Stephen A. Smith may be a popular sports personality, but he’s not exactly a favorite among boxing fans who feel that he’s not knowledgeable enough about the sport to represent it as a commentator. Smith has also taken some criticism from fellow media members, notably Al Bernstein, as well.
In this video interview with FightHype, Ben Thompson asks Stephen A. about the criticism he receives as a boxing commentator and his response to it:
“Well my response is a couple of things. Number one, um, I’m never satisfied. I always think there’s room for growth. Um, I put on my big boy pants everyday and I understand that criticism comes along with the job so I’m not gonna be ultra-sensitive to that.
“But having said that it is important to recognize this: the fans who may be critical are novices themselves. And they talk, so why can’t I?! You know, I just happen to be on national television getting paid for it — that’s because I do other things well.
“But the professionals in the business, like when Al Bernstein for Showtime was critical of me — I cannot emphasize this enough — I have profound respect for Al Bernstein. He’s been a treasure to the sport of boxing for many, many years and I’m a person who respects my elders and respects the pioneers that have paved the way for all of us, in whatever line of work we may choose to do. I have ventured into the boxing realm because I have been watching boxing since I was three years old, and I absolutely love the sport.
“Do I watch it the way that Al Bernstein and Max Kellerman and others do, where you see every little fighter on the come-up? No. But those championship fighters and championship contenders that we have access to through pay-per-view and cable television, I watch them every chance that I get. But I’m certainly not the aficionado that those guys are.
“If anybody has the right to be critical of my work in that regard it’s an Al Bernstein and I think a lot of people were taken aback because he came at me and they expected some kind of fight, some kind of back and forth, verbal sparring. No sir. He’s earned the right to call me on the carpet if he felt that I didn’t put forth my due diligence.
“I didn’t mean it literally when I said ‘who are these guys that fought Joe Horn?’ [Editor's note: It’s Jeff Horn]. I watched all of his fights, I saw them, but they were no-names to me. He didn’t consider [them] no-names. It’s a matter of opinion. But his opinion is more valuable than the opinion I gave on that particular night because I was dismissive of those other fighters who had fought Joe Horn. And what he was saying is I don’t have the right to do that, and because he means so much to the sport of boxing, he has the right. Max Kellerman has the right. Larry Merchant has the right. Jim Lampley has the right. All of those guys that are associated with the sport of boxing have the right to say something like that if that is what they truly believe.
“I respect it, I appreciate it, and it’s more motivation to step up my game. And I thank him for it. I did it publicly and I’ll do so right here — nothing but respect for those guys who have been doing it a helluva lot longer and far more intimately than I ever did until recently.”