Barry Tompkins has called some of the most memorable fights in boxing history, but when he was announced Tuesday as part of the latest class for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, he was surprised.
“I’ve never been in a fight in my life, not even in high school,” quipped the San Francisco native who lives in Sausalito. “I should be in the track and field hall of fame. I can run like hell.”
He and eight others will be inducted into the shrine in Canastota, N.Y., on June 11.
“It’s flattering,” said Tompkins, 75, “since it comes from your peers, people in the industry.”
He admits he was taken aback when he was nominated in the observer category a few months ago. “I wouldn’t let myself think about it,” he said. “A lot of my peers are in it, but I do a lot of other things than boxing. I didn’t think I was immersed enough to be considered.”
He is well known in the Bay Area for his long career calling college football and basketball.
Tompkins said he owed a lot of his success as a boxing announcer to his Showtime partner, Steve Farhood, a journalist who will be inducted with Tompkins.
He began his boxing broadcasting career at the 1976 Olympics. He called the bouts of Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael, all of whom won gold medals in Montreal.
Tompkins called fights for HBO for many years, replacing Hall of Fame broadcaster Don Dunphy. Tompkins’ fights included the 1982 “Battle of the Champions” in Miami between Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor, who stopped Arguello in the 14th round.
Tompkins calls it the best fight he ever worked. “It was the most charged atmosphere,” he said.
Leonard’s controversial split decision over Marvin Hagler in 1987 “wasn’t the greatest fight, but it was the biggest event” he worked, Tompkins said.
The excitement at huge boxing events like that “is palpable,” he said. “You can feel it in your bones.”
Among many other historic fights, he also called Hagler-Roberto Duran, Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney and Mike Tyson-Trevor Berbick.
Tompkins even called a famous Hollywood fight, making his acting debut to portray a sportscaster at the Rocky Balboa-Ivan Drago fight in “Rocky IV.”