There’s Pete Rose’s 4,256 career hits. Cal Ripken Jr.’s “iron man” streak of 2,632 consecutive games played. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single game. All of these records are considered largely unbreakable.
But perhaps the record least likely to be broken resides in the sweet science. It doesn’t have to do with the guys landing the blows, either, but the man calling them.
Colonel Bob Sheridan has called 952 world championship fights through this past Saturday’s huge pay-per-view card headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. against Saul Alvarez. Even in an era where world titles are handed out like call-girl flyers on the Las Vegas Strip, the likelihood of anyone approaching that number is extremely slim.
Sheridan has endured a number of ups and downs, most of them related to his health. The Colonel has bounced back nicely from his sixth heart attack and has a new lease on life after undergoing a triple bypass in mid-July. He now has his sights set on calling an unprecedented 1,000 championship fights.
“It was my sixth heart attack and I didn’t realize I was supposed to go to China on a Monday and I was in getting an angiogram on a Friday so I could see that I was okay to go to China,” said Sheridan to RingTV in the media center last Thursday.
“And they found blockages, with all the problems I had, they said it’s time, I gotta have the bypass. It was gonna be a triple bypass, scheduled for 7 hours of surgery, which is dangerous for a guy with six heart attacks, and I’m 70.”
“Anyhow, we go into the surgery and they find something else that didn’t show up on the angiogram, which was 100 percent blockage. So, thank God, I didn’t take that trip to China, I would have been dead. There’s no way I would have survived. The man upstairs is looking after me.
“I do about fifteen events a year where the flight is in excess of 15 hours. I do a lot of work in western Australia, Singapore, Thailand, I make about six trips a year to New Zealand and six trips to Sydney. So there’s a lot of flights where if a heart attack starts two hours in, I’m a dead man. So someone upstairs likes me.”
Sheridan is the international voice of boxing. American fight fans are actually probably less familiar with his work than those who watch American fights from other countries, as he often does the international feeds for big events.
In recent years, Sheridan said he hadn’t been feeling like he was doing his best work, wasn’t as sharp as he used to be. The bypass has him feeling like a new man.
“I did a show in Parker, Ariz. [Wednesday night] where I was really on my game,” said Sheridan.
“I wanted to do it, it was my first show back since June. It was like going down and doing a rehab start for the Red Sox minor league affiliate. I had a great night. I was on. Nobody had to say I was on because I knew I was on.”
Sheridan felt the show properly prepared him for the Mayweather-Alvarez card, which was 2013’s Super Bowl of boxing. For Sheridan, though it was a big show, it was a walk in the park.
Sheridan often catches flack for being a “shill” for boxing. In Sheridan’s own words, if that is the worst they can say about him, he’s absolutely fine with it.
“My heroes are these fighters,” said Sheridan. “I’ve broadcast five fights in which one of the fighters died. These guys go out on their shield, I have great admiration for these fighters.”
“To a fault, I get knocked for shilling for boxing. I did a speech for the NABF in Vancouver a few years ago and the title of my speech was ‘What’s wrong with boxing today? Absolutely nothing.’”
While Sheridan agreed that boxing isn’t perfect, he argues that every sport has its problems and he doesn’t know why the people involved with the sport should focus on the negative. Sheridan admittedly gave up calling amateur boxing after Roy Jones Jr. was robbed in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.
Sheridan is very prideful of the benchmark he has set calling championship fights.
“Nobody will ever touch my record, they can’t. It sounds cocky, but they can’t,” he said.
“I called my first fight when I was 21, first world title fight in 1968. I got halfway decent at it because I called 10 fights a week on radio for the Dundee brothers. I went to the minor leagues and called all those. Then I immediately called world championship fights.”
Sheridan is very thankful for the opportunities he’s been presented over the course of his career. He made the point to tell this writer that he hasn’t led a perfect life, saying, “Lord knows I’ve been with my share of ladies of the evening, and you can print that,” before saying he’s gone straight.
“When you’ve had six heart attacks and you’re on your deathbed waiting to die, I kind of saw the light. I didn’t learn from the first five, but the sixth one turned me.”
Sheridan’s biggest gripe today is that he’s been held out of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. A member of four other boxing Hall of Fames, The Colonel can’t quite understand why the recognized boxing hall in Canastota has snubbed him.
“How can you keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame that is approaching 1,000 world title fights internationally?” argued Sheridan.
“They’re gonna keep me out because I’m a shill for boxing? You’ve gotta be f–king s–tting me, and you can print that, too. A guy told me a long time ago that the fallacy of youth is impatience. I’m 70 f–king years old, I’m running out of patience. I’m running out of life, running out of time. Six heart attacks. What do I gotta do? Have 14 heart attacks and do 2,000 title fights before they’re gonna recognize me?
At this point, Sheridan’s only concern is getting back into the swing of calling fights. Proud of what he does, he said he’d die calling a fight if he had to. This was made quite clear by what he did in order to call the rematch between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, aka the “Bite Fight.”
“I had a heart attack the day before the Tyson-Holyfield ear-bite fight and I had my bodyguard, Poncho, more or less kidnap the surgeon and brought him to the fight and I called that fight and went right back to the hospital in an ambulance after.”
According to Sheridan, there’s a reason you see the same guys broadcasting a fight, most of them into their fifties or later.
“Nobody wants to give it up. You don’t give up these kinds of jobs,” said Sheridan. “I understand that some of the wealthy oil guys that want to sit in the first row are willing to pay scalpers’ prices. I heard that two guys paid $50,000 to sit in the front row. You want to know something? They’re gonna be three rows behind me.”
Sheridan has earned his spot on the apron and hopefully we’ll see him there for many years to come. Boxing thrives on characters, and there are few with as much spunk as The Colonel. To 1,000 title fights and beyond.
Photos by Ethan Miller-Gettyimages