Throughout my ESPN/USA Network/MSG Network/Ring Magazine days of the late ’70’s right up until the time I became head of the NYSAC, I had the pleasure of listening to and working with ring announcer Ed Derian, who we liked to call “Steady Eddie.
“He was fun to listen to and fun to work with.
Unlike many individuals who are filled with jealousy of others in their business who are moving up, Ed Derian was full of praise for those who were in the ring-announcing business.
One day, in the early 1980’s, I asked him what he thought of a rich-toned ring announcer with the looks of a model which Top Rank had been using on its cards in Atlantic City.
“The kid is tremendous,” said Derian. “I love the way he sounds. The problem is, I don’t think Bob Arum loves him. If I have a chance, I am going to say something to Arum. With a little work, this guy could become one of the best. I’d like to see Bob give him a chance to develop. I know this: I’d like to have this guy’s future.”
I don’t know if Derian ever got to speak to Arum about the guy, but he was certainly right about his future. A few years ago, the guy Derian had high praise for was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, quite possibly the best-known ring announcer of all time–Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer.
Ed Derian, who always wore a tuxedo on nights he was announcing, had a smooth, easy-to-listen-to sound and was always prepared. Many times, when I showed up at ringside long before the fights started, either in my days as an announcer or commissioner, Derian would already be sitting at ringside, studying his notes. He knew everybody’s weight, hometown and record.
When he was announcing, Derian used to love to say, “This young man comes all the way from…” and then repeat the fighter’s last name.”…Mike Tyson. Tyson.”
He also loved to play with unique names. One of his favorites was when he announced referee Frank Cappuccino. In doing so, Derian would say, “…and the third man in the ring is referee Frank Cap/oo/CHEEEEENO!”
“I loved when he did that,” Cappuccino told me. “I really loved Eddie. He was a fantastic guy.”
One night, while I was announcing a fight on the USA Network alongside Al Albert, we were opening the show, then “Threw it” (an announcing term) to Derian to begin his introductions. As it was a title fight, the national anthems of both of the contestant’s countries were sung. First came the National Anthem of Mexico. Then came the National Anthem of the United States.
As Derian introduced the man who would sing the Star Spangled Banner, he then handed the man his microphone and stepped back a few steps to allow the singer to be the center of attention. After only a few words, the singer became more than the center of attention. He became the focus of everybody in the arena. That’s because he had no idea of what the words were or even the tune.
He later said he froze as he looked into the TV camera.
It was something like “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s bursting bombs. O’er the ramparts we watched, and so proudly we hailed…”
The look on Derian’s face was priceless. In our headset, Albert and I heard the gang in the control truck hysterical with laughter.
“It’s a new rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, guys,” said our producer.
I glanced at Albert. He glanced at me as we both stood at attention. Then, I stared at Derian. I rolled my eyes. He was fighting to stifle a laugh. I made a subtle gesture to Derian that he should sing. He watched me. He got it. He had to do something, because the poor guy was singing about having “rockets red glare as we stared in the air” and going in circles with our national song.
Derian then stepped in and, gently lifting the microphone from the stage-struck singer’s hands, said, “Why don’t we all join in and sing our National Anthem?”
“Oh, say, can you see…” sang Derian. By the time he hit “by the dawn’s early light…” the crowd was behind him, and so was the singer, who was rescued from his stage fright by Derian.
In 1986, Derian became the ring announcer for Madison Square Garden Boxing. When the MSG Boxing Department closed its doors around 15 years later and as the USA Network phased out of their “Tuesday Night Fights” series, where he was promoter Russell Peltz’ ring announcer, Derian’s work load as an announcer slowed drastically.
In 2012, Ed’s beloved wife and best friend, Roxy, passed away. As often happens, part of a man dies when his wife passes away. A huge part of Ed Derian died then, too.
He went downhill after that. He passed away on September 26 at the age of 77.
Last year, Frank Cappuccino was an in-studio guest on my SiriusXM show. He gave me Ed Derian’s phone number. I called him the next day. He was so thrilled to hear from me. He asked me if I would ever get in my car and drive down to see him. The drive would have been 2-2 1/2 hours. I told him I would. I meant it. But life–work–kept getting in the way.
I so badly wanted to take the drive from Long Island to Derian’s house in Pennsylvania and visit him. I kept telling myself “I’ll go next week.” Then, something would come up and I’d say, “I’ll go next week.”
Well, “next week” never came.
As I write this, I’m not ashamed to tell you tears are falling. I really wish I had gone to visit him on one of those many promises to myself of “next week.”
Ed, I’m sorry I didn’t just pick up the phone and call you, telling you I was coming down to take you to lunch.
He was truly one of the greatest ring announcers boxing has ever seen.
“This young man hails all the way from…”
Ed Derian. Derian.