People in the boxing media have varied backgrounds. But there’s only one I can think of who was a ring announcer.
Arne Lang is editor in chief of The Sweet Science. He was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, went to college and graduate school in Nebraska, and moved to Las Vegas in 1969 to take a teaching position at UNLV.
In the 1980s, Lang wrote for a weekly tabloid and hosted a weekend sports talk radio show called The Stardust Line that aired on Saturday and Sunday nights from 10:00 PM until midnight.
“On Saturdays, we followed the Dodgers baseball game,” Arne recalls, “Vin Scully was my lead-in. You can’t ask for better than that.”
Lang attended his first fight as a credentialed member of the media in 1983. After the tabloid folded and he lost his radio gig, he took a hiatus from boxing. He returned to the sweet science in 2016 to take over the reins at TSS.
As editor in chief of The Sweet Science, Lang oversees fourteen writers. The job includes fact-checking (“some writers are more reliable than others”), ferreting out typographical errors (“spell-check helps”), rewriting where necessary (“I try to respect the intent and style of each writer”), having final say over headlines (“some writers suggest a headline; others don’t”), and posting the articles. Lang is also responsible for variety in the rotation (“I try to coordinate things so we don’t have too many articles on the same subject”).
Now about that ring announcing . . .
In the early 1990s, Lang was working as a publicist for a Las Vegas jeweler named Alex Fried who promoted a handful of club fights. Chuck Hull was slated to work as the announcer for one of Fried’s cards at the Union Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. But on the afternoon of the fights, Hull cancelled. Fried asked Lang, “Who can we get?” And Arne answered, “I don’t know. I suppose I can do it.”
Lang had no previous experience as a ring announcer. The only guidance he had came from an interview he’d conducted ten years earlier with Jimmy Lennon Sr. Arne was writing for a publication called High Roller Sportsweekly at the time, and Lennon was in Las Vegas to work a wrestling show featuring Hulk Hogan.
“I asked Jimmy about the secrets of his trade,” Lang recalls. “And he told me, ‘You have to be as respectful to the four-round preliminary fighters as you are to the fighters in the main event. Talk to them in the dressing room before the fights so you get the pronunciation of their names right.’”
Lang’s appearance as a last-minute substitute ring announcer at the Union Plaza Hotel came on August 21, 1992.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Arne remembers. “I’d taught sociology at the college level, so I was used to being in front of people. I remember the main event pretty well. The fighters were Brian Lonon and Miguel Mercedes. They were fighting for some belt that no one took seriously, but it was a very good fight. I enjoyed myself. And I was serviceable, although I wouldn’t say I was on the level of Lou Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp.”
It was a boxing fan’s fantasy, everyman as ring announcer. And it didn’t end that night. Lang was the ring announcer for forty to fifty fight cards after that.
“A guy named Al Rodrigues bought a place in North Las Vegas called the Silver Nugget and started promoting club fights,” Arne recalls. “I was his publicist. The first show he did, the ring announcer was so bad that Al fired him in the middle of the show and asked me to take over for the rest of the night. From then on, I was his ring announcer and publicist. I also became the house announcer for fights at a place called Arizona Charlie’s West. I never had a signature line like ‘Let’s get ready to rumble.’ Basically, I was a ham-and-egger. But I enjoyed it.”
Michael Buffer is the gold standard against which all ring announcers are judged.
“I have this recurring anxiety dream,” Buffer once told me. “I’ve had it for years. There are variations on the theme, but it’s basically the same dream. I have a show to do and I can’t find my tuxedo; or I can’t get out of my hotel room; or the car breaks down on the way to the arena; or I’m up in the top seats looking down and everyone at ringside is looking for me but I can’t find my way down; or I’m at ringside but I left my notes back at the hotel and I don’t know who’s fighting that night.”
So . . . Did Lang have similar worries?
Dr. Margaret Goodman (who eventually became chief ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission and is now CEO of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) was just starting out as a ring doctor and worked quite a few shows at the Silver Nugget when Arne was announcing there.
“One afternoon,” Lang reminisces, “I was talking with some fighters, and one of them referred to Margaret in an admiring way as Margaret Goodbody. Not long after that, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic because I dreamed I’d introduced her as ‘Dr. Margaret Goodbody.’ I had occasion to introduce Margaret a number of times after that. Fortunately, I always got her name right.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book –There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.
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