Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
I've never thought all that highly of Gus Johnson in the broadcast booth for combat sports (or the booth for any sport, really). As an MMA fan I've found his commentary work during Showtime/CBS mixed martial arts broadcasts to be horrible and distracting much more often than not. His proclamation that "sometimes these things happen in MMA" while a post fight brawl raged during a CBS Strikeforce broadcast was a moment of such poor wording that Gus will likely never be able to get a foothold with the mixed martial arts audience as a result.
It is no secret that Gus in the boxing booth is not any better than he is while donning the headphones for Strikeforce. This past weekend saw him give what may have been his career worst performance during the Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Orlando Salido rematch. In a fight that was as easy to understand as any, he forced himself onto the viewer and detracted from the broadcast. The lowlight was clearly his screaming of "NUTS AND GUTS, FOLKS!" during a dramatic exchange in the classic ninth round. It's a line he has used before and seems to keep in his back pocket at all times now, hoping to bust it out should two men choose to put the fight on the line and exchange power shots.
Lines such as "nuts and guts" serve as such a distraction from the action at hand and attempt so hard to force attention onto the booth that they should be a fireable offense. But this continued attempt to turn a brutally undramatic bellow into a trademark catchphrase was only one of a litany of offenses perpetrated on the ears of poor boxing fans this past Saturday night. When he wasn't repeating the same line over and over he was constantly yelling at you. There's just no subtlety to his game.
Take a walk with me as we relive the awfulness that was Gus Johnson's call of Salido/Lopez 2.
It's hard to capture in words the awful timing and vocal inflections of Johnson during the broadcast, so we'll focus instead on some of his key statements from the night.
"Juan Manuel Lopez, no longer faced with distractions outside of the ring. But can...he figure out a way...at home once again...to beat the only man to break his will, Orlando Salido took that championship last April." - Gus displaying his amazing ability to turn many thoughts into one barely coherent statement.
"We haven't seen JuanMa, the way that we're accustomed to seeing him." - Nothing wrong with it here. But stay with me.
"Where's the Juan Manuel Lopez we're accustomed to seeing? The one that has no problem taking shots but throwing punches?" - This is the "where is he?" number two.
"Salido trying to bring JuanMa out of his shell! Fight me like you know how to! I dare you! I'm in your house! I took the championship from you here!" - Classic Awful Gus, adding lame "invented dialogue" to dramatic action as Salido is tagging Lopez and Lopez tries to charge back with power shots of his own.
"18 seconds to go in the third. When will we see JuanMa Lopez? This isn't the man we're accustomed to seeing" - That's number three on the "where is he?" count.
"Lopez...trying to figure this tough warrior out as Salido is almost begging him to engage." - How is he begging him to exchange? By punching him in the face and pressuring him as is his style? Just words for the sake of words.
"Where is JuanMa? We're waiting to see him. He's in there somewhere." - Number four.
"Where is this young man? 28 years old." - That's number five. After the 28 years old line he changed the subject.
"YEAH! JuanMa! Now! Starting to get his machismo back! It's been gone!" - This one may not have bothered anyone else as much as it did me. But I actually laughed out loud during that call of the action at the end of the round. The grand declarations about things we don't actually know drive me nuts. The story of the fight prior to Lopez scoring the knockdown this round had been his toughness as he gutted through getting tagged with regularity by Salido, to declare his "machismo" back because he yelled at the end of a round is bizarre.
"A looping right hook!" - You'll have to excuse my nitpicking here, but these punches Gus calls "right hooks" from Salido are overhand rights from the orthodox stance. If Salido were throwing "right hooks" from orthodox he'd get murdered in the middle of the ring. The problem here is that it speaks to Gus' overall lack of knowledge when it comes to boxing. There are so many times when he seems to want to call back on some reservoir of knowledge on boxing and it's just not there. I don't think you have to be a boxing historian or even that much of an expert to do a competent job of calling a fight, but Gus doesn't bring knowledge to the table and he doesn't bring a smooth "professional" style of calling action either. So why is here there?
"NUTS AND GUTS, FOLKS!" - Ugh
And that's it for the easy to pick out single lines. It was the performance as a whole that was a true horrorshow though. The random moments of shouting, the forced narrative, the tripping over his own thoughts. It's time for Showtime to move Gus out of the combat sports booth.