Either as an announcer or a fan, Al Bernstein has seen every significant fight of the past 35 years.
Thomas Hearns vs. Marvin Hagler. Hearns-Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler-Leonard. Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield. Tyson-Lennox Lewis. Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad.
You name the fight, Bernstein has been there.
So the moment won’t be too big when Bernstein gets behind the microphone as part of the broadcast team for the megafight between welterweight champions Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao on May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden.
The broadcast team, which will be a collaborative effort between Showtime and HBO, has yet to be announced. But Bernstein, a longtime Las Vegas resident, will have a headset on and a prime ringside seat to help call boxing’s most anticipated fight in decades.
“This fight brings my career full circle,” said Bernstein, who has been calling fights for Showtime since 2003. “This fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather has tremendous significance. It is a fight that the fans have wanted to see for the last six years, but it’s possible that we may have a better fight now than we might have six years ago. Both fighters are not what they were, and as is often the case when fighters have slippage, we end up with a more exciting fight.”
Bernstein, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2012, has been preparing for weeks for the fight. He knows the audience will not be a typical one. A lot of people who never watch the sport will tune in out of curiosity.
So while Bernstein might not necessarily have to explain what a check hook is, he doesn’t want the neophytes to have to question what they’re watching. At the same time, he doesn’t want to ignore the hard-core boxing fan who is looking for inside information.
“I want to do what I do every time I work a fight, which is to not overpower the audience but enhance it,” Bernstein said. “This is going to be a special event. I’ve called fights that reached a broader audience. But it’s a challenge to serve all masters. You do what you do, and you make your informational points in a precise fashion.”
Bernstein, 64, is familiar with both fighters. He has called Mayweather’s past four fights on Showtime and worked some of Pacquiao’s early ones.
He’ll watch tapes of Mayweather and Pacquiao and, among other things, will look at how they did against common opponents. Each has fought De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricky Hatton.
“I’ll look at the tapes that have synergy as well as the stuff the researchers give me,” Bernstein said. “I’ll also read a lot, see what the writers are writing about the fight. With the Internet, it’s an invaluable resource for me to collect information.”
Bernstein said he’s curious to see whether age — Mayweather is 38 and Pacquiao 36 — is catching up to the fighters.
“In Mayweather’s case, we don’t know if the (Marcos) Maidana fights showed a fighter in decline, or if it was a question of styles,” Bernstein said. “We’ve seen Pacquiao as much more mortal than earlier in his career.
“To me, the big question to this fight is will Floyd stay off the ropes? And if he stays on the ropes, can Pacquiao take advantage of it?”
Either way, Bernstein will be ready to explain to the millions who will be watching what is going on inside the Grand Garden ring.
“For me, I see this as an honor, but also a responsibility in working this fight,” he said. “I know people on both sides of the fence and everyone involved with the broadcast, both at Showtime and at HBO, want this to succeed. Everyone wants it to be good.
“It’s another fight, but it’s not another fight, if you know what I mean.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.