The man who never ages 

The crew from “ShowBox, The Next Generation” finishes up their preparations for the evening’s boxing event at Little Creek Casino. Light glistens across the tops of the ring ropes. A man adjusts the overhead microphone by pulling on the cord from the corner of the ring. A new photographer is given last minute instructions from a man wearing a ShowBox shirt. She is not to get into the ring at any time, even after each bout. The fighters will want pictures and will promise to pay, although they never will. He says that she is to give them pictures anyway; it’s part of the deal. She is one of the new generation who thinks she is a photographer because she owns a camera, like so many people believe they are writers because they own a word processor. She will hold the camera in a grip established photographers call the “geek grip” a dead giveaway revealing amateurism. Like the writers, her pictures will travel around the world in a mass of incompetence presently commonplace in an unrestricted world where everyone thinks he is a star because he has finished the race by starting at the finish line.

Later Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make a brief appearance bringing with him a galaxy of bodyguards as a constant reminder that he is the center of his own universe. He will talk to no one and his guards will hold back any fans who attempt to admire him too closely. His father, living up to his middle name of “Joy”, will spin through the crowd like a bright comet, all smiles and bright eyes, shaking hands with fans, posing for pictures, taking time for everyone and proving that not only does the apple sometimes fall well away from the tree, it often lands in a different field.

Eager eyes glow in the darkness and the lights from the concession stand flow across the room as hot dogs shrivel under heat lamps and the coffee boils to blackness. Security guards assume their places awaiting the crowd. At one end of the ring a tall, dignified man in a gray suit leans over slightly as a woman powders his nose and forehead. Television lights hold him tightly and a camera zooms in as a microphone is adjusted for volume. Boxing expert Steve Farhood is about to go to work.

Farhood could be a walking ad for Ageless Male. Except for sprouts of gray hair, he has not changed over the years: not his weight, his remarkable memory, or his accent. While other television commenters have adopted a universal and homogenized voice, Farhood’s Brooklyn accent rings like a timekeeper’s bell. Behind that voice is a remarkable knowledge of boxing. He remembers names, dates, fights, and probably any memorable punches thrown since the days of Pierce Egan including the angle and the speed. His expertise has been continually rewarded.

After graduating university with a degree in journalism he carried no more than a passing interest in boxing and applied for newspaper work. Jobs were scarce and he eventually took a job with London Publishing who specialized in sports magazines. Through hard work and excellent language skills he landed the job as editor of the struggling “The Ring” magazine. Boxing was experiencing a slump and the magazine was sinking.

As editor of The Ring magazine, he helped bring it back to life in 1989 saving the magazine before being counted out. Much of the luster had disappeared from the magazine and the writing sagged. Farhood feels that writing, more than boxing knowledge is what keeps the interest alive in publications and he feels that writing skills are often lacking in today’s young commentators although they tend to have better knowledge of the sport. Writing skill is even more important in todays’ world. “The WEB allows anyone to write,” whether they can do it or not. Good writing revived “The Ring.” It can go a long way to reviving boxing.

His love of boxing started to grow and he was determined to learn all he could about the sport.

From “The Ring” he launched “KO” boxing magazine and again concentrated on writing. Finding good boxing writers has become an increasing challenge. “Too many young people think that because they’re knowledgeable hard-core boxing fans, they’re also journalists.” Being a competent writer is not easy. “The old beat writers were classically trained journalists.” A fan must first learn to put words on paper before venturing near the ring. Knowledge about the sport “should be the last piece of the puzzle.”

Boxing writers like Bud Schulberg, Dashill Hammett, Damon Runyon, Ring Lardner, and Jack London, were writers first, fans second. A. J. Liebling, one of the greatest boxing writers, and author of “The Sweet Science”, considered the best sports book of all time, wrote for the New Yorker on subjects as varied as street life to French Cuisine. As a young man he studied French medieval literature in Paris and was an outstanding war correspondent. Boxing writers have also produced some remarkable fight fiction like London’s short story, “A Piece of Steak” (it would have brought tears to someone as tough as Sonny Liston’s) and “The Abysmal Brute”. Schulberg’s “The Harder They Fall”, although a terrible movie, is a literary classic.

Farhood maintains his love of print by writing a monthly features column for Britain’s “Boxing Monthly” and was the first Vice President of the Boxing Writer’s Association of American.

Over the years he has received numerous awards including the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Broadcasting, the James J Walker Award for Long and Meritorious Service, and the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism. He has followed a life of interesting hard punches.

