Considered Media Criticism AKA What The *#@% Is Wrong With Gus Johnson?

(Our Alex McClintock is going to be away from the blog for a little bit — don’t worry, he’ll be back! — but he wrote a few things before departing. Here’s one of ’em, about Showtime’s top boxing play-by-play man, who recently was the subject of reports about his continued work at the network, where he’ll apparently remain. –Tim Starks)

Gus Johnson sucks at commentating boxing. There are no two ways about it. I don’t watch enough American football or basketball to say whether he’s any good at them. I just know he’s no good at calling boxing.

Johnson has sucked since he was appointed to Showtime’s broadcast team back in 2009. But I only came to the realisation of just how much when watching Fight Camp 360 Pacquiao vs. Mosley.

CBS and Showtime got Gus to redo HBO’s perfectly good commentary of old Pacquiao fights. How do you stuff that up? Even with time to prepare his remarks, Gus simply shouted and offered platitudes like: “Is there any doubt that he’s the best fighter in the world right now?”

A good play by play man, like Jim Lampley, offers a little bit of technical insight at the same time as narrating the action. Gus basically does neither. He tries to make up for it by shouting a lot, but that’s a pretty poor substitute. I’ll let this video of the second half of Lopez-Salido, a bad outing even by Gus standards, speak for itself.

Gus Johnson only talks in capitals. And if you can get any insight at all out of that, then you’re a better man than I. I’m not even sure if Gus’ excitement is real or feigned. The man is 44, surely he doesn’t get worked into a lather by every sporting event he sees.

Now, if we go back to the Jim Lampley comparison; remember how much shit Lamps got for his infamous “bang, bang, bang,” call during Pacquiao-Clottey?

That’s what Gus Johnson does every night! Not to mention that being so excitable sucks the air out of the commentary box, where Al Bernstein and Antonio Tarver (two of the best in the game) are usually doing quality work.

Maybe he brings some mystical “big event” feel to the fights; I don’t watch enough American sport to know. But I doubt it.

Showtime, which is going gangbusters in virtually every other aspect of their boxing programming, has to do something about Johnson.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.