When a broadcaster becomes a story, it’s usually very bad news for them. Fortunately, Beto Duran does not have to tell us about any home runs into deep left field by Nick Castellanos. He’s just here to talk about a hectic week for his passport.
Duran is well known to boxing fans as a staple of Golden Boy broadcasts, and as a gentleman microphone-for-hire for boxing events all over the world. His work ethic went to new extremes last week, when audiences saw him working play-by-play on three consecutive nights for a Golden Boy Thursday night event in Costa Rica, and the Friday and Saturday launch of a new United Boxing Promotions on DAZN series in Canada.
Despite a lot of traveling and a lot of talking, Duran says you’ll never hear him complain. He caught up with Bad Left Hook after finally getting home from flying over 8,200 miles and calling eighteen televised fights in less than a week. He shared his philosophy for putting on a good show, his approach to bringing the best out of his commentary partners, and his experience at customs after a potentially suspicious sequence of quick stops in Central America.
Our conversation follows, lightly edited for length and clarity.
BAD LEFT HOOK: I think people may not appreciate how taxing it is to do play-by-play. Certainly not three straight days of it. How’s your voice holding up today?
BETO DURAN: The voice is good. I do other sports, but when you’re doing boxing, you have those moments where you get the big “oohs” and “aahs,” and you do strain your voice. So, it’s very important the night before that if you’re going to have a cocktail, make sure it’s only one. I don’t drink coffee the day of, just to make sure my voice is clear. I drink tea the day of [a broadcast].
During the fight, I have a spray that I get from a holistic store. You spray your mouth during the show instead of drinking water to keep your vocal cords going. Luckily, I’ve been very blessed that nothing bad has ever happened. The body is tired, but the voice isn’t.
Haven’t heard of the spray before. You’re not on performance enhancers, are you?
[Laughs] No, it’s all natural. I’ll pass any test from any organization.
Three straight days of broadcasting is tough enough in and of itself. You had to start it out with a solo call on the opening night in Costa Rica. Were you expecting that going in? And, if not, how did it change your approach to covering that first Golden Boy show?
For the Golden Boy fight nights, I usually have a partner. But, when the fight was moved to Costa Rica, [there were a few potential co-hosts] and when I got there the day of the broadcast, they told me “Your partner isn’t going to be able to make it.”
So, I said, “Cool, I’ll just treat this like an international broadcast.” Because that’s how I started off back in 2014, doing international broadcasts where you’re working by yourself. And one of the things I was told early on was that when you’re doing play-by-play, you’re not the expert. Don’t give analysis. But, when you’re doing it by yourself, you have to give a little bit.
And this goes back to my research. It’s how I was brought up, to know as much as I can about the fighters, whoever they may be. With the fighter meetings, looking at their social media, talking to them, looking at their BoxRec, whatever I can find. It’s just a case of being overly prepared.
And, I wasn’t scared, but the goal as a play-by-play person is to give the audience the right story and paint the picture. Do I wish I’d had a partner? Yes, because working with Bernard Hopkins over the years is amazing. Whether it’s Joseph Diaz Jr., Alexis Rocha, whoever it is. I believe that banter is good for the fans.
I’ve never been in the ring! I’ve never been hit! I can’t tell you they’re doing something right or wrong. That’s why for [Golden Boy in Costa Rica] I tried to focus more on the storylines. Show who these fighters are. Tell why it’s important, take you into the venue.
And usually, I have notes left over after a fight. But, I’m not going to lie, when I was done, I had gone through every single piece of information I had prepared. It was taxing, but it was fun. And we had a great card in Costa Rica. It was rocking, it was rolling, it was sold out, it was standing room only, and it was LOUD.
Because it was so loud, it allowed me to take time where I didn’t have to talk as much. I could just let the audience paint the picture. It was an experience. Definitely, 100% an experience.
How does a schedule like that influence your preparation? You had to handle a couple of dozen fighters, some of them not particularly well known, on back-to-back-to-back nights. At what point do you just take your individual fight notes as they come and hope for the best?
