Boxing Historian Born Blind, Mike Welch on Pacquiao-Bradley, The Past, Present, Future of the Sport and more
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (June 28, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Mike Welch
Boxing historian Mike Welch is the owner of over 600 audio tapes of professional prize fights broadcast during boxing's glory days.  Through these tapes Mike has developed a very unique view of boxing's history... Mike Welch was born blind.  Please welcome Mike into the doghouse...

David Tyler:  How did you become interested in the sport of boxing?

Mike Welch: 
 As a six year old my father got me interested in sports which included boxing.  Boxing was a very popular sport during that time period.  you might say that boxing is in my grandfather drove his Model A down to Toledo, Ohio, for the Dempsey/ Willard fight.....July 4, 1919.

DT:  What's the first fight you remember?

  My mother used to watch the Lawrence Welk show and they announced an upcoming broadcast of an Emille Griffith fight.  I listen to the bout and my mother started to give me a "blow by blow" account of the fight.  I was hooked and every Saturday I would stay up late at night to watch or listen to the fights.  My parents were both very good at doing the "blow by blow" so I would have a better understanding of the progress of the match.

DT:  Did you also listen to fights on the radio?

 One evening my dad told me that soon I would listen to a radio broadcast of a big fight with a professional doing the commentary.  I remember the fight -- Ingemar Johansson against Floyd Patterson.  That was a great fight...three knockdowns in the first round.  That was my first exposure to a radio broadcast.

DT:  So you began to learn more about the sport's history?

Yes, by the time I was nine, I could name all the Heavyweight champions and the current top contenders in all of the weight classes.

DT:  Who were some of your favorite fighters in the 60's?

  David, my favorite fighters were the big punchers, guys like Dick Tiger, Florentino Fernandez, Jorge Fernandez, Gene Fulmer, Mike DeJohn, Gaspar Ortega, and Benny Parret.   I also had a soft spot for Sonny Liston.  I think he was sinned against as much as he ever sinned.  He had a terrible family background, he was beaten since he was a baby, and had a tough life.  It was very sad when he won the Heavyweight championship...he was so happy to win the belt but when he flew home, there was not one person there to greet him.  Very sad story.  I also liked the heavyweight, George could punch him till the cows came home and he would never go down.

DT:  As a boxing expert, what is your favorite era?

I would say the heyday of boxing was the 40's and 50's.  That was the age of great fighters like Fritzie Zivic, Tony Zale, Henry Armstrong, Sandy Saddler, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Willie Pep, Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis...those are just a few of the great champions from that era.  This was the time period when boxing was at its pinnacle of popularity in America.  All of these champions were treated with respect and held a celebrity status with the public.  I am aware that some boxing historians would argue that the 20's was the heyday of the sport and that may be true but I would take the 40's and 50's.

DT:  It must have been a big change to go from the radio to all television for you?

 Huge difference, if my dad had not been with me I would have been lost.  If I have to rely on the sparse commentary that I get from the television, I couldn't understand anything going on in the ring.  Don Dunphy was undoubtedly the greatest radio announcer and it was a sad day when he turned to television broadcasting.  What a waste of must have been hard for Don just to keep his mouth shut.  David, the next fight you watch try this...close your eyes for one round and see how frustrating it will be for you to understand what's happening in the ring.

DT:  Did you listen to the recent HBO PPV telecast of the Bradley/ Pacquiao fight?

 Yes I did listen to that fight.  I was able to understand the action in the ring because of all the HBO commentators.  That includes Harold Lederman providing his scoring at the end of each round.  And Jim Lampley providing the compuBox numbers from each round.  I could get by but it's not the same as having a "blow by blow" account of the fight.

DT:  Mike, what did you think of the decision?

  David, pardon me if I am out of line but I could have done a better job than those two judges who scored the fight in favor of Bradley.  Such a travesty.  I have heard a lot of bad decisions through the years and this ranks right up there with the worst of them.

DT:  I believe that rounds where there is not a clear winner, should be scored a draw or 10/10.  Your thoughts?

