There’s no shortage of possible answers when Jim Lampley is asked what comes to mind when he thinks of Boston. Perhaps it’s an anecdote from calling one of Micky Ward’s classic fights against Arturo Gatti as part of his 30-year run as the lead broadcaster for HBO’s boxing team. Maybe it’s a memory of a local athlete from his time working 14 Olympics, or serving as host for ABC’s college football coverage, and later “NFL Live” on NBC.
So, which is it?
“I think of Durgin-Park,” Lampley replies, referring to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace restaurant that was in business for 192 years before closing its doors in 2019. A trip in the early 1970s marked his first time eating lobster in New England, which he described as an “entirely different experience than I was accustomed to.”
He enjoyed not only the food, but also the atmosphere at the Boston landmark.
“I think of the snotty, mean-spirited, alienating waitresses, and they seem to pour in their antisocial quality, and the food was spectacular,” said Lampley, erasing any doubt that he had in fact been to Durgin-Park.
A decade later, he was working for ABC and was back in town calling the Harvard-Yale game. The scene was everything he expected it to be, and he came away hoping he would have a child attend Harvard one day. His oldest daughter, Brooke, would fulfill that dream, graduating in 2002 and later earning a master’s degree from Yale.
While hosting ