By Austin Killeen January 13, 2017
(Click on thumbnail for larger image)
Even an individual not familiar with boxing, probably would recognize Michael Buffer. To a lesser extent this would also apply to Jimmy Lennon, Jr. They are the best at what they do and as a result have many imitators. As with the Mona Lisa there can only be one original, all the others are simply knockoffs. Instead of trying to imitate Buffer or Lennon, Jr., it makes more sense to study the structure of their presentation. If you have never been to a live boxing card in northern New Mexico, you might not be familiar with ring announcer Mike Adams. Watching his impeccable presentation, there is no doubt you’re in the presence of an original; not a knockoff.
Born in Huntington Park, California Mike moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico as a little boy. “My mom brought me and my brother and sisters here when I was a baby and I’ve lived here ever since. I love Albuquerque, it’s a great city. I have a brother Art, who’s a huge fight fan, and two sisters and they all live in Las Vegas, Nevada and I live here.” I was curious what brought his mom here and he responded; “My mom’s from a tiny town called Las Vegas, New Mexico, as was my father. There’s great stories of him in Las Vegas, he should have been a pro boxer; he was as tough as nails.” Mike’s dad passed away when Mike was in his early twenties.
He commented on the boxing history of his parent’s home town; “The Crespin family is from there, so is Frankie Archuleta. If you read Chris Cozzone’s book about the history of New Mexico boxing, he’ll tell you about a lot of fighters who came out of Las Vegas; including Frank Higgins who fought David Kui Kong Young. Young fought for the world bantamweight title, losing a split decision against Manuel Ortiz.” It was becoming apparent that Mike was quite the historian regarding boxing legends from the “Land of Enchantment.” I thought I was doing a story about a ring announcer, but was discovering a treasure trove of information about the history of the local boxing scene.
Adams is a physical presence when he’s standing in the ring, reading the judges verdicts. So I asked him what he does for workouts to stay in such good shape. “I am fortunate thanks to Reese and Noel at the UFC gym, they’re wonderful people. I attend their gym. My wife Paula is a yoga instructor, and that also inspires me. Then I hit the mitts with Sergio Chavez at his gym, he’s the best. My kids also keep me busy, my son Preston has a black belt in Karate, yeah we try to stay active.” I asked about his daughter Alyssa. “I’m very proud of her; she’s going to graduate this year from Eldorado High School. She has a great GPA, works diligently, and was a volleyball player until her junior year. Then decided she had to get into the work force, and has an entrepreneurship spirit about her. Now she’s involved in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), which is a business oriented business curriculum.” His daughter is currently making campus visits and hopes soon to select a college to attend. Mike is dealing with the realization that his little girl is growing up. Welcome to the club, big guy.
Mike graduated from the University of New Mexico in the early 90’s. He had the opportunity to do some commentating on high school basketball and it would lead to his first break in his expanding role as an announcer. Henry Tafoya, who had been inducted into the sports hall of fame at the college, asked Mike if he would like to do a two hour sports show on his radio station. The format included all sports, but primarily boxing. The weekend show proved to be a success and led to his next big break. “I got a call and was asked if I would be interested in being a ring announcer at a local fight card.” The main event featured Sean McClain who would ultimately win the IBC cruiserweight title. Twenty two years later it was déjà vu, standing in the corner making his pro debut was Brian McClain, Sean’s son. “How cool is that. I think the world of the McClain’s, they’re good people” In talking about his expanding role as an announcer, Mike calls them lucky breaks. He might have been lucky, but these opportunities would not have kept coming if Mike had failed to deliver on these breaks.
I had to ask Mike the obvious question; when you did the Sean McClain fight which was your first fight card, were you just as nervous as a debuting boxer? His response, “I was, but it’s always about the fighters. They make the show and if I can pronounce their names right and I can create an atmosphere by delivering a message; we’re all there to see the combatants, not me.” What I like best about Mike Adams is his ability to make the out of town boxer feel welcome. If he can’t pronounce a name he speaks to the fighter personally. It doesn’t matter if he’s introducing the first fight of the night or the main event; he treats all boxers with respect.
I see the finished product now, but I had to ask if he remembers making any mistakes the first time he did a fight card. He said he probably did, but he just tries to do better every time he does a fight card. It must be working because he’s called multiple sports; college basketball, track and field for the WAC, auto racing out at San Felipe, and play by play announcer for the Albuquerque Thunder Birds which is the NBA’s ‘B’ league team. “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been around a lot of sports with boxing and basketball being my first loves.”
Mike commented on the introductory phrases used by Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon, Jr. Mike responded, “I’m going to use a basketball analogy; Michael Buffer is the Michael Jordan of ring announcers. What he’s done is iconic, you have to applaud him. And then you look at Jimmy Lennon, there’s a reason his name is classy Jimmy Lennon, he’s the Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Lebron James, you know he’s right there. His delivery is just perfect. And Jimmy’s dad was a legendary ring announcer at the Olympic Auditorium and Hollywood Legion Stadium. I just come off the bench and try to contribute a little bit; those guys are in a class all to themselves.”
As if he could read my mind, Mike tried to express why he loves boxing. “To those people who have never been to a boxing event it is unreal. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve seen some of the best fights in the history of boxing, and now I’m fortunate to be part of it. I’ve been fortunate that the boxing community is a tight nit community. I remember Jake Maes called me and said, would you like to do ESPN Friday Night Fights? I just made the call for you, and I ended up on ESPN. I did ShowTime Showbox and I met a gentleman who hired me to do pay per views. They used me as a reporter and as a ring announcer.”
Time permitted Mike likes to interview the combatants at the conclusion of a contest. What they say is from the heart, they don’t hold back. He believes that in combat sports (Mike announces mixed martial as well) the athletes are honest and you get what you get. “That’s what I appreciate about combat sports in general, yeah it pretty incredible.”
Being comfortable talking about sports I was curious what kind of a sports background Mike had himself. He commented; “I played a little bit of basketball in high school, I went to Del Norte high school.” As I suspected, Mike downplayed his ability. Someone who knew him in high school commented; “He did a lot more than play a little basketball.” Mike grew up around sports and has an appreciation for them. His older brother Art (almost ten years older) shared that love for sports, and took his little brother to many sporting events. He saw Mike Tyson live in his heyday at Caesar’s outdoor arena. He also witnessed Bowe/Holyfield III.
Watching those fights and being around it make a big impact on Mike. He saw firsthand the impact that Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero, and Danny Perez had on the sports community in the “Land of Enchantment.” The magnitude of what they brought during that time was unbelievable. Mike gives credit to the late great Bob Foster who started it all. The drama that Tapia and Romero produced and their eventual showdown captured the entire state of New Mexico. It was amazing how Johnny sold out the “Pit” and the Pan Am Center; he sold out every venue he went to. Romero would have the same effect on these venues as they would be just as crowded. Boxing in the state was covered at the national level. Mike commented “when Oscar De La Hoya come to watch them, Johnny was fighting Adonis Cruz at the Tingley Coliseum and Floyd Mayweather fought on the undercard. So that tells you the magnitude of where Johnny was at that time.”
Mike continued to talk about the time period, mentioning other boxers who made an impact. Among those he mentioned was Ronnie Rentz who defeated Pernell Whitaker in the amateurs. Henry and Charles Anaya, Tommy Cordova, Jake Valencia, Louie and Rocky Burke, all of whom made an impact on the local boxing landscape. Then along came a new wave including Ray Sanchez III, Archie Ray Marquez, Fidel Maldonado Jr., and Austin Trout who breaks out and wins the world championship. Next along came Holly Holm, who elevated women’s boxing to a level that will never be accomplished again. Moreover, what she has accomplished in mixed martial arts is truly amazing. Was she really supposed to be the world champion of the woman’s mixed martial arts bantamweight division; she shocked the world. Mike was spouting this information off the top of his head, he wasn’t reading from notes.
Mike feels that boxing in New Mexico is going through a rebirth with a changing of the guard. “Now you have this new wave, you have the Holmes brothers, Patrick and Brandon, Matthew “Diamond Boy” Griego, Alex Holguin, the Sanchez brothers, Jason and Jose Luis. This new wave of guys are starting to capture the imagination of the fans with their own brand of excitement. To find a world champion, it’s not easy. But you had Johnny and Danny then you had Austin Trout from Las Cruces, New Mexico who goes into Madison Square Garden and beats Miguel Cotto. Then you have all these mixed martial arts champions who train here. So now our expectations coming out of New Mexico are higher. Whom among the new wave will step up and be our next world champion?”
Mike summarized his feelings about the sport: “The sport of boxing isn’t going anywhere, it will always be there. We are going to find these next great champions.” To support his argument he offered the following evidence; Ali, Leonard, Duran, Hearns followed by Tyson who carried the torch for many years. Oscar De La Hoya who Mike feels revolutionized pay for view boxing. He feels that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao elevated the sport to a whole other level. He talked about today’s boxers Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford, Triple G (Gennady Golovkin), Andre Ward, and Sergey Kovalev. This sport has been tremendous; I’m a huge fan because it the purest form of reality.”
Mike Adams has a real job, so I thought it might be a good idea to find out how he buys the groceries. He responded; “I’m a hotelier by trade, I’m in the hospitality business. My brother and two sisters have always been in the hospitality business so I’m a hotelier by trade. I’ve worked in hotels in different capacities and I enjoy the aspect of putting the guest first, it should be a positive experience when they stay at your hotel.” Mike is the director of sales at Embassy Suites Hotel & Spa in Albuquerque and clearly loves his job. Having observed Mike in his work setting, he treats all the people he works with as colleagues not staff. He has the ability to be professional and at the same time down to earth with those he encounters on a daily bases.
Whether it’s his work as a sports announcer, or his profession as a hotelier Mike has discovered what he loves to do and how to get paid for it. You don’t have to be a Harvard graduate to realize that is the definition of a “win, win” situation. (I’ve got the first half figured out, now if I can only. . .)
During the interview he referred to Michael Buffer as the Michael Jordan of ring announcers. The more I watch Mike Adams in action the more I think that Michael Jordan is the Mike Adams of basketball players.