BRISBANE, Australia – Celebrated ring announcer Michael Buffer credits the late great Muhammad Ali for the popularity he currently enjoys.
The ring announcer with the velvety voice admitted ‘The Greatest’ inspired him to come up with the now famous ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ line that has become the most keenly awaited catchphrase in every big boxing match.
The Philadelphia native said the phrase was drawn from Ali’s historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight against the fearsome George Foreman in 1974. Ali scored a stunning eighth-round KO of the then undefeated Foreman before a crowd of 60,000 in Kinshasa, Zaire (now known as Democratic Republic of Congo).
“The great Muhammad Ali used to always .. he was just great at press conferences and weigh-ins,” recalled Buffer, now 72. “And he would say. 'Oh, I'm so pretty, my weight is down to 214, I’m looking good. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.'
“Rumble young man, rumble, and that great state would be the Rumble at the Jungle. The word (rumble) was there. So I started to say, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble' and fine tuned it to what you hear today.”
The trademark expression has become synonymous with Buffer that he became a celebrity in his own right, serving as lead announcer in every boxing card promoted by Top Rank.
He eventually earned a federal trademark on the phrase and has since earned $400 million from it.
But it wasn’t an easy way to the top for Buffer, now based in Southern California. He will be working the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title fight between defending champion Manny Pacquiao and challanger Jeff Horn.
He disclosed once coining a phrase that, unfortunately, fell flat with the live audience.
“I tried ‘Fasten your seatbelts' and, 'Man your battle stations,’ but everything fell flat,” he related during the Boxing Royalty luncheon at the Suncorp stadium where ring luminaries like him, Arum, the legendary Roberto Duran, former world champions Jeff Fenech and Tim Bradley Jr., boxing commentator Bob Sheridan, and World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight title holder Joseph Parker were honored.
When he was just starting his career, Buffer already thought about coming up with a catchphrase in order to create electricity inside the venue before the main event.
He said in the past, ring announcers would only do the regular boring stuff of introducing the fighters and ring officials.
“Somewhere along the line, ring announcers were all local guys that will always introduce the entire boxing commission before the main event,” said Buffer, whose half brother Bruce is the famous announcer in UFC fight cards.
“In today’s world of boxing over the last 35 to 40 years, the fighters come to the ring, and there’s all this muse of electricity that we’ve been waiting through the eight undercard fights and everybody’s excited.
“And then the ring announcer would introduce the boxing commission, the chairman, the supervisors, the four doctors, the three judges, the referee, the WBC and WBA, the venue, and you kill all the electricity in the audience at that time
“The room just goes flat.”
At the same time, Buffer said he wanted an introduction that would be associated forever with boxing in the way the phrase ‘Gentleman, start your engines,’ has become connected with car racing.
“To me, the fighters are the stars of the show, so I wanted a hook to have their introductions,” he added. “People wake up to pay attention to the stars of the show.”
So by that, ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumbleeeee.’