Master of the mic: Thomas Treiber interview
As the Master of Ceremonies or ‘MC’ for all the big Frank Warren shows in the UK, Thomas Treiber is a familiar face to British fight fans. Luca Rosi spoke to the 44-year-old from Hammond, Indiana, who has become one of the most respected ring announcers in the world...
It’s incredible to think that Treiber has been doing his job for 27 years. “I was interested in broadcasting and had MC'd some talent shows in high school. When a friend’s brother turned pro, I got talking to him about the idea of becoming a ring announcer. He introduced me to a hometown promoter by the name of Fred Berns, who was based in Indianapolis and had worked with Bob Arum and Top Rank. He gave me my first shot as a 17-year-old in 1991.
"There weren’t many boxing opportunities in the Chicago area so I also started doing wrestling shows as well and actually competed professionally for two years. I’d ring announce at some shows and wrestle at others!”
The boxer in question was Marty Jakubowski. “I was a classmate of his brother, Eric. Marty was a couple of years older than us. He was a very good lightweight, a former USBA champion who went to challenge for the world title three times, losing to Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Artur Grigorian and Khalid Rahilou. He also fought the great Julio Cesar Chavez. What is interesting about Marty is that he had over 100 pro fights, which is almost unthinkable nowadays.”
His first TV debut was to come in 1995 for ESPN in Bristol, Tennessee. More opportunities presented themselves and Treiber was soon to be seen on Fox Sports Net and their national series with the late Dan Goossen’s ‘America Presents’ promotions.
“I had an exclusive contract as ring announcer for them, which put me on the map. I was only 24 years old at the time and pretty much from 1997-99 I was on TV every month. To land such a prestigious gig was special. I was then fortunate to appear on Showtime’s ShoBox ‘New Generation’ series in 2001 and USA Network’s ‘Tuesday Night Fights’”.
Treiber was also ring announcer for two modern day boxing P4P greats, one at the very start of his boxing odyssey. “I was honoured to introduce Floyd Mayweather in only his second pro fight in 1996 at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Floyd had just won the bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics. Bob Arum had also signed two other US Olympians – Eric Morel and David Diaz – to his Top Rank stable. I also did Gennady Golovkin’s HBO debut when he beat the Pole [Grzegorz] Proksa in Verona, New York in 2012.”
Precision and painstaking accuracy are the hallmarks of an elite MC. “It’s very important to prepare for the shows and eliminate errors. I make sure that I have one-on-one conversations with every fighter so you get the right pronunciations, as they often come from all over the world. You need to double check that you’ve got the correct trunk colours, records and information, including the order of the fights, the corners etc. I don’t like to write too much on my cards, so I stick to bullet points as I want to sound natural. Early in my career I learnt to announce all decisions properly and I make sure I don’t give away the winner until the very end.”
But that’s not the end of it. “The night before I work on my notes and add the final touches in the morning. When I get to the arena, I go to the TV truck, meet with the graphics people who put the stats on the screen to make sure that our numbers tally. I then go to the locker room to meet each fighter again, double check trunk colours and pronunciations. Then I carry out some checks with the British Boxing Board of Control, in case there’s a change of judge or referee for example,” adds the former bodybuilder and teenage Mr. Illinois 1992.
For budding ring announcers, Treiber has this advice, “Learn to announce all decisions properly. Try and prepare as much as possible when you do the events, get the pronunciation right and look the part. Invest in a nice tux. Also, the one thing you’ve got to get is experience as as it’ll make you feel more comfortable in the ring and improve your performance. You learn something every single show. You really need to examine the scorecards closely and confirm everything with the officials. Keep a poker face, block everything out. Even if it’s not your fault, if there’s a mistake, you’ll get the blame. You don’t get a second chance on live TV.”
So does he have a catchphrase like some of his other illustrious counterparts?
“Delivery is really what’s key. The right delivery, pauses and the inflection of your voice. You have to place the emphasis on certain words – for example, ‘And now ladies and gentlemen the time has arrived’ – which sets the tone. That’s something that I’ve recently added [‘the time has arrived’]. The fighters and fans also love to hear their home town names, so you need to make those strong and clear, especially in the UK. So for me it’s about good delivery, voice inflection and place names. You want to have your own style and voice and there’s no point trying to impersonate someone else. Learn to use your own voice and make it as strong as possible.”
The San Antonio, Texas resident has plied his trade in 42 US states and 12 countries, including the UK, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic. “There’s no bigger honour for a ring announcer than to work in another country. I’m half Mexican and although I don’t speak fluent Spanish I can do the announcing in the language, which has opened doors for me. There was an Uzbek fighter on one of the shows, and a clip of his on YouTube generated 250,000 views. It just goes to show that boxing truly is a world language. Travelling the world is a definite perk of the job.”
The UK has almost become a second home to Treiber. The first fight he did on these shores dates back almost a decade. Rewind the clock back to 6 December 2008 in Nottingham. “I couldn’t even hear myself during the Froch-Pascal fight. What an atmosphere and fight. It was Carl’s first world title attempt. He was one of my favourite fighters, a true warrior. Tyson Fury also made his pro debut that day and it’s great to see him coming back into the mix. By the way, I’m a huge fan of Daniel Dubois, he hits so hard. I’ve done his last two fights and have been impressed by his power and that’s one thing you can’t teach. He may be ready for a world title shot in 2019.”
Following regular appearances on ITV’s ‘Big Fight Live’ thanks to his association with Hennessy Sports, “which got me noticed in the UK”, Treiber got the call to work exclusively for Warren and BT Sport in September 2017.
“To work with a Hall of Fame promoter like Frank is an incredible opportunity and I’m very grateful. My first assignment was the Billy Joe Saunders-Willie Monroe Jr. fight at the Copper Box Arena. I’ve now done five BT Sport shows, including the Frampton-Garcia fight in Belfast and then the DeGale-Truax shock in December at the Copper Box. My next event will be on 10 February in London for the ‘The Untouchables’ show. The plan for me is to work monthly as an exclusive announcer for BT Sport.”
And how does boxing in the UK compare with back home? “The fans, excitement and enthusiasm of boxing fans in the UK is phenomenal. They’re very passionate and bring a lot of energy. I know that every show I do here, the fans are going to be so into it. Working in the US is amazing as well but it depends where you are. A lot of events are staged in casinos and sometimes a large percentage of the crowd are just visiting and aren’t necessarily fans,” explains Treiber who once appeared in an episode of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’, the hit US reality TV show.
Ring announcing is a true passion for the Mike Tyson fan, “I love what I do so much that I never want to quit. You really know you love your job that even if you were to win the lottery, you wake up the next morning and still do what you love to do. I’ve been fortunate to get above average opportunities, there’s been an element of luck and meeting the right people. But when you work hard, good things happen. I would love to continue for as long as I can and if I could make the Hall of Fame, that would be a great honour, although I don’t think about those things. I just give 100 per cent every show I do. If there are no fans we have no work. I do the best job I can for the boxing fans.”
For someone who once wrestled ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin (later to be known as ‘Stone Cold’) and ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude, this ring announcer isn’t fazed by the big stage. And in common with the fighters he introduces into the ring, he is no stranger to pain and the perils of contact sport.
You can reach Treiber at thomastreiber.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasTreiber. You’ll also find him on Facebook and Instagram.