Harold Lederman: Exclusive Interview
03.08.06 - By Ryan Songalia: I met up with unofficial HBO judge Harold Lederman last week at the David Tua fight in New York City. We discussed some upcoming boxing events and his career at HBO.
Article posted on 03.08.2006
Ryan Songalia: How has it been working with Larry Merchant, Jim Lampley, George Foreman and the rest of the HBO crew for over 20 years?
Harold Lederman: I like working with the HBO crew, they're very nice to me. You got to realize, I came into boxing, I came into television as a fight guy. What did I know about television? All I knew how to do was score fights. I've tried to tell the public more or less whose winning or losing. I throw a few of my opinions in, even though I know I'm stepping on Larry's toes and Emmanuel's toes. If I see something, I try to tell you..
Ryan Songalia: Larry Merchant and George Foreman were known to agree on one simple idea, to disagree. Who do you think got the better of those arguments?
Harold Lederman: I'll put it to you this way. George always took the side of the fighter, Larry's more of an intellectual type guy. The public loved George because George would think like a fighter thinks. For example, if a referee was slapping a fighter's gloves, George would scream bloody blue murder about the referee because he hated when he was fighting to be disturbed by some referee whose trying to break them up by slapping his gloves. Larry would never know anything like that. George would give you alot of insight that only a former fighter could give you. George had that great personality, we hated it when George left HBO. The truth of the matter is, he was so busy he just couldn't spare the time. It had nothing to do with money.
Ryan Songalia: Emmanuel Steward is now sortof the boxer's representative on the HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast team. How does he compare to George Foreman?
Harold Lederman: He gives you a different angle, he looks at things the way a trainer would look at things more than the way a fighter would look at things. He does give you a trainer's perspective. Alot of times, he'll talk about a guy lifting too much weights or a guy ran too much, stuff like that only a trainer would know. Each person is an individual and they all look at it from a different perspective. I think what holds it all together is Jim Lampley, whose a great blow by blow guy.
Ryan Songalia: How about Lampley, what is it like working with him?
Harold Lederman: He's got a photographic mind. It's stuff that he remembers. He's got an unbelievable memory. For example, Jim Lampley graduated from the University of North Carolina. I guarantee you that he can the starting five on the University of North Carolina's basketball team going back to 1965. And that's absolutely unbelievable.
Ryan Songalia: Who is the greatest boxing mind that you've ever come across, as far as someone who knew the sport?
Harold Lederman: That's a real tough question, because in the old days you had alot of people that really knew boxing. I used to love Victor Vallie, the former trainer of Gerry Cooney, but Victor died. When I was a kid, my Dad had a drug store in the South Bronx. Victor lived two blocks away from my Dad's drug store. I knew Victor and his wife Lola and I knew their son real well. Their son is now training Oleg Maskaev, who is getting ready for our August 12th show on HBO in Las Vegas against Hasim Rahman. So, I really think Victor Vallie Sr. probably was my mentor to a great extent and was a tremendous boxing mind.
Ryan Songalia: What are your thoughts on the upcoming rubber match between Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales?
Harold Lederman: You never can count Erik Morales out of a fight. Heís never ever given us a bad performance yet. I know that Mannyís going to come in as a big favorite. Pacquiao is quicker, he may even be the harder puncher. But Erik Morales has got tremendous desire to win, he always makes great fights. I donít think heís shot by any sense of the word. I think it should be a great fight. I mean, Manny Pacquiao is coming off a tough fight with Oscar Larios. I really believe that the third fight is going to be as exciting as the first two fights. Erik Morales, as I said, Iíve never seen him in a bad fight. Iím really looking forward to it.
Ryan Songalia: Manny Pacquiao knocked Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, winning by 11th round knockout. Do you think that it would be a discredit to Barrera's career if he didn't face Pacquiao again?
Harold Lederman: I would be amazed if Marco Antonio Barrera doesn't insist on Manny Pacquiao again. If Pacquiao gets by Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera gets by Rocky Juarez, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if we see a return match between Marco and Manny. Marco's got too much pride to retire unless he gets Pacquiao back.
