Convicted Artist Magazine

Dec 08th
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chris-strait-talentI was a ring announcer once.  In most of the things I have been involved in, I had to start at the bottom. In fact, in most cases, I definitely stayed near it.  In comedy, dating, education, writing, etc. I started very badly, and got a lot better.  However, I was allowed to build up a head of steam, before there were too many witnesses to whatever prowess I had gained.  This was not the case in being a boxing ring announcer.
I had called a few fights as a commentator for private telecasts, and had been a comedian for 10 years.  Yet, I had never stood in front of people in suit and tie (I don't own a tux), and announced a boxing match.  The promoter for which I had worked, doing the commentary, suggested I do the ring announcing for a card of theirs in October of 2010.  Their normal announcer was busy that night.  I jumped at the opportunity.  However, this was a nerve-wracking experience.  I would not have to be funny, but I would also not be allowed to stumble over words, and sputter out my message, as was perfectly alright in stand-up comedy.
Added to my fears was the fact that this was a professional card, with titles at stake for a couple of fights.  People would be watching.  There were even a few celebrities, and many boxing luminaries in the building.  The building itself was Glendale Civic Auditorium in Glendale, which also meant some difficult to pronounce Armenian and Russian names, along with the standard Mexican fare that accompanies most Southern California fight cards.
I arrived at the building and was hit with the first of a few snags.  I had also announced the weights at the weigh-in earlier, so I was given a bit of an idea of the fighters names, and what would be expected of me.  It would be the only dress rehearsal I would get.  One of the fighters began vomiting, and had to be withdrawn.  No problem, right?  Fights are cancelled last minute (especially at the four-round preliminary level, which this was) all the time.  It was just one less fight I had to remember, right?  Wrong.
Actually, there was a problem.  That fighter's opponent was from Oxnard, and had a good 70-80 people in attendance waiting to see him fight.  We had to make an announcement.  I couldn't do that immediately, as that is no way to start an event.  Also, we didn't want his crowd walking out demanding a refund, before they got a little action first.  It was determined that we would make the announcement a few fights in, and promise those people a discount to their man's next fight.  Now, we were off and running.
The biggest thing I had to remind myself of was talking like an announcer, without sounding like I was doing an impression.  I had to remind myself to use my real voice.  I was not too physical in my presentation, just like in my comedy, I let my voice and the information stand alone.  I was pretty good at pronunciation, too, and knew that alone sometimes gets the crowd into it.  Many people are waiting for the big American white guy to butcher their fighters' names, and when I did not, it would be good for a few extra cheers.  In retrospect I wish I had smiled more, but I was nervous, and I didn't want to mis-announce any records, names, or important information.
Some of the fighters I had to introduce went on to TV exposure, Anatoliy Dudchencko, Khabir Suleymanov, etc.  The fighter whose crowd I had to apologize to was Hugo Centeno.  He hugged me after and thanked me for doing that, also.  The only other insight I can offer is that ring announcers are not part of any corruption.  When there is a decision rendered, the only time I am made aware of it, is when the tabulated scorecards are handed to me.  There was no explanation, or inclusion of the process.
I can tell you as a fan, I know many fishy things go on at many fights... but in this solid of a commissioned state, with fighters who are not at the top levels, I did not see anything.  I did have to announce one questionable decision, and all I said to the commissioner, when he handed me the scorecards was: 'so, are you sure?'  He smiled and said yes, so I announced it.  It was the only time that night that I let the fan in me come out, but I hate it when decisions are announced wrong, and have to be re-announced, so I certainly wanted to make sure I was not part of one of those.
I have not been hired to do this since, so maybe it went worse than I thought it did.  Or maybe I only know that one promoter, and their main guy has always been available since.  Who knows?  But it was a bucket list item I could check off, and I was proud to do it.  It's on you-tube as well, if you put in my name and ring announcer.  I frequently delete and add new comedy material in cyberspace, but that is one first time event, I will probably not replace.

Chris Strait

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