Today’s Flashback Friday feature was originally published on April 11, 2018
Michael Buffer has probably made more money than anyone else on the planet by stepping into a boxing ring – and never throwing a punch.
Buffer’s looks do not befit the savagery of the Sweet Science. With manicured hands, perfectly coiffed hair, gleaming white teeth and custom-tailored tuxedo, he looks more suited to host a TV game show than a boxing match.
Before the fists start flying, Buffer lets out the cry that earns him his living. It’s his signature, a distinctive cry that sets him apart: Let’s get ready to rummmmmmmmmmmbllllllllllle!
“I tried other expressions first,” said Buffer. “Man your battle stations and Fasten your seatbelts – but nothing was happening. So I tweaked something Muhammad Ali would sometimes say at weigh ins, ‘I’m ready to rumble.’”
“It wasn’t a big deal at first,” Buffer continued, “but I stuck with it and, after a few drinks one night, a friend told me to shut up after saying ‘let’s get ready to rumble,’ as the crowd wanted to react. So I started pausing and, sure enough, there was a huge reaction. That’s when I knew I was onto a winner.”
The golden-throated Buffer trademarked the slogan early in his career and has generated over $400 million in revenue, selling the rights to music, video games, merchandise, and while making personal appearances. He makes between $15,000 and $30,000 for ring announcing engagements that take less than 15 minutes, and makes corporate and private event appearances – regularly earning upwards of $ 100,000 per outing. But Buffer doesn’t even have to say his catchphrase to make money. He earns more from the trademark than he does announcing in the ring.
A master of inflections, Buffer rolls certain letters and has the most distinctive and electrifying voice in boxing history. He announces outside the ring as well. In 2008, Buffer opened the World Series of Poker with Let’s get ready to shuffffffllllllle and deaaaaaaaaallll!
Another brilliant Buffer moment came in October 2016, when he opened the University of Kentucky’s first basketball practice of the season – Big Blue Madness – with Let’s get ready to rouuuuuundballllllll!
Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, November 2, 1944, Buffer’s parents divorced before he was one. He was raised by foster parents — a bus driver and housewife — in Roslyn, a southeastern Pennsylvania town about an hour north of Philadelphia.
At 20, Buffer enlisted in the Army at the height of the Vietnam war and served until 23. He worked as a car salesman before becoming a male model at 32. While watching a televised boxing match with his two boys in 1982, his eldest son observed that the announcer gave the scores of a split decision in the wrong order, botching the surprise announcement of who had won the fight. The boy suggested his old man could do a much better job, and Buffer decided to give it a try.
“I was in my 30s and started contacting hotels and promoters,” recalled Buffer. “I managed to get my foot in the door but it would be a compliment to say I was dreadful when I first started.” In 1983, just a year into his new line of work, Buffer was hired by promoter Bob Arum to be the official announcer for Top Rank boxing shows on ESPN.
In the late 1980s, Donald Trump made Buffer the exclusive announcer for all the bouts in his casinos.
The 73-year-old Buffer has announced well over 1,000 fights and has landed a spot in the Boxing Hall of Fame. He has appeared on a variety of television talk shows, several Rocky movies and played a villain in Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Buffer has been animated in South Park, The Simpsons and had a long association with World Championship Wrestling until it folded in 2001.
Mr. Buffer brings a higher level of excitement to every event he calls. He has announced the World Series, NBA and NFL playoffs, Stanley Cup hockey, the Indy 500 – even an Aerosmith concert. Buffer does voice-over work and advertisements, including the clever Let’s get ready to buuuuundllllllle! campaign for Progressive Insurance in 2013.
Buffer’s grandfather, Johnny Buff, was a professional boxer and bantamweight world champion from 1921 to 1922. His brother, Bruce, is also an announcer, serving as the voice of the Octagon for the UFC.
Mr. Buffer remains the most famous boxing announcer of all time, and works every major event. He currently covers Matchroom shows, as well as bouts on HBO, NBC Sports Network and the German channel, RTL.