Outside the Ring: Steve Farhood

By Jill Diamond on July 10, 2014
Outside the Ring: Steve Farhood
Steve Farhood comes to the sport with a clear head and an open mind. (Robert Ecksel)

“I’m just a working stiff, but if I’m remembered as a journalist with integrity, and one who never took himself too seriously, I’ll be satisfied…”

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

There’s a controversy in the community about the influence television has over the success of a boxer; the deals, the bias, the wisecracks and the spotlight, playing up the behind-the-scenes soap opera in hopes of creating an invested audience. Welcome to the Guiding Fight—and hopefully not General Hospital. How do they decide who’s in, and who stays a perpetual, undercard opponent? How many matches have you watched where the camera focuses on the commentators, the ring girls, and the crowd celebrities while in the background, the dancing feet of the boxers? How many times have you watched with the sound off? Some consider the big four to be the new matchmakers. And while even fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya have been known to have an off-night, or an off-fight, when that happens on TV, and an acid-tongued commentator gets in the mix, it can spell disaster for a young professional’s career. Given the power television has in the life span of a fighter, I’m glad there are people like Steve Farhood at ringside. Farhood has become a pivotal force in the sport, and a welcome fixture on Showtime. He isn’t tawdry. He isn’t crude. He just speaks boxing. Boxing wasn’t Steve’s first choice, but I think, given his passion and keenness, his best. To those, who want to become the next Steve Farhood, realize that he overcame numerous obstacles to find work, and boxing wasn’t on his A-list. Yet, in sport, more known for its brawn than its brain, KO Magazine outsmarted him and recognized his value. Steve Farhood comes to the sport with a clear head and an open mind. He respects boxers and in turn, he is one of the most revered and accessible people in the community. His long broadcasting and journalism career is only outshined by his unblemished personal life and his ability to use his platform nobly. I hope you enjoy getting to know him. There’s a lot to like.

Why boxing?

What drew me to boxing was the need for employment! At age 21, and fresh out of NYU, I applied to 150 newspapers and got 150 rejections. Next I tried magazines, and I landed an interview for a copy editing position with a publishing company in Long Island. I got the job and lasted there 19 years, editing and writing boxing magazines, from KO magazine to The Ring. I haven’t looked back — and I haven’t been bored for a single day.

Have you ever questioned your involvement in a sport as evocative as this?

I’ve seen six fighters die in the ring, so if I didn’t occasionally question my involvement in boxing, I wouldn’t have a heart. Still, for a journalist, at least, boxing is endlessly fascinating. The business can be ugly, but the sport can be beautiful. All in all, I have no trouble justifying my involvement in boxing or justifying the moral and ethical issues associated with the sport in general.

What in your background led you to become a commentator and what were the steps?

I began working on TV soon after my start as a print journalist, but I was never involved at a very high level until joining Showtime in 2001. I was always a bit camera-shy, so doing TV didn’t come easy, but there’s a definite challenge because of the immediacy of a live broadcast. The skills needed in TV, as opposed to writing, are different, and the adjustment was a challenge I welcomed.

What activities/organizations are you involved with outside of the sport?

In some sense, my job is 24/7, but I also organize and run paddle tennis tournaments, enjoy theater, and take advantage, along with my wife, of New York City’s dining options. I also worked for several years in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program as a mentor and as a volunteer at Cabrini Nursing Home.

Is there something in your background that made giving back important to you?

I am very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing, and giving back just seems natural. One of my major turn-offs is selfish, self-absorbed people. Thinking of someone other than myself is something that I find gratifying.

Is there something about the personal side of the sport that bothers you?

I don’t like it when fighters are abused; I don’t like it when fighters abuse managers and promoters; and I don’t like the seeming inevitability of a faded fighter’s downward spiral. But as a journalist, I have to keep a professional distance, at least on a personal level.

Do you think it’s every successful person’s responsibility to contribute? And if so, why?

You certainly don’t have to be successful to contribute or give back, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a position of security or influence, shame on you if you don’t do so.

What more can be done to improve boxing?

Lots can be done to improve boxing. It would be an immense help if the major sanctioning bodies united and the number of world champions per division was reduced to one. It would be a great help if there was an umbrella organization that looked after the long-term welfare of the sport. And in a perfect world, (1) boxers would receive benefits after their fighting days are over, and ( 2) there would be adequate funding to unify and improve testing for PEDs.

