Outside of the ropes: Ricky Wright on the Master of Ceremonies role
Photo: Lawrence Lustig
In the latest of our series examining key and often unheralded figures from behind the scenes in boxing, Ezio Prapotnich talks to Ricky Wright about the art of ring announcing...
It’s one of those roles that are taken for granted, all the anticipation being focused on the drama about to unfold once the bell rings, but try imagining a boxing show without a ring announcer... it would be like a movie without sound.
Boxing is business and also entertainment and no doubt the Master of Ceremonies contributes to the latter but it is superficial to think that his function does not go any deeper. His work is intertwined with those of all other invisible but essential behind the scenes figures without whose contribution the show could not go on.
Ricky Wright is a natural born ring announcer and explains to Boxing Monthly and all aspiring MCs the practical way to turn your destiny into a full time job.
BM: What is your boxing background and how did you become an MC?
RW: I have no boxing background, to be honest. I used to practice Muay Thai and MMA and attend shows to do fight reports. At the end of the night, I would approach the ring announcer and ask for his note cards as they contained fighters' details, results, time and method of stoppages etc etc. For some reason, I started picking them up and reading them aloud in my room as if I was actually announcing the fights. Then a coach of mine who was putting on a show and needed a ring announcer asked me if I was interested as I’m quite talkative and chatty and he thought I could do it. That was ten years ago and to me it was a sign of fate. I had been an MMA MC for four years when I realised boxing is really where famous ring announcers are established and decided to make the transition, applying for a BBB of C licence. I was rejected initially because they would not allow working in both boxing and MMA but that changed one year later and here I am.
BM: How would you synthesize the Master of Ceremonies job description and its objectives?
RW: To deliver information on fighters and bouts from introduction to decision to the crowd in the most clear and accurate way while also creating an entertaining atmosphere. It is not just a choreographic role. The MC holds the show together and is responsible for providing data that will end up in media reports.
BM: Are there any pre-requirements to apply for the licence? Also, what type of test do you have to pass and is training provided?
RW: There are no pre-requirements. You have to apply in writing and pass an interview where you stand on your own in front of 15 people, very much as you would have to stand in front of a crowd. Your boxing knowledge is tested in a very specific way, focusing on weight categories, scoring and anything that is relevant to the role. After that, you are given a fight poster and five minutes time to study it and announce it as if at the actual event. Personally, I used that time to search online for fighters’ stats and wrote everything on a card. If the licence is granted, you pay the fee and are good to go. No training or shadowing is provided. Also, the Board does not assign you to shows and you have to apply for work directly to promoters. I had four years practice before getting the licence in which I built connections and a reputation and would recommend a similar approach to anybody interested in this career.
BM: What is your routine on a night of work?
RW: I gather all available fighters’ details online and arrive at the venue two hours earlier. I then fill the gaps getting the official weights and short colours from the inspectors or the whip. Next, I go to the changing rooms to meet the fighters in person, especially if foreign, to make sure I pronounce their names correctly and add ring monikers or anything else they request for their introduction. Once I have got everything, I change and do [a] sound check. When the whip gives the signal, we start.
BM: How do you interact with the Board officials throughout the show?
RW: The referee will tell me exactly how to present the result providing his scoring of the bout goes the distance or, in the case of a stoppage, the method and time of it. If judges are needed for scoring, then the inspectors will give me the scores.
BM: Is there a technical side to your job in terms of vocal delivery?
RW: Knowing how to project your voice from the diaphragm rather than the throat as you would in singing is essential in order to be heard and maintain the necessary level of intensity for the time required. For example, if involved in amateur tournaments you might have to announce fights all day long for several days in a row. Screamers don’t cut it in my line of work.
BM: Aside from what can be learned and practiced, are there any innate human characteristics required for the job?
RW: A feature shared by any MC I ever met (and I have met loads) is a level of confidence bordering on arrogance. Either you have it or you don’t. You really must believe you are the best in the world at what you do.
BM: What are the biggest shows you were involved with in recent times?
RW: I announced the undercard for Eubank Jr vs DeGale. Also, I worked quite a bit on Eurosport and in the World Series of Boxing.
BM: Who do you consider the best MC on the world scene right now?
RW: Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr, whom I worked with in the Eubank Jr-DeGale show, are obviously up there but my personal favourite is Craig Stephen. He took me under his wing and refined my style incredibly. My workload increased as a result. He is a legend of the sport, as far as I am concerned.
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