Hall of Fame ring announcer Michael Buffer, whose youthful appearance belies the fact that he turned 68 in November, will be profiled on HBO’s debut short series, “Cornered,” on March 5 at 10:15 ET/PT.
Part of Buffer’s personal story has involved having to overcome throat cancer thanks to an operation that removed a lymph node attached to his tonsils — the source of a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Before the operation in March of 2008, Buffer was lying on an operating table at the USC Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, planning to write out his will.
“I was preparing to retire and get all of my affairs in order,” said Buffer, during an an interview in September of 2009. “But I actually had a really excellent surgeon, Dr. Dale Rice, who is one of the best in the world…I woke up out of surgery, and my voice was there.”
In December of 2011, Buffer shared with RingTV.com what were his Top 10 most memorable fights with RingTV.com, below, in chronological order (with video links).
Roberto Duran KO 8 Davey Moore, June 16, 1983, Madison Square Garden: Moore had won nine straight, all by knockout, and was 12-0 coming into the fourth defense of his WBA junior middleweight ititle belt. Among his victories had been a stoppage of former beltholder Ayub Kalule, whose only previous loss had been by knockout against Sugar Ray Leonard.
Duran was after his third straight win after having already lost to Leonard in the “No Mas” fight, as well as to Wilfred Benitez and unheralded Kirkland Laing.
“That was a fight that was won by the underdog, Roberto Duran, who had been on a slide during a career that was taking a nosedive. I had never been to a weigh-in before, but it seemed like a thousand Panamanians showed up with their flags in support of Duran at the weigh-in,” said Buffer.
“The place sold out. It was the first sellout since Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier there. Duran landed nearly every punch in that eighth round, and I mean, Davey Moore was done. The crowd was electric. But what made that night even greater for me, personally, was that it was the first big so-called ‘Super Fight’ that I had done.”
In addition, Buffer was able to introduce fighters such as Ray Mancini, Marvin Hagler, Gerry Cooney and Larry Holmes, each of whom went into the corners of the main event fighters to shake their hands.
“So I started lining them up, and, of course, Muhammad Ali was there. I saved Ali for last. I remember saying, ‘former three-time heavyweight champion of the world who is known as, and who perhaps really is, The Greatest of All Time.’ The place went insane. That was about eight months after I had had my debut, at which I was completely dreadful and another six months went by before I got another job,” said Buffer.
“So I was kind of lucky to have gotten my foot back into the door. Back in those days, I didn’t even get a hotel room. I had to drive from Philadelphia, show up and change. I changed in the room of Angelo Dundee’s brother, Chris, who was a great guy. Thanks to Bob Arum for giving me a shot at doing this fight. From that day on, I was never nervous any more.”
Mike Tyson KO 1 Michael Spinks, June 27, 1988, Convention Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.: It was a clash of undefeated heavyweights with claims to the biggest prize in sports. Tyson was the WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight beltholder, and Spinks, who THE RING recognized as the lineal champion, was coming off a fifth-round knockout of Gerry Cooney.
“They had a title for it,” said Buffer. “They billed it as ‘Once and For All.'”
Spinks went down twice, the second time for good, during a 91-second bout.
“It was one of those really unbelievable nights. I don’t know how, but they got something like 18, or, 19,000 people into Atlantic City’s Convention Hall, which is what the record books show,” said Buffer. “It was a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of celebrities. The place was totally packed with celebrities all over the place.
“There was Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Madonna, who was married to Sean Penn back then,” said Buffer. “There was also Warren Beatty, Opra Winfrey, Jessie Jackson and George Steinbrenner, among others.
“But Butch Lewis tried a psychological ploy by going into Tyson’s dressing room and saying there was a lump in Mike Tyson’s glove or something. This was after they had already been wrapped his hands in front of Eddie Futch and everything,” said Buffer.
“So there was a 40-minute delay. I literally had to introduce everybody in the building. It was unbelievable trying to keep the place from going nuts. They didn’t know whether to play music or what. But of course, 91 seconds later… What makes it memorable is that it was such a great event. Imagine that fight today. They would have destroyed all of the pay per view records.”
Roberto Duran SD 12 Iran Barkley, February 24, 1989, Convention Center, Atlantic City, N.J.: Duran was after his sixth straight victory, having lost consecutively to Hagler and Hearns, the latter by second-round stoppage in June of 1984. Duran had also lost by split-decision to Robbie Sims among his seven losses.
The hard-hitting Barkley, meanwhile, had lost four times but was coming off of a third-round stoppage of Hearns, one of his two wins over the five-time titlewinner. Barlkey was making the first defense of the WBC middleweight belt that he had won from Hearns.
“That fight was in a blizzard, and once again, it was a Roberto Duran who had been written off and he was 38 years old at the time. Barkley had just beaten Tommy Hearns in an unbelievable middleweight fight where he was literally being killed, and he came out for the third or fourth round without his mouthpiece in and knocks Tommy Hearns out,” said Buffer.
“So now, here is this chisled in stone, heavyweight-looking middleweight in Iran Barkley who was a rock in those days. That’s probably in my memory, the best fight that I’ve ever sat at ringside for. I was literally on the edge of my seat from the opening bell to the final bell.”
Buffer recalls Barkley being floored in the 11th round of a thriller.
“I can remember around the eighth or ninth round when Duran got hit with a punch that spun him completely around, and, somehow, he planted a foot that kept him from flying out of the ring,” said Buffer. “Then, in an 11th round that he was losing, he throws a combination to drop Barkley for a two-point swing, which helped him to pull off a split-decision win to become the world champion.”