At Golden Boy, they do a great job. They use CompuBox, which gives you great stats. And they also have great research notes, which I like to add to with my own research notes. I was a radio reporter with ESPN in Los Angeles for years, and I work high school games here, too. So, I’m used to not knowing information, but having to go and mine it out. And that’s part of the fun for me.
For the Thursday night shows with Golden Boy, you know the main event and co-main aren’t going to change. With the undercard fighters, I’ll start prepping for them a week before. I have an app where I keep background information for every fighter that I’ve ever called. For example, my guy Diuhl Olguin, “the greatest journeyman from Mexico” as I like to call him, because he fights everybody, everywhere, every month. You have these little facts and nuggets than you have for each of them. It becomes memorization, and you don’t have to look down at your notes to remember that Yoka Valle runs sand dunes at Manhattan Beach, for example.
For me, it’s a lot of fun finding out those stories of who these fighters are. Like, Ofacio Falcon Jr from The Bronx. I’d never met him before. But we have fighter meetings the day before, so I ask him questions. He’s from The Bronx, Dominican dad, Puerto Rican mom. I like to give those little nuggets, because if you’re watching him for the first time, why should you be invested in this kid? Why should you care about him? Anyone can [tell you his record], but little nuggets like those, I take a lot of pride in sharing them. Because for someone watching, it can have them saying “Oh, he’s from The Bronx, like me? He’s Dominican, like me? I’m going to watch him.” In boxing, everyone takes so much pride in where they’re from, I try to bring that into it.
Same approach with the Canada events. It all starts at least a week before the fight, even though I know I’m not going to have meetings with them. And, opponents change! Every card I had this week, at least one fight fell off and got replaced. So, you have to be adaptable. But it all goes back to your research.
To make sure I have your basic itinerary straight… You started last week in Los Angeles, flew to San Jose, Costa Rica for Thursday night. Then, you’re outside of Toronto in Canada on Friday and Saturday night, before coming back home to California.
Yeah. Tuesday night red eye from LA to Miami, Miami to Costa Rica. I got to Costa Rica a little after twelve. Then we have fighter meetings, and after meetings I pull together all of my notes and try to make sense of everything I have in a nice little spreadsheet.
Thursday night, we got done with the fights late in Costa Rica. Went back to the hotel, then a 3 a.m. shuttle to the airport. Costa Rica to El Salvador to Toronto. I land in Toronto a little after four o’clock [on Friday]. Hotel, quick shower, change, then I’m at the venue at Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
That’s 8,000 miles of flights alone, man. That’s a lot for less than a week. Have you ever had a run like that before?
With that much flying? No. I have done fights in different locations on back to back days, but it’s been in the United States.
People ask, “Aren’t you tired?” But, I’m not the one flying the plane! And when you’re actually doing the fights? This is what I’ve always dreamt about doing. It’s amazing. It’s fun. And I never take it for granted.
You’ll never hear me complain about being on a broadcast. I have friends breaking their backs at real jobs. My dad was a machinist, and would come home cut up all over his body. I used to wake up at three in the morning with him to go deliver newspapers to the news rack when I was a teenager. So I’m never going to complain about sitting ringside, wearing makeup, talking about boxing.
Now, when I got to my room Friday night? Oh, I crashed. [Laughs] The adrenaline wore off, and I crashed. I didn’t wake up until almost noon. And I wake up early. But, I woke up at noon, put on some college football, and started working on my notes for that night.
Usually, when you take a business trip, kids and family expect you to bring them back souvenirs. With a trip like this one, do they get something from everywhere, or is it either/or for Canada and Costa Rica? What are the rules for you?
[Laughs] Luckily, my kids are older. It’s a lot easier. My daughter is a teenager, and she likes keychains wherever I go. Airport stuff is cool with her, so she gets keychains from wherever I go.
