When regular Boxing broadcasts were run on Big-Time TV Channels, Friday Night Fights were huge


Early Broadcast Boxing

Don Dunphy, would become boxing’s most prominent announcer. Dunphy was still a kid on September 14, 1923. listening to pioneer radio Voice, Major J. Andrew White. He groped his way through a choppy broadcast from the Polo Grounds. Jack Dempsey against Luis Ángel Firpo.

Years later, Dunphy, a big-timer in boxing, figured that Major White was confused by a confusions on the broadcasts the first round was chaotic and that each fighter was knocked to the mat several times. “He’s up! He’s down! He’s up! He’s down! White shouted. This would go on and on. White wouldn’t say who was up and who was down,” Dunphy recalled.

Graham McNamee, a rival of White’s at WEAF, later made reference to the Major’s confusing description in his 1926 autobiography, You’re on the Air.

Describing his own baseball broadcast style McNamee wrote, “But there was not so much raw drama, swift action, About WordPress and suspense as in the ring, where often all the poor announcer can say is, ‘he’s up, he’s down; he’s down, he’s up,'” an obvious shot at White.

On radio, small transistor headsets were used in the ’60 and 70s. The most early radio sets were of the crystal variety. Dunphy did the radio-by-blow of boxing. “It was a wallet-size instrument that looked like a billfold when closed. When opened, it consisted of a coil of wire and a very thin piece of wire called a cat’s whisker, touching a small piece of crystal.

When this little wire was manipulated to touch different parts of the crystal, it would get different stations. Every so often, the wire would annoyingly slip off the crystal or onto a dead spot. Then a pair of earphones would connect to the set and that would amplify the sound.

In other words, as a kid, Dunphy tuned into the fight and on earphones, related the developments so that his entire household would listen to the blow-by-blow. Radios with speakers weren’t popular until later. Many were placed on legs so that someone small, could fit underneath the set. It was a great hiding place for kids. Vin Scully remembered how as a child he would cuddle under the under the pillow of the radio, listening to Ted Husing and Graham McNamee.

Sam Taub was a pioneer boxing voice in the early 1920s and 30s. But Sam was taken off the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling Heavyweight Fight on June 22, 1938 at Yankee Stadium. Many millions listened on radio. Clem McCarthy did it on NBC National Radio.

In 1921, Boxing was the hugest sport on radio, followed by Major League Baseball and College Football. TV Sports on national television wouldn’t begin until 1947. Jimmy Powers took over the role in 1949 and remained NBC’s main boxing announcer, until the network ceased carrying prime time boxing matches in 1960. Born in Wisconsin in 1902 he passed on on February 11, 1992.

Top assigned Graham McNamee, Sam Taub, Don Dunphy were among the early Boxing’s best callers Russ Hodges and Les Keiter.

David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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