Charles Caleb Colton was an English clergyman who published a popular collection of aphorisms in the early-1800s. The best known of his sayings was “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.”
There are times when imitation is also a trademark violation.
Michael Buffer has elevated the craft of ring announcing to a level that boxing has never seen before. He’s known the world over for his trademark (and trademarked) phrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
Joe Martinez is a ring announcer who works frequently for Golden Boy. When Martinez announces fights, he often employs the same voice inflection, cadence, and style of delivery as Buffer. It’s not subtle. A recent main event introduction by Martinez was highlighted by, “And now, ladies and gentlemen. The judges are ready. The fighters are ready. The world is ready. Make some noise if you are ready.”
Trademark protection is a complex area of the law. Buffer trademarked “Let’s get ready to rumble” and various spinoffs of the phrase years ago. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show that Martinez tried to trademark the phrase “Are you ready?” in English but his application was rejected. Buffer has the trademark on that. Martinez then successfully filed a trademark application for “Estan listos” without a questionmark. “Estan listos” can be translated to “They are ready” or “Are you ready?” depending on whether or not there’s a questionmark at the end. Martinez also successfully filed for trademark registration for “the judges are ready,” “the fighters are ready,” and “let the world know you are ready!”
Numerous cease-and-desist letters have been written back and forth over the years.
This writer spoke with Martinez recently while he was on the road in Iowa.
“My wife and I sold our home six months ago and have a fulltime ministry now,” Martinez said. “We bought a mobile home and travel around the country, preaching the glory of God. We home school our kids. We feel very strongly that we have to be the light in this dark world. God has called us to do great things.”
Asked about the similarity between his ring announcing and Buffer’s, Martinez answered, “It’s funny you say that. I don’t see it that way. I like to think I was doing it this way before he was. I started ring announcing in 2000 and said what I said because I thought it was the thing to do. I’m not trying to imitate anybody or use similar phrases. I have my trademarks and Michael has his. But of course, he’s Michael Buffer. So he can say he said something in the bathroom thirty years ago and people will give him credit for it.”
Buffer, of course, has been ready and rumbling since the mid-1980s. And Jake Gutierrez offers further insight into the situation.
Gutierrez has been the public address announcer for the UNLV Lady Rebels basketball team for 29 years. Arena Football, soccer, boxing, and several other sports are also on his resume. Last year, he added PA duties for the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas to his portfolio.
Gutierrez recalls being one of roughly thirty candidates who auditioned to become Golden Boy’s regular ring announcer when the job opened up years ago.
“I drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles,” Gutierrez recalls. “We got up in a ring, one at a time. There was a script we could read off of or we could do our own thing. Joe got up and – I remember it very clearly – it was like he was doing everything possible to sound like Michael. His choice of words, his delivery. Near the end, Joe actually said ‘let’s get ready to rumble’ as close as he could to the way Michael says it. Some of the people I was sitting with were like, ‘What is this?’ I just shrugged my shoulders.”
“I learned a long time ago not to copy people,” Gutierrez continues. “I learn from them, but that’s different from copying. Michael is at the top. He and Jimmy Lennon have both been kind in giving me pointers along the way. But you have to be your own person.”
Meanwhile, Mark Kalmansohn (a Los Angeles attorney who represents Buffer’s trademark interests) says of Martinez, “It’s like trying to play Whac-A-Mole. We shut one thing down and then he pops up again.”
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Earlier this month, World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman acknowledged that the WBC is considering adding a Floyd Mayweather medallion to its championship belts. That would place Mayweather in the company of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Jose Sulaiman.
We’re living in an age when basic human dignity is under attack. At the same time, a large segment of the population is finally becoming aware of, and concerned about, the indignities that are regularly visited upon women.
Floyd Mayweather has been criminally convicted on multiple occasions of being physically abusive to women. On one of these occasions, he spent time in prison. Yet he has shown no remorse and continues to act in a way that objectifies and demeans women.
In defending Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” comment to Hollywood Unlocked last year, Mayweather declared, “People don’t like the truth. Real men speak like, ‘Man, she had a fat ass. You see her ass? I had to squeeze her ass. I had to grab that fat ass.’ Right? So he’s talking locker room talk. ‘I’m the man. You know who I am. Yeah, I grabbed her by the pussy.’ I feel people shy away from realness.”
Earlier this month in an interview with Men’s Health, Mayweather voiced ignorance of the “Me Too” movement which is in the vanguard of combating sexual harassment and assault against women. He also owns and operates what is sometimes referred to as an “adult club” in Las Vegas.
I hope Mauricio Sulaiman understands the message that adding Mayweather’s image to the WBC championship belt would send to young men and women. Is this what he wants the WBC to stand for? Is this what he wants his father’s legacy and his legacy to be?
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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