Ryan Songalia: Floyd Mayweather recently turned down $8 million to fight Antonio Margarito. Do you think that Mayweather is in any way intimidated of Margarito and reluctant to fight him?
Harold Lederman: I think Floyd knows heís the number one guy in boxing today. I just canít figure out what heís looking for. Yeah, heíd be taking a chance fighting Antonio Margarito because heís probably in for a 25 mill payday if he stays undefeated and gets in the ring with Oscar De La Hoya. Maybe he doesnít want anybody as tough as Margarito, but as far as being scared of Margarito no, not at all. The question is, whoís he going to fight in November? I donít know, I hope itís not a Henry Bruseles again! I hope heís going to fight somebody tough. Heís got a date in November, heís got to give us an opponent real soon. Thereís not too many people left. I hope itís going to be either Baldomir or Cory Spinks. We need to see Floyd in a tough fight.
Ryan Songalia: Earlier this month, Sugar Shane Mosley scored his second stoppage of Fernando Vargas. Do you think Mosley has regained his form, or has Vargas just been through too many wars?
Harold Lederman: I think Shane Mosley is back. He looked so good with his dad in the corner. He was quick he was sharp, everything was landing real well, he took a tremendous punch, his legs were in great shape, he moved real well, he kept Fernando off balance. He won every round, what else can you say? I think Sugar Shane back with his dad looked real good, I think heís a definite force whether he fights at welterweight or junior middleweight.
Ryan Songalia: What about Fernando Vargas? Vargas was blown out in a one sided fight in the Mosley rematch. Can he rebuild back into a contender or have the wars taken a toll on him?
Harold Lederman: Let me tell you something, heís got problems with his back but the truth of the matter is the biggest problem he had was getting down to 154. Heís got the heart of a lion, when he gets in that ring heís about as mean as any fighter in boxing today. Everybody loves him, I love him, I want to see him back! He was one punch away from knocking out Felix Trinidad, one punch away from knocking out Oscar De La Hoya. You got to call a spade a spade. Ferocious Fernando is still a great fighter once he gets in that ring. Iíd love to see Fernando get married and then comeback at 160 where he wonít have such a hard time making the weight. As long as his back holds up, Iíd love to see Fernando Vargas come back. I donít think heís shot at all. No!
Ryan Songalia: Arturo Gatti is in a similar situation, after coming off of a devastating stoppage loss. Do you think Gatti has anything left to offer?
Harold Lederman: Iíll put it to you this way. I certainly think that if he does, heís got to come back against an easier opponent to see if heís got anything left. You know, fighters are stubborn guys, they all hate to quit. I never thought Arturo Gatti would come out banging with this guy. The first seven rounds he stood toe to toe and banged with him. He didnít start boxing him until the 8th round. I never thought heíd fight a style like that. Thatís the way he is, the guy is a born fighter. When you get a born fighter, it ainít easy to make him retire. He had a terrible time when he used to try to make 140, maybe he can fight someone at 147. But he needs an easier opponent to see if heís got anything left. He might need an ESPN2 against the loser of Kermit Cintron-Mark Suarez.
Ryan Songalia: What about Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright? What are your thoughts on the first fight?
Harold Lederman: I never saw a guy give a fight away like that. That was horrible. Winkyís got the guy beat after 11, the guyís eye is completely closed up, theyíre fighting in Jermain Taylorís hometown virtually. Winky donít know how the judges have got it, what does he do? He prances around in the 12th round and doesnít do a God damn thing when he couldíve won that 12th round so easy. Jermain never saw the punches coming. And yet, Winky blew the 12th round and it turned out a draw. He has no one to blame but himself. The truth of the matter is that when you get a controversial draw like that, the only thing it does is make more money for both guys the second time around. Winky may not have come out a winner, but heís going to come out a winner the second time when he gets a lot more money.
Ryan Songalia: Out of the young prospects coming up, who are you most impressed with?
Harold Lederman: Amir Khan, numero uno! Amir Khan is definitely going to be the next big star in boxing. In my mind, thereís no doubt about it. Probably at 140, the minute Amir Khan steps up youíre going to see a fighter that has the talent to become the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, any of the greats. Heís tremendous.
