"I never thought Roy Jones Jr. became a complete fighter. So all of the mistakes he made that he was able to cover up because of his athleticism eventually got to him. The difference between a fighter like him and lets say Mayweather is Mayweather's skill set is so good that even when he may have a slight slippage of his physical skills, he's got the technique to kind of cover up some of those holes. Now he's got two more fights left on this deal, which if those are in fact his last two fights, I guess the question is, how far back has he slipped and will anyone in this current crop of welterweights be able to take advantage of that," stated Showtime commentator Al Bernstein, who shared his thoughts on a number of topics, including Canelo's move to HBO, whether or not Floyd Mayweather is showing signs of slippage, and much more. Check it out!
PC: Congratulations on being honored by the great Gale Sayers Foundation. Being a Chicago native, that has to be a big deal for you.
AB: It's amazing. It really is. Growing up in Chicago, I watched Gale and his iconic career and I got to meet him a few years ago as we did some work for the Gale Sayers Foundation and it was a great treat. And when they decided to honor me at this dinner on October 9th, it was thrilling.
PC: How did you receive the news that you would be honored?
AB: The executive director of the organization contacted us and said that they wanted me to be one of the honorees and I was thrilled. It's very nice and it's always fun to do things in your hometown, and as a Chicago native, it's kind of nice to go home amongst your family and friends and people you know that you grew up with and receive something like this. What makes it special too is the Gale Sayers Foundation does a great job helping inner city kids in Chicago. It's been a terrific foundation working with kids to get better skills in the job market or to go to college. So it's a great honor and when I found out about it, I knew it was really special. There will be a lot of Chicago notables; Coach Mike Ditka is gonna be there among many honors. It's gonna be fun and I have to say, it's a nice little extra perk.
PC: Are you a write a speech type of guy or are you gonna just wing it?
AB: I will have some prepared comments. It's funny because I'm one of those people...I'm different because I wing very little. That sounds ironic because when you spend 35 years as a sportscaster doing live television and live sports events where you constantly have to react at the moment. I think it's different when you're on camera in a studio situation. I would feel naked if I didn't have some kind of notes or some kind of structure at my disposal.
PC: Mayweather/Maidana 2 was your 100th pay-per-view broadcast.
AB: Yeah, that was my 100th pay-per-view. It was weird, we were going through things and all of a sudden, Adie Zuckerman, who works in my office said, "I think that you are right around 100 on these pay-per-views." I thought it was interesting, so we looked at it and it was 100. It's kind of a strange milestone, but it's cool to think about because it's a whole lot of pay-per-views to do. The reason for me I think that number got so relatively high was because of the work I did in the '80's and '90's and I was fortunate enough to do a lot of the pay-per-views for the Four Kings and their fights. And now that Showtime is back into the pay-per-view business, it kept growing. I'm sure some of my other colleagues at HBO, whether it's Larry or Jim, I'm sure they've done more because HBO done so many, but I don't know, it was a lot.
PC: The pay-per-view model and landscape has changed significantly since the '80's and 90's. How has it changed in your opinion from pay-per-view one to pay-per-view one hundred for you?
AB: That's a very good question. In a way, it has. You know, that's interesting. In a way, it has and yet in some ways, you can't do too much different with it. There are so many changes you can make in it. It's strange you should say this because somebody pointed it out to me. I was looking at a video of the Hearns/Hagler fight, which was an interesting one because on that broadcast, Curt Gowdy was the host and Al Michaels did the show with me. So it was an interesting group of announcers. I think what changes sometimes with these pay-per-views, and I think with television in general, is that they have more announcers. You get more people involved. Back then, sometimes you didn't even have a host. You had the two announcers at ringside and they did everything. And in that case, we had Curt Gowdy and now these pay-per-views, the cast is a thousand people. Sometimes the announcers outnumber the fans (laughing). But that part is a little different, but for the most part, the format is somewhat similar except the features and things like that are much larger.
PC: When a rival network like HBO grabs a fighter like Canelo Alvarez, or when you guys grabbed Floyd Mayweather from them, does that directly impact what you do and your approach or do you have to do your best to keep these fighters faceless and nameless?
