Sam Simon: Writer, Producer, Director and Boxing Manager Extraordinaire
Interview by "Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. (February 3, 2005)
Sam Simon, successful writer, producer, director and developer of many sitcoms such as The Drew Carey Show, Cheers, Taxi, the Tracey Ullman show and the most popular and first ever cartoon prime time show The Simpsons, which has had a successful sixteen year run and up to this point still seems to be going strong. Not only has Sam compiled up a long list of accolades in the TV world, but for the last seven years he has had a hand at guiding the stellar boxing career of the WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster and the two together looks to capitalize on one another’s talents. Not only has Simon taken his career to another level with successful runs in the world of writing and boxing, but he is also a humanitarian with his founding of the Sam Simon Foundation, a California based privately funded charity that trains rescued dogs to be hearing dogs for the deaf, places rescued older dogs in senior homes and provides free spay and neuter services for low income families. Sam started out working out with Lamon in Sam’s Wild Card gym and then got the opportunity to manage the hard hitting heavyweight. Since the two teamed up together Lamon has earned the WBO NABO, WBC Continental Americas and WBO heavyweight titles, and looks forward to continuing the winning trend when he faces Andrew Golota in Chi town in April in defense of his WBO title. Sam, who is a recipient of a dozen Emmy’s and Peabody awards, takes his managing of Lamon’s boxing career seriously and hopes together they can accomplish much more in the years to come. Sam took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about his writing career, his foundation, Lamon’s upcoming bout with Golota as well as their future.
Lamon Brewster and Sam Simon
Benny Henderson Jr.: What are your thoughts on Lamon Brewster’s title defense in April against Andrew Golota?
Sam Simon: I think that it is a perfect fight for Lamon because the heavyweight picture is little clouded and confused. The politics of HBO are creating a situation where he is being left out of the mix because he beat their guy Wladimir Klitschko. And looking towards and elimination tournament this is a chance for him too make a strong showing against a guy who many people think beat the other champions. I think styles makes fights and I think Lamon’s style has shown that a stand up European fighter that can not move around is perfect for him and then because of his new trainer Jessie Reid, man these guys are working magic in the gym. I would have always liked Lamon in a fight with Golota but now I really like it this time and I’m hoping for a real power statement of Lamon’s ability to be the undisputed heavyweight champ.
BH: Do you see this fight as a do-or-die situation for Lamon?
SS: Absolutely, that is another thing Lamon has had in his career several cross roads fights, and that is when he has fought his best and I think he knows how important this is.
BH: As Lamon’s manager how would you grade his last bout which was against Kali Meehan?
SS: Hmm, well I think that they could have stopped the fight in the eighth round, I would have understood it. On the other hand Lamon came back and fought strongly after being in a great deal of trouble. People that say he lost that fight; I just don’t buy it. I have watched the fight over and I think he clearly wins a strong decision, but should that fight have gone that long, absolutely not. And I don’t know the reason why but you know I just think you have caught glimpses of what Lamon Brewster should have done to Kali Meehan and you wonder why he doesn’t follow up and land the next punch. But this happens to every fighter, they have a bad day at the office and he had one, he still showed heart and power and skill.
BH: You are a critically acclaimed writer, producer director and have been very successful in your career, so with all this what prompted you to want to be a boxing manager?
SS: (Laughs) Well you know I have fooled around in the sport myself and have hung around the gym and when The Simpsons became a huge success the two sports that I follow are professional football and boxing. I kind of knew owning a pro football team wasn’t in the cards (Laughs) so I thought heavyweight champion of the world is probably more coveted as a title than Super Bowl Champions. I don’t think of this as a hobby because the stakes for the fighter are life and death, but it has been a great experience. I worked with Lamon at times before I was his manager, and I wouldn’t call it sparring. I just caught punches and moved around for Lamon at my gym Wild Card and Freddie Roach had told me that Lamon was having managerial problems. So I talked him into taking a chance with me and I learned as I went along but I also have to say that I think I did a really good job. (Laughs)
BH: Did you see something in Lamon that made you want to work with him?
