss in and this may surprise you, I am going to 
throw in Johnny Tapia.

BW - We will find out tomorrow night, personally I lean toward Nana Konadu 
right now. I think Konadu has the reach advantage and in the tapes I have 
seen Konadu moves in and out really well. I he gets that jab going to 
disrupt Tapia's rhythm I think he will win. (Editors note: I really thought 
hard about excluding this portion of the interview to spare myself the 
shame of repeating those comments about Konadu beating Tapia ha ha)

Al Berstein - Are you? Tapia is also moving up in weight. I cant wait
to see that. I tell you the other fight that is good tomorrow is the 
James Page vs. Jose Luis Lopez fight. That is going to be on Showtime 
isn't it?

BW - Yes for a change Showtime will be featuring a good fight instead
of HBO. No Duran or Bean on this card.    
Al Berstein - They have had a kind of bad run there, but this will be
a very niece double header. What can you say, I love Jay Larken (the 
head of showtime boxing) and all those guys but HBO has had a run of 
great fights and look what they have coming up! December 12th, how about 
Mayweather vs. Manfredy.

BW - I know, I found it hard to believe Mayweather took such a hard fight 
after just wining the title.

Al Bernstein - You have to give him alot of credit, and I give Manfredy 
credit for going after it too. That is what boxing needs, so hopefully 
they will continue making those.