My son is a big sports fan, so that’s what I’m usually looking to get for him. I do get whatever I can from the locations. Airports, I know they’re more expensive, but they get me. [Laughs]
For last week, which event booked you first? Was it Golden Boy, or the United Boxing Promotions events?
I work for Golden Boy, and they’ve been great to me. I started my career with them in 2014 doing international broadcasts. Golden Boy is priority number one. They’re fantastic, and they take care of me so well.
Tyler Buxton from United Promotions, I did a show for them back in May. I met him years ago, and when he asked me whether I’d be interested in doing fights up there, I said, “Absolutely, let’s go! Have mic, will travel!”
I told them it would be hard once we knew I’d be in Costa Rica the night before. Originally, it was going to be in Indio, California, at the Fantasy Springs. That would be easy. Jump on the plane, and boom, we’re there. But, I told him I didn’t know if I could make it. Out of respect, I wanted them to have someone fresh, prepared, someone who could be at the weigh-ins to talk to the fighters. Not just be someone who flies in, looks at a bout sheet, and asks “Hey, who do we have?”
But, we found the only flight that would get me to Toronto on time to make the show. So, it all worked out. Tyler was awesome, he had a guy waiting for me at the airport. And, I forgot about clearing customs! That added an hour to my arrival, and my poor driver is waiting for me. Because they looked at me at customs and said: “Wait a minute… You were in LA, then you were in Costa Rica, now you’re in Canada? Hold on a minute. What’s the deal?”
One of the things you have to consider in your line of work is that the first time you have to tell someone “No” might turn out to be the last chance you get to say “Yes” to them. Particularly with a new promotion just starting out with a TV or streaming platform deal, it has to be a big relief not to lose that opportunity over scheduling, right?
I was blessed that it all worked out. Tyler Buxton does a great job with that show. They do it at a hockey rink, but it’s a dinner show. The way it’s lit up is really cool and intimate. You see people behind you with bottle service, it’s a really cool setup. You have local kids developing and trying to fight their way up to the big stage.
The fact that it was on DAZN for the first time? Selfishly, I didn’t want to miss it. Because I wanted to be on. I’ve seen them go from doing a club show, a local pay-per-view, now to a global platform. It was really cool to be there and part of the company, making history with these people that have been grinding and working for a while.
I’m sure it would have been disappointing to have a busy week at the wrong time, and let Corey Erdman sneak in and book what could have been a regular gig for you for years, just because it premiered on a week you were already working.
[Laughs] Oh, Corey is fantastic. I’m so happy to see him rise, get those opportunities on DAZN and ESPN. I actually met him years ago at an event in Montreal. He’s super nice, excellent writer, really talented. I’m glad to see him getting his shine.
Well, let me ask you a little more about making the Canada show work. How do you handle chemistry and conversational flow with co-hosts you’ve never worked with before? Especially when travel leaves you with limited prep time together? It felt good, sounded very natural.
Oh, thank you. We’re having fun. That’s what you have to do. Check your ego, remind yourself what you’re there for. One of the things I know is my job as a play-by-play guy is to set up my partners. To make them sound smart, which they already are, and to really make them shine.
This week, I worked with a recently retired fighter out of Canada named Tony Luis. He fought Arnold Barboza. He’s a heck of a guy, and he wants to get into the broadcast business. We met that day! It was, “Nice to meet you Tony,” and we’re getting right into the breakdown of how it all goes. He showed up with a bunch of notes, and it was awesome. You could tell he was really into it, wants to be here, really wants to learn.
As far as the chemistry, it’s about knowing your role. My partners are the stars, and it’s about setting them up. I’ve never been in the ring, but Tony Luis has. I let him tell me what it’s like in there.
I have a piece of cardboard with the word “WHY?” written on it in front of me. I just point at it for all of my partners. When someone tells me “Oh, that’s a great punch,” I can point to it. Tell me why. Educate me. Because I’m as much a fan as I am a broadcaster.