SS: Well he is a great person and I think you know that, frankly there are a lot of boxers that I wouldn’t want to deal with on a day to day basis. Lamon is a good Christian and a family man and as tough as he is in the ring, he is a charming lovable guy outside. So it was him as a person and don’t forget he was properly considered a major prospect when I at the time I got involved. That portion of his career when he wasn’t fighting and lost a couple of fights I was around for that. But I think everybody wanted to manage Lamon when I stepped in.
BH: Off the topic of boxing, how did you come up with the idea of The Simpsons and did you ever think it would be so successful and last as long as it has?
SS: I was executive producer of the Tracey Ullman show and the Simpson’s was a ten second long cartoon that we used to show before we went to commercial. And Jim Brookes that was another executive producer, he said that Fox was wanting to make it into a series and would I be interested into doing so, and there has never been a prime time cartoon so I thought, I don’t know, it doesn’t sound like a great idea to me but if Jim thinks it’s a good idea than I will do it. I actually think my belief that it was not going to be successful because I used to tell my writers and the directors on the show just to have fun because we are just going to make thirteen so we might as well make it a good thirteen because that is going to be it. (Laughs) And I think it freed everyone up to have fun with the show and I think that is what people responded too.
BH: Who thought of the parodies of Mike Tyson (Drederick Tatum) and Don King (Luscious Sweet), who thought of those?
SS: Drederick Tatum was from me and I drew the character as Marvin Hagler. Originally the two fighters that Homer was stealing the cable TV for, it was supposed to be Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. We don’t tell the actors whose voice to do and Hank Azaria always picks the funniest voice. On the script it shows (boxer’s voice) and Hank went with Mike Tyson’s voice, I think that is how he became a heavyweight and everything.
BH: OK back to boxing. You know Lamon fought one of his biggest fights last April and beat Wladimir Klitschko for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. How disheartening was it for you to set back and see your fighter fight with such a heavyweight heart for the loss of his trainer to get the upset victory for that victory to only get blasted by claims of foul play?
SS: Klitschko’s claims go beyond taking away credit from Lamon; I thought he disgraced the whole profession of boxing. To say that we drugged him in spite of all the urine tests and everything, he had all these excuses. There is no place that regulates more closely and more professionally that Mark Rattner’s Nevada State Athletic Commission. So he offended a lot of people. I think it all backfired so I think the public correctly perceived him as a quitter and a cry baby. But did it take away from Lamon’s victory? Yes, it was infuriating.
BH: You founded the Sam Simon Foundation can you give us a little insight of your foundation?
SS: Our mission statement is to improve the lives of people by saving the lives of dogs. We rescue dogs from kill shelters and train them to be hearing dogs which we give to the deaf. We have a program where we rescue older dogs that are hard to adopt and we have a deal with Sunrise retirement homes and these dogs are just like magic with these senior citizens so we supply them. We also have a program that involves boxers, if you go the website www.samsimonfoundation.org you can download these posters we made. In some areas there are a lot of dog running around with a lot puppies suffering so we got Laila Ali, Jeff Lacy of course Lamon Brewster and more to do the posters for the program called" Yo Dawg, neuter your dog". And it is just really popular.
BH: If Brewster’s title defense against Golota is successful, who would you personally like to see Lamon step in the ring with after that?
SS: I think I would love to start the tournament; I would love Vitali Klitschko, Chris Byrd and John Ruiz.
BH: Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
SS: No, I thought you asked some really good questions.
BH: OK, we thank you Sam for your time, it was appreciated.
I would like to thank Sam Simon for taking out the time and discussing his thoughts for the Doghouse readers. It was greatly appreciated. For more information on the Sam Simon Foundation please visit: www.samsimonfoundation.org.
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