A proud moment?

My proudest professional achievement is having run a benefit at Gleason’s Gym and raising $50,000 after 9-11. As a lifelong New Yorker, I felt particularly helpless after the terrorist attacks. In uniting the NYC boxing community, I was able to help, in a small way, at a time when my city needed it the most.

Who are your role models?

I don’t really have any role models, but among my inspirations as a writer were, among others, Larry Merchant and Pete Hamill.

Who inspires you?

My boss at Showtime, Gordon Hall, inspires me every day. And my former broadcast partner, the late Nick Charles, inspired me as well.

What are your future goals?

My goals are to work hard, help others, and try and be the best husband, brother, and uncle I can be. That’s enough, I think.

What would you like your legacy to be?
I’m just a working stiff, so I don’t think the word “legacy” applies to me, but if I’m remembered as a journalist with integrity, and one who never took himself too seriously, I’ll be satisfied.

Outside the Ring: David Berlin
Outside the Ring: Sam Hadfield
Outside the Ring: Steve Farhood
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Outside the Ring: Comanche Boy
Outside the Ring: Margaret Goodman
Outside the Ring: Allen Furst
Outside the Ring: Lonnie and Muhammad Ali
Outside the Ring: Bruce Silverglade

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  1. Steve Smoger 05:55am, 05/21/2015

    Steve’s a great person. Very knowledgeable and always willing to share his insight.
    He’s a pleasure to work with at ringside.

  2. Mike Silver 08:35am, 07/17/2014

    Steve Farhood is the best of the ringside commentators. His speaks clearly and over the years has acquired a good working knowledge of boxing technique. He also qualifies as a genuine boxing historian. When Farhood offers his insightful comments you do not get the feeling he is just filling air time.

  3. sonnybales 06:51am, 07/12/2014

    Steve F. is a good fella. Met him several times over the years and always found him to be a classic member of the fight crowd in the best sense of the term.

  4. nicolas 01:09pm, 07/11/2014

    I guess I have to be a naysayer here. I have listened to him on Showtime, but have not been very impressed. I remember his talking nonsense when that fight with Lucien Bute back in 2008, when Bute he claimed was saved by the referee. If one watches that fight, and the time of the knockdown, Farhood was totally wrong, as Bute was decked with less than 10 seconds in the fight. Perhaps he has improved over time, as I often do not watch boxing on Showtime. Perhaps outside of TV, he is a likable person. But when I have listened to him, I have to say I have found him somewhat obnoxious.

  5. Mohummad Humza Elahi 12:40am, 07/11/2014

    Really insightful piece, it’s nice when boxing writers/bloggers/journalists can publicly discuss things without the fear of having to one up each other, I think a roundtable from the writers on this site alone would be pretty fascinating.

  6. peter 04:27pm, 07/10/2014

    This is a refreshing discussion with thoughtful questions. Steve Farhood very much reminds be of Nick Charles—both are articulate, humble and humane. That is precisely the type of ambassador boxing desperately needs.

  7. Leandro O, Gonzalez 12:50pm, 07/10/2014

    I’ve been around this Sport for nearly 50 years . Few people actually impress me… overall. When it comes to knowledge and analytical savvy, Steve is one I look up to. I too liked Mr Pete Hamill and his tactful insight. He reminds me of him. The late Bert Randolph Sugar was passionate about the sport as well. May today’s standard bearers pass on the beautiful tradition of the Art of Self Defense. Thank you for the article. Better than well said is well done.

  8. ch. 08:37am, 07/10/2014

    The term “nice guy” describes Steve Farhood. I don’t like to bother celebrities because most don’t want to be bothered but the only time I met Steve, HE actually started the conversation and was warm, receptive, seemed really interested in my opinions on boxing. A real top notch, class guy.

  9. Eric 06:23am, 07/10/2014

    I, too, dislike “selfish, self-absorbed people.” That is why I dislike Larry Merchant. teehee.

  10. Mauricio Sulaiman 05:45am, 07/10/2014

    Steve Farhood is a true gentleman, has been one of the leading commentators on TV and has always been fair and just . A real nice person, kind and humble, always smiling ... Congratulations on a very well written piece on his life and best of luck .....

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