Among the heavyweights, I like Ruslan Chagaev the White Mike Tyson, the one that nobodies ever seen. I saw him on TV when he fought in Michigan against Rob Calloway, he knocks guys out like crazy. I think that Peter Kohl who promotes Ruslan Chagaev is doing a nice job with him. I think Chagaev is going to be the heavyweight that really may be something special in the division. Ruslan Chagaev, remember the name. I like the kid that Golden Boy promotes, Abner Mares. The kidís about 18 years old, punches like a mule, has every move in the book. I love that kid on the way up. Abner Mares to me is nothing short of sensational. I think heís a great prospect. Arthur Abraham, hardly anybodies ever seen him. Heís had less than 20 fights, he holds a version of the middleweight title. He can be a force in boxing. Those are a couple of names of guys I like.
Ryan Songalia: What do you think about the upcoming fight between Ike Quartey and Vernon Forrest? They are two former welterweight champions who are now campaigning at junior middleweight. What are you expecting from this fight?
Harold Lederman: Ike Quartey looked real good on an HBO show against Verno Phillips, but just like he always does, gets into the late rounds and fades. He almost got himself knocked out. We remember he almost did the same thing with Jose Luis Lopez, almost did the same thing with Oscar De La Hoya. He seems to get into the late rounds and he lets down. He's got a real stamina problem. On the other hand, I saw Vernon Forrest in two comeback fights. One at 147 where he looked sensational. Then I saw him at the Pechanga when he fought at 154 and he looked horrible, he won by a tenth round knockout and didn't look good at all.
It's a hard fight to call. If Vernon is in real good shape, if Vernon really worked hard, I like Vernon Forrest. But, I got to tell you Ike Quartey jabs as good as he ever has in his life. And if you don't believe me, ask Verno Phillips. It took Verno Phillips about 8 rounds to catch him. Ike really boxes beautifully early in the fight.
Ryan Songalia: What do you think about Brian Viloria?
Harold Lederman: I love Brian Viloria. Whether he stays at 108 or fights at 105 or he moves up to 112. He's certainly got alot of power, alot of skill, all he needs is to stay busy, keep on fighting. You know, he's got the personality, he's got youth on his side, he's got everything, he really does. I don't think 112 is too heavy for him, I think right now he gives Jorge Arce a great fight.
Ryan Songalia: If you had to pick between Viloria and Arce, who would you go with?
Harold Lederman: Viloria, I just love that kid. Too much personality, hits too hard, I love Brian. I pick Viloria, I pick an upset. You know, Jorge Arce is not the easiest guy in the world to miss. Of course he hits so darn hard, he'll take one to give one. But somehow or another, I just like Brian Viloria. He's a great puncher, moving up he'd be comfortable making the weight. I saw Jorge Arce collapse on the scales one day trying to make the weight. He's always had weight problems. On the other hand, Viloria going up to 112 wouldn't have a weight problem. He's so personable, and he hits so hard and his skills are so great. I'll pick Viloria.
Ryan Songalia: What are your thoughts on the upcoming IBF Heavyweight title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Shannon Briggs?
Harold Lederman: If Shannon Briggs can drop, lets say somewhere around 245, he needs speed. I still think Wladimir, as great as he is, he has that tremendous skill, he's still a little bit gun shy. When Corrie Sanders knocked him out, he really psychologically became afraid of big shots. What he does is when he gets in with a big puncher like Samuel Peter, he lands that great jab and then he ties you up. Alright, if you got a referee that will let you hold all night, he'll get away with that. But if he fights Shannon Briggs and Shannon's got a referee thats not gonna let Wladimir hold, cause we all know Shannon can crack, Shannon's got a real good chance at winning that fight. The thing is that Shannon's got to lose some weight, get in shape, and work harder than he's ever worked in his life. I think the fight's a done deal for November in Madison Square Garden. The ball is in Shannon Briggs' court. If Shannon throws punches cause Shannon can really crack, Shannon can win that fight. I think Wladimir proved that in the Davaryll Williamson and the Lamon Brewster fight that he's a guy that fears big punches.
Ryan Songalia is a syndicated columnist. If you would like to contact him, his e-mail is email@example.com
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