- Joel Rodgers
A recent boxing event in downtown Shreveport brought with it a man whose called several memorable fights in boxing history. Probably number 1 on that list, a fight that happened Dec. 25, 1985 — in Russia.
The Rocky Balboa-Ivan Drago fight took place on Christmas Day. The heavy favorite Ivan Drago dominated the fight until late in the bout. With moments left in the final round, Rocky Balboa was able to knock out the unbeatable Russian and avenge the death of friend Apollo Creed.
The man who called the famous fight almost thirty-five years ago was recently in Shreveport, and we had to talk to him. His name…. Barry Tompkins, and he’s called some of the most memorable fights in boxing history.
If you watched Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation, you’ve saw Barry Tompkins, a well-known, Hall of Fame sportscaster. Tompkins has been in the game over 40 years and is better known for his work as a boxing commentator, but he has covered football and other sports.
He made his acting debut in 1985, when he portrayed a USA Network sportscaster during the Rocky Balboa–Ivan Drago fight in Rocky IV. A fight that seemed real earlier in this article.
“The Russian is cut, and it’s a bad cut!”
“A few cheers now for Rocky Balboa, suddenly Moscow is pro-Rocky!”
A couple of the lines delivered by Barry Tompkins in Rocky IV (1985)
Tompkins tells RSHV he enjoys calling live games/events over being in a movies because of “having to do the same line 15 times.” — Makes sense to us.
He worked for the ESPN network, where he did play-by-play on Thursday Night Fights alongside Al Bernstein. He also did college basketball, The French Open and many other tennis tournaments, the Tour De France, World Track and Field and Swimming and Diving Championships as well as the World Gymnastics Championships. During that time he continued to be “The Voice” of Pac 10 (now 12) Conference football for various syndicators.
Tompkins was born and raised in San Francisco. He began his broadcasting career as a writer and producer for San Francisco radio station KCBS in 1965, before being hired as sports director at the local CBS television affiliate, KPIX-TV. Since then he has spent five years at NBC, ten years at HBO, eight years at ESPN, and the past fourteen years at Fox Sports.
At HBO, Tompkins came into much greater national prominence alongside Larry Merchant and Sugar Ray Leonard as a member of the HBO Boxing show’s team. He called fights at HBO for many years and some of his commentaries became famous, such as his call when Alexis Argüello was hurt by Aaron Pryorin round fourteen of their Battle of the Champions (Arguello…oh! Arguello is hurt!!), when Héctor Camacho was buckled by Edwin Rosario in round five of their fight (Camacho had never been hurt before!) and when Mike Tyson won the WBC world Heavyweight title with a second-round knockout of Trevor Berbick(And we have a new era in boxing.). In 1992, he won the Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcasting journalism. Tompkins also co-hosted HBO’s baseball program, Race for the Pennant.
In 1995 Tompkins left ESPN to join Fox Sports as the play-by-play announcer of Sunday Night Fights, and he traveling through the United States alongside Sean O’ Grady and Rich Marotta. Tompkins continued as the lead play-by—play commentator of FSN’s coverage of Pac-12 football with Petros Papadakis and basketball with Dan Belluomini, Marques Johnson, Don McClean and Ernie Kent through 2011. He also commentated much of FSN’s poker coverage, including the Aussie Millions and Poker Dome Challenge. .
The WAC Sports Network folded after 2011 allowing Tompkins to become a free agent in terms of college football sports broadcasting for 2012. He was hired by the Mountain West Conference to serve as their #1 play-by-play broadcaster for the new MWC regional package on Time Warner Cable SportsNet (started after Mtn folded after spring 2012). He was assigned Jay Leeuwenburg as his color analyst.
Tompkins joined Showtime Sports on February 18, 2012, as blow-by-blow voice of the network’s ShoBox series and ShoExtreme series with veteran analyst Steve Farhood.
He continues to do college football and basketball for Time-Warner Network and Comcast.
Tompkins was recently in Shreveport, Louisiana calling fights for ShoBox: The New Generation.