AB: You know, that's also a good question. I don't know how everyone else reacts to it, but you're human so you pay attention, like when Floyd Mayweather came over to Showtime or when we got back into the pay-per-view business when we did Pacquiao's fight against Shane Mosley. When I came to Showtime in 2004, for a long time, we only did a couple of pay-per-views. We didn't do that many pay-per-views. We did very nice fights, it was wonderful, it was fantastic, and I loved being there. But when Mayweather came, or like the Pacquiao fight, you are now doing a fight that you know everyone, including the casual sports fan, is watching because it's at the center of the boxing world and you are aware of that. You know that and it's fun. That makes it even more fun. But I try to kind of keep my blinders on in terms of all that. I really do so that I'm not affected one way or the other. Fighters switch networks all the time and every network goes through ups and downs and all of that is forever fluctuating. The only thing that's a constant for me, the only thing that I can control is doing the very best job that I can on the fights that are in front of me. And I've been fortunate enough, especially when I went to Showtime in 2004, that for the most part, the fights in front of me have been interesting and good and very intriguing to do and have meant something on some level. Even if every fight you do isn't the Mayweather versus somebody, they all have some importance. So for me, I kind of concentrate on that. And another thing I try to concentrate on is the show. I want the show to be good. If I walk away from a boxing show and I feel like I have contributed in some way of making it a good show overall, then I feel accomplished. I don't look at the bigger picture so much as far as where fighters are going. The bigger picture I do look at is how good the show is. That's beyond just my role. I walk away from a show and I feel it was good and a success that makes me feel good.
PC: We spoke before about how busy you guys got with the addition of Mayweather, a lot of his fighters, as well as Al Haymon fighters. Do you look forward to getting some breaks or the more shows the better for you?
AB: Well Percy, for the first 18 to 20 years that I was a broadcaster, I did the ESPN/Top Rank Boxing series and we did 40 shows a year; more than that. Sometimes we did up to 45 shows a year. I got used to a pretty strenuous schedule. Now mind you, I'm a little older than I was back then (laughing), so I don't know if I could do 45 shows a year now, but I like the idea of doing a lot of shows. Sometimes you want a little time in between for other endeavors, and in my case, I got a 15-year-old son, family is important and all the rest of it. And I have other endeavors that I do, The Boxing Channel, and a new syndicated show that may be coming up soon, and other things, so it doesn't kill me when there is a little break with the Showtime fights because it also allows me to pay attention to some of my other endeavors too.
PC: The last pay-per-view you called we talked about earlier was Mayweather/Maidana 2. When you watch Floyd Mayweather fight, do you see the slippage a lot of people are starting to bring up or do you feel everyone is still playing catch up to him?
AB: That's a good question. In the first Maidana fight, I was really shocked that Maidana was able to put him on the ropes immediately. It happened almost within a minute. And Floyd didn't fight as well off the ropes as we were accustomed to seeing him fight there. I thought the first fight was a very close fight. I had it a one point victory for Mayweather. I thought the card that said it was a draw could easily be the case. He didn't move as well and he didn't seem to be able to get off the ropes as well, although in the second part of the fight, he did. The second fight, to me, was a mixed bag. I give Floyd all the credit in the world for being able to use his legs in that fight and be off of the ropes and for being able to use the center of the ring. All of that happened much better than it did it the first fight. Maidana was still able to get some things done in some rounds, but clearly I think everyone agrees that Mayweather won the fight. It would be insane to think at 37, approaching 38 years old, that there wouldn't be some slippage, if you will, in terms of physical and mechanical gifts for a boxer. Mayweather has kept those at bay better than most fighters that we can look at in recent years and maybe for a long time before that, but clearly there is a slight slippage from where he was at. Now here is what I think. Remember when Roy Jones started to slip in terms of overall skill set when he got in trouble against Tarver and Johnson. I should say he slipped in terms of his physical abilities. Roy Jones Jr. didn't have the mechanics to fall back on. To be perfectly candid, I never thought Roy Jones Jr. became a complete fighter. So all of the mistakes he made that he was able to cover up because of his athleticism eventually got to him. The difference between a fighter like him and lets say Mayweather is Mayweather's skill set is so good that even when he may have a slight slippage of his physical skills, he's got the technique to kind of cover up some of those holes. Now he's got two more fights left on this deal, which if those are in fact his last two fights, I guess the question is, how far back has he slipped and will anyone in this current crop of welterweights be able to take advantage of that.
PC: Before I let you go, I wanted to give you the opportunity to say something on behalf of Dan Goosen, who recently passed away.
AB: I was friends with Dan for over 35 years. I knew Dan very, very well over all of those years. I knew the Goosen family very well and it was a devastating blow to me personally as it was to many people in boxing. It's a great loss and early in our careers, we were together when he was doing fights at the Country Club and we televised them on ESPN. I covered Mike Nunn and the Ruelas Brothers and all of those fighters in the beginning when Ten Goose Boxing was getting going. There was a time where he and I and some other guys in the boxing industry back in the '80's, they used to call us the "Brat Pack" because we were a little brash and young and the fun group in boxing. I'll never forget that time and Dan has remained a friend over all these years, so I was both shocked and devastated when I heard the news.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]