Posted: Friday October 7, 2005 2:30PM; Updated: Friday October 7, 2005 4:26PM
3. Did you ever box?
Bernstein: I did box as an amateur, when I was a teenager. I was a middleweight and I was ... adequate. But then, you know, I got to college and I discovered politics and girls. I'm very happy, though, that I did box,because it gives me a deeper level of understanding when I'm calling a fight.
4. Is singing before an audience like boxing?
Bernstein: It is in that you're up there on your own. And it's definitely more daunting than broadcasting, where you have a team behind you and an event to work from. But the thing that would really be like boxing -- or worse, even -- would be doing stand-up. That's brutal.
5. From a historical standpoint, which boxer stands out to you the most?
Bernstein:Archie Moore -- he was the ultimate! And I got to know him. You could find out new things about him every day. He was so mercurial. Of all the athletes I've met, even covering other sports, Archie Moore was the ultimate.
6. You covered the Olympics in 1992 and '96 for NBC. Do the Olympics still matter as much as they once did for an aspiring pro boxer?
Bernstein: Obviously less so, but it still carries some cachet. It still means something to be Olympic champion or an Olympian. It just doesn't automatically make careers as it did in the '80s and '70s. The big reason, simply, is that NBC started showing a lot less boxing.
Here's my take -- and this may sound corny, but it's how I feel -- I believe that the amateur boxing program in this country is not about winning gold medals or dual meets with the Russians or the Cubans. Amateur boxing in the U.S. is about saving kids, getting them into a program that keeps them out of trouble and gives them something to work for. Even if it's just one out of 50 or 500 kids.
7. If Al Bernstein gave a real-life sports party, which five guests would he make sure were invited?
Bernstein: That's a tough choice. I think it would be a very eclectic mix. Can I invite another broadcaster? I'd start with Dick Enberg. I just love hearing him talk about things. He's an interesting, erudite, intelligent guy. No. 2 would be George Foreman. He's funny and I've always had a good relationship with him. Plus he can cook! Then I'd have Joe Goossen, the trainer. Very funny, interesting. He'd bring a lot to the party. He never ceases to be entertaining on some level. Spencer Tillman -- the former NFL running back and broadcaster -- would have to be there. He is one of the most intelligent people I've ever interviewed. And you'd have to have a lady in there: Billie Jean King! I just read her book and I think she's fun.
8. You've also done a lot of horseback riding and been involved with celebrity rodeos. Who's tougher, boxers or rodeo cowboys?
Bernstein: Whew, that's a push, I think. I'll never forget going to Gilley's in Dallas once with Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler and there was that [mechanical] bull from Urban Cowboy, and I looked over at Hagler, who was shaking his head, and he said, "There's not enough money in the world to get me to ride that thing." And that was Marvin Hagler.
9. Which was a better boxing movie, Rocky or Million Dollar Baby?
Bernstein:Rocky, by far! I thought Million Dollar Baby, the movie, was an abomination. The book, too. The stories were ridiculous. Rocky was a great movie. You judge a movie by whether it achieved the goals it was going after and I think Rocky absolutely did that.
10. What needs to happen in the heavyweight division?
Bernstein: Somebody needs to come along and perform well enough to actually excite the public and look like they're better than everyone else. I think we're past the time when you need to be undefeated to be considered a real contender, but you do need to bring some excitement, which we're not seeing from the likes of Chris Byrd and the Klitschkos. You know who it could be, strangely enough, is James Toney. But we're going to have to wait, I'm afraid.
11. What possible fights would you most like to see made in the next year or so?
Bernstein: Well, I'd like to see Jeff Lacy and Jermain Taylor. I think it'd be a really good fight. I'd like to see Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather. Oh, and Miguel Cotto and either Hatton or Mayweather. Those would be fun! And then I'd also like to see any combination of Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. They could fight forever and it would be great.
12. Are Showtime boxing announcers contractually obligated to refer to ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. as "the classy Jimmy Lennon Jr.?"
Bernstein: [Laughs] That's Steve Albert who does that! I think Steve just does it because he likes him. I don't think it's in the contract.