 That might have helped in this fight because there was no knockdowns.  As you are aware, the round system was replaced by the point system which I feel is more fair to a fighter who dominates a round...say he knocked his opponent down three times.  Back in the days of Ali/ Frazier, you could win a round by a whisker and that was the same if you won the round by knocking your opponent all over the ring.

DT:  Yesterday we talked about the Ali/ Frazier first fight.   You made an interesting observation about this fight and the two different broadcast.

If you listen to the tape of the Dunphy telecast you would think that this was the biggest fight in the history of boxing.  Not to take anything away from this historical fight but if you listen to the Armed Forces radio broadcast of the event, you would think that this was just a routine bout.  Tim Ryan called the event and several times mentioned that it was a "dull" fight.  This merely illustrates that we can be lead down the wrong trail depending on how the announcer shapes the fight for his listeners or viewers.

DT:  Mike, I agree with your opinion of Don Dunphy as the best "blow by blow" boxing announcer in the sports history...any other announcers that you enjoyed?

  He was my favorite...I also liked Les Keiter, Sam Taub, and Russ Hodges.  Clem McCarthy was popular during that time but I would not put him on  the same level as the others I mentioned.

DT:  We also spoke briefly about one of my favorite movies -- The Cinderella Man -- the story of James J. Braddock.  Please share your observations with our readers.

MW:  We discussed the fact that the movie did embellish his fight with Max Baer.  Fans who have listen to the broadcast of the event or watched a tape of the fight, will tell you that it was a very dull event.  Not with all the drama that the movie producers added to the fight.

DT:  Is there a boxing book that you have read or listen on tape that you would recommend to our readers?

MW: My favorite is Mike Silver's book The Arc of Boxing -- a great book that is a good profile of what's happen to boxing through the years using irrefutable logic to explain the rise and fall of this sport.   It's far from a "feel good"'s like taking bitter medicine.  Mike Silver's book is truly a masterpiece.   l also liked a book called In This Corner... which is essentially a collection of interviews with boxers through the ages.  The chapter about Gunboat Smith is top notch reading.  I try and listen or read everything boxing related that's available.  I also helped provide information through my collection of fight tapes for boxing authors.  I would recommend Beyond Glory:  Joe Louis and Max Schmelling and a World on the Brink.  I have helped several boxing authors with their books by providing them copies of certain fights that I have in my library.  I have also helped the networks like ESPN or HBO when they need some archive audio of certain fights.  I mention this because it makes me feel good to make some contribution to this sport that I have gained so much pleasure through the years.

DT:  What are some of the changes necessary for boxing to survive?

MW: Good question...people may call me "old school"  but boxing needs to get back to an eight champion format.  Also, championship fights should be 15 rounds and the referee should play a part in the judging.  Of course the sport should be run by one sanctioning body.  Now I am sure these are the standard answers you get from the older boxing fans that you have interviewed.   But the real question is can you see any of these changes taking place?  I really doubt it.

DT:  Mike, what do you see in your Crystal Ball for boxing's future?

MW:  I think that the sport will be lucky to survive another 25 years.  I hate to paint a bleak picture but I use this reasoning...When you go back to the turn of the century, boxing was a way for the very poor to climb out of the ghetto but now these kids are migrating to other areas of the sports world to achieve fame.  They have found this an easier path than getting your "brain scrambled" in the world of professional prize fighting.  It just makes sense that there will be other avenues open up for these kids in the near future.  You see more and more information coming from the great brain surgeons doing research on concussions.  Just look at what's happening to football.  I think it is wrong to give up hope but at the same time we need to take a realistic look at the overall health of boxing.

DT:  Mike, thank you for sharing your thoughts and views about boxing with our readers.  It's been my pleasure.

MW: No problem and please stay in touch!

Readers:  If you are interested in obtaining an audio copy of your favorite fight, please contact me via e-mail and I will pass along the information to Mike Welch.

Many thanks for visiting doghouse boxing.

***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at:

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