Max On Boxing
by Sarah Lorge '95
It was the television equivalent of a first-round knockout.
When boxing connoisseur Max Kellerman '98 was approaching his
College graduation, he put together a demo tape and a press kit
representing the best of the public access show Max on
Boxing, which he had started while in high school. He made 25
copies and sent them off to various networks.
Evidently, the tape packed some punch, because ESPN came
calling. Voilà: gainful employment.
And not just any employment. Kellerman, then just 24, went from
student to network studio analyst in one quick step - or giant
leap. In October 1998, Friday Night Fights debuted on ESPN2. Kellerman and Brian Kenny, a veteran of ESPN
staples such as SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, co-host the
21-2-hour show, which usually features three live fights with
studio commentary before, in between and after.
"I never planned to go into boxing to make a living," says
Kellerman. "But when I was about to graduate, I realized it was
either talk about boxing or work. I figured talking about boxing
was a better deal."
Despite his youth, Kellerman has become a fixture in the
televised boxing world. But it's more than his age, spiky hair or
gravelly New York accent that define him. His vehemently defended
opinions, put forth with machine-gun fire rapidity and liberally
peppered with comparisons of present-day fighters to greats of
years past that display his knowledge of the sport's rich history,
are his signature.
"Max is like Scotch - you get used to him," says boxing
historian and author Bert Sugar. "Previously, I found anything else
to do [rather than watch Friday Night Fights]. But now it's
part of my viewing diet because I really want to hear what Max is
saying. And if he'd slow down, I could understand him!"
Kellerman's passion is undeniable. It constitutes part of his
attraction and translates into results: Friday Night Fights
is ESPN2's highest-rated year-round series, watched in more than
one-half million homes each week. In April, Kellerman was nominated
for a Sports Emmy in the Outstanding Sports Personality/Studio
Analyst category. The other nominees were sports TV heavyweights
Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Tom Jackson and Kevin Kennedy.
(Bradshaw took home the trophy.)
As a youngster, Kellerman was captivated by fights on TV, and in
junior high, his father took him to a nearby Police Athletic League
club to try the sport for himself. But in 1982, Duk Koo Kim, a
Korean boxer, died after a fight against lightweight champion Ray
Mancini, prompting a deluge of negative publicity about boxing.
Kellerman's mother forbade him to participate in the sport, so he
says he "sublimated all that energy into following boxing."
The knowledge he acquired, as well as his pure delight in the
subject, had to come bubbling out somewhere, so his father helped
him launch the public access cable television show. Kellerman did
more than 400 segments of Max on Boxing starting when he was
16 and continuing for eight years. For a half-hour each week, he
would sit in front of a blue screen and take questions from
"I watched it all the time," says Bob Raissman, sports media
critic for The New York Daily News. "For his age, he had an
incredible knowledge of boxing history. It was impressive because
you knew that here was a kid who was probably going to school but
had studied up on this, taking a lot of time. It showed a lot of
Kellerman's reputation grew among hard-core boxing fans. Often,
public access shows attract callers who will "curse and make idiots
out of themselves," Raissman says. "But he [Max] never really got
those calls. He got calls from people who were interested in
boxing. He provided a good service." Dustin Hoffman was among his
regular viewers. One of David Letterman's producers caught the
show, and the novelty of it - a 16-year-old talking knowledgably
about old-time fighters - won Kellerman an appearance on
The Late Show.
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