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Steve Farhood on being inducted into boxing HOF: ‘It is unreal’

Showtime broadcaster Steve Farhood will be inducted into

Showtime broadcaster Steve Farhood will be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., on June 11, 2017. Credit: Esther Lin

Steve Farhood might play a bit of hardball in his next contract negotiation.

“I have to talk Showtime into my next contract saying that I can only be introduced as ‘Hall of Famer Steve Farhood,’” the boxing analyst joked.

After nearly four decades covering the sport, Farhood will be inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday in Canastota, New York.

Few sports can rival boxing’s history, cultural icons or societal impact, which might be why Farhood still can’t fathom joining the ranks of boxing elite.

“It is unreal,” Farhood said. “What’s more unreal is the fact that I’ll be in the same Hall of Fame with Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. That’s pretty hard to believe.”

The New Yorker is one of two observers being inducted, along with broadcaster Barry Tompkins. Boxers joining the Hall include Evander Holyfield, Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia.

Farhood said going into a Hall of Fame as an observer rather than an active participant gives him a different perspective.

“The names we glorify in boxing are Dempsey and Louis and Ali, and I may be on equal footing with them in terms of Hall of Fame status, but in terms of impact and what they’ve accomplished in their careers, I don’t begin to believe that anyone in the observer category is on that level.”

Still, Farhood has made his presence felt across the boxing world since his first job out of college. After graduating with a journalism degree from NYU in 1978, Farhood said he “applied to 150 newspapers and got 150 rejections.” He then focused on magazines, soon interviewing to be a copy editor at London Publishing Company, which produced a variety of boxing and wrestling magazines from their offices in Freeport and later Rockville Centre.

While he wasn’t a rabid fan, Farhood had a passing interest growing up in the capital of boxing. He saw his first fight at Madison Square Garden — a USA-Cuba amateur event — and he’d watch some major fights on big screens at MSG, getting a glimpse of the stylings of Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

But it was London Publishing’s robust library of boxing writings that helped Farhood learn the sport and its intricacies. Soon after boxing became part of his work, Farhood was hooked.

“If you would have told me then when I was 21 years old that I’d still be doing this 40 years later, I would have said you were crazy, but here I am,” Farhood said.

While at London Publishing in 1980, Farhood launched “KO” Magazine and served as editor in chief. Nine years later, he was presented a new challenge when London purchased “The Ring” and asked him to take control of the “Bible of boxing.”

Farhood enjoyed the work, but he didn’t want to get into a rut. When he was presented a chance to freshen things up in his career (and to “make a little money”), he pursued work in broadcasting. It didn’t come easy, however, as Farhood says transitioning from primarily print work to television was the biggest challenge of his career.

“I don’t feel I was a natural on television, I had to work pretty hard at it and still work hard at it to this day,” Farhood said. “There were certain things built in that I had an advantage with between contacts I had, experience covering boxing, but the skillsets were different.”

He might not have been a natural, but Farhood has made quite the career for himself as a TV analyst. He’s been the voice of “ShoBox: The New Generation” since it began in 2001 and will mark his 234th ShoBox telecast on Friday night to kick off induction weekend.

Farhood has witnessed plenty of boxing’s historic moments. He described being able to cover Ali’s final two fights as “something precious” to him.

“While that wasn’t the real Ali at that point, he was so diminished, that means a lot to me,” Farhood said. “He was the most famous athlete in the world. When you were in his presence, you sensed how special and how unique he was. There was a certain magic about that man that transcended boxing and to have spent any time with him, both in and out of the ring, was obviously a very memorable experience.”

Farhood has traveled around the globe to cover fights (a three-flight trip to a small town in Denmark on two-days notice stands out), but he remains a New Yorker to the core. The Manhattanite said the most unique experience of his career happened in his hometown when a riot broke out after Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota fought in 1996 at the Garden.

“There’s a sort-of tongue-in-cheek joke that you’re not a boxing writer until you’ve been in a riot, and I’ve been in some good ones,” Farhood laughed. “That was one of the most bizarre scenes ever because it was a sporting event, then all of a sudden people were just stomping on each other on the ground of Madison Square Garden and there was very little security to do anything about it.”

His proudest accomplishment, however, came at one of the city’s darkest times.

“Like a lot of New Yorkers, after 9/11 I felt very helpless and I really wanted to help,” Farhood said. “I take tremendous pride in being a New Yorker, I’m a lifelong New Yorker and a city rat.”

Farhood called the folks at Gleason’s Gym and pitched an event with old-school fighters to collect money for the city.

“I called a lot of the fighters I covered at the time, Bobby Czyz, Mustafa Hamsho, Emile Griffith, Gerry Cooney and a bunch of fighters, everybody said yes right away,” Farhood said. “They all got into the ring together and boxed each other.”

Farhood said ticket sales from the event raised $50,000 for the Twin Towers Fund.

“I was very proud of that because it was something I did for the city I love so much.”

Farhood hopes to stay around the fight game for the foreseeable future. He has the blessing of his wife, Marcia, a retired schoolteacher always supportive of his passion, and doesn’t see any reason to step away just yet.

“We’ll start the march toward 50 and see where it goes,” Farhood said. “The travel gets a little tough at times, that’s the only negative, but as far as being on the road and covering fights, I still love it.”

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