His busy schedule keeps him moving. He has always been an athlete although staying in shape is increasingly difficult with age. Fortunately his wife, Marcia McCaffrey, is a retired athletic director and she keeps him in the gym. “She has always been in better shape than me and keeps me moving.” He is a real fan of paddle tennis.

Travel can be difficult on a marriage but, after so many years, “We are both into the rhythm of me being away. If I’m not gone I’m not earning a living.”

Writing and boxing have been good to Farhood but he has not been content with the past and has kept up with the electronic age. Writing at a computer is not much different than writing with a typewriter. The re-writing is easier, as is the delivery, but little else has changed. Facing a blank sheet of paper, or a blank computer screen, is challenging. The skill Farhood exhibits has come from years of practice. His encyclopedic knowledge of boxing has helped. On any given topic he is able to draw upon far more facts then he needs. Having this bowl of information makes the writing comfortable and unique and gives the sentences a flow not possible for writers struggling with details and specifics.

He does less writing now since his television work has increased. These days, “About 85% of my work time is television work while only about 15% is writing.” That does not mean things are easier. Television has its own challenges.

Looking more like a sophisticated businessman or intellectual, Farhood’s life in boxing seems, on television, like a visual contradiction. People often imagine boxing writers to be pudgy, double-chinned, blue-bearded, cigar-chewing, semi-literates with vocabularies consisting of single-syllable words like punch, hook, dame, and whiskey.  Television commentators come as a surprise. Fans can accept announcer Teddy Atlas regardless of how well he dresses because, with a jagged knife scar cut down his cheek and longshoreman features, he looks like a boxing guy. His justified outbursts about terrible judging fit in nicely with our conceptions of a tough boxing expert. Farhood comes as a shock although his venture into broadcasting has proven profitable and seldom does one see a fight without his appearance. Few commentators are so articulate.

He has appeared on ESPN, Top Rank Boxing, Heavyweight Explosion, Sports Channel, Tuesday Night Fights, Fox, CBS and is the commentator for Showtime’s “ShowBox, the Next Generation”, a job that allows him to witness new talent while traveling to parts of the globe, like Shelton, Washington, not even explored by Stanly, Shackelton, Burton, or Dr. Livingston.

“I was lucky starting my television career with the great sportscaster Nick Charles.” Charles, with his good looks, also fooled boxing fans. He helped Farhood tremendously. “It took a while to get comfortable on air.” Everything in live television is instant. There is no way to rewrite. “What you say can’t be taken back.” Fortunately he was a quick learner and a careful thinker.

His boxing reputation has drawn interest from the regular television industry and they hired him as a consultant for an episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.” Acting appearances on episodes of “Law and Order” and FX’s “Lights Out” followed. Although a nice way to collect spare change, his real love remains with boxing and has devoted himself to the sport in any capacity.

Farhood was called to testify before congress regarding corruption in boxing. Like most investigations involving the government “It was more for show than anything else. The senators spent their time talking with one another rather than listening to anyone.” The hearings went nowhere.

He felt he did make a difference when he testified Bob Lee’s IBF corruption investigation. “I think I did some good.”

Doing good, through boxing, is part of his life. He takes much pride for organizing “Counterpunch” at Gleason’s Gym. The benefit, for 9-11, raised over $50,000 for the Twin Towers Fund.

Boxing continues to have its difficulties, especially concerning poor judging decisions. Boxing judges often seem totally incompetent and fans are outraged. Farhood does not see much hope for the future unless “some kind of merit system is instituted.” Presently, he feels the best judges come from Nevada since they have the most fights. The more fights a judge covers accurately the higher he moves in the rankings. “That way you get the best judges working the biggest and most important bouts.” Knowing if a judge has covered a fight accurately is difficult. Some judges score for a fighter who throes the most punches while other judges score for the one who does the most damage while some cannot even get the names correctly and get confused between Britain’s Boxing Day and a boxing match. It is the latter ones who need to be eliminated.

Farhood is happy to be working with Showtime. Head of Showtime Sports Stephen Espinoza, a product of Golden Boy Promotions, is dedicated to boxing. Showtime has just finished an outstanding year. “He is a good man to work with and things are only going to get better.” Boxing appears to be making a comeback. With “Showtime”, “ShowBox”, “HBO”, “Friday Night Fights”, and numerous smaller venues, “There is more boxing on television than at anytime before.”

Farhood gets for the Little Creek fight and nestles beside the ring and adjusts the television monitor. Earphones and microphone are strapped on. Farhood was once a columnist for “All In” poker magazine. For now, all his bets are on boxing.

 

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