Michelle Sturino, who I worked with [in Canada], she’s awesome. We developed a quick chemistry because she is a boxing trainer in Toronto. She really knows what’s going on. I would be a fool if I came in and didn’t put her on the pedestal and make her shine. If my partners sound great and I helped make them sound great? That’s what matters to me. Then we all sound good, and we all win.
One thing I appreciate about you and how you do the job is that it feels like you’re a host, not a salesman. You’re really good at just putting on the show, and not constantly selling what people have already decided to watch.
I’ve said before that the easiest way to get boxing fans to complain about you is to talk into a microphone about boxing. Is there anything specific you try to do that might make people less inclined to complain about you on the internet?
[Laughs] I started off covering the Lakers and Dodgers for ESPN in Los Angeles. So, I’m used to people chirping at me on Twitter. But, boxing fans are special because they’re so passionate. They’re the best, and they have an opinion on everything.
You can only really please maybe half the people half of the time. I’m not there to please people who are hating me. Because, you’ll always have people hating things no matter what. People hated Jim Lampley. Once he’s gone? Oh, they loved Jim Lampley. Oh, they hated Howard Cosell. And once he’s gone, they loved Howard Cosell.
I can’t worry about what’s going on outside, because I have to worry about what’s on the broadcast. And one thing that I don’t ever want to do is come across as someone who doesn’t want to be there.
For example, this weekend in Canada, one of the replacement fights was a guy who was 0-1 taking on a guy who was 0-4 [Drake Olchowecki vs Gregory Miller]. I could have easily been [dismissive], but it ended up being a good scrap! We had a knockout! And at the end of the day, I’m still a fan. And if you’re going to get into the ring, I have to respect you for that. Because there’s no way I would ever do that. I don’t want to try and make weight. I don’t want to get hit. But, I want to watch it.
So, I always try to have fun and make sure it comes across how happy I am to be there. Because there’s nowhere I’d rather be. I’m sitting ringside! There’s nobody closer than me! There’s blood on my notes! That’s amazing to me.
I know that people at home may be watching with one eye. Maybe you’re on Twitter, maybe you’re watching football at the same time, maybe you’re on your phone, or you’re watching your kids. It’s my responsibility to be locked in on that fight for you.
What’s your next show? I know there’s a Golden Boy Thursday on October 20th. Anything before then?
Hang on, let me look at my schedule…
Next week! I have Thompson Boxing in Ontario. Those shows are fantastic, I love doing those. Because on those shows, we interact with fans live. Alex Camponovo, the GM of Thompson Boxing, wants us having conversations and engaging with fans. That’s a different kind of broadcast. And I work with Doug Fischer, who is the best.
It’s really a fan’s show. You can literally ask the editor in chief of Ring Magazine about their rankings during the broadcast, and we’re asking and answering with you. It feels like watching fights with your friends, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s on YouTube and Facebook, so it’s free. It’s a great community, and we have fun.
People leave comments, it’s 11 o’clock and people are telling us what they’re drinking. So, sometimes after the third fight or so, they’ll bring us a beer on camera, and we’ll say “Cheers to you!” Old Harry Caray style, when he’d toast the Cubs fans. We do that too! Because if you’re watching at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, you’re either a relative, a hard core fan, or you’re looking to have a good time with us. So we may have a cocktail with you.
It’s a great community we’ve built there. And it’s a great series. Chris Arreola fought there before. Josesito Lopez fought there before. Danny Roman, Tim Bradley, the development of young fighters is really good there.
Well, with all the frequent flyer miles you’re racking up, do you have any vacation plans or anything? Leaving some time to travel for fun, or maybe just taking it easy at home?
Honestly, I know this will sound cheesy, but traveling for boxing is like a vacation. I get to see all these different cities, different venues, and I always try to go for a run in the morning to see where I’m at.
Because I love doing this. If I wasn’t doing it, I’d be watching it. So, the fact that someone is paying me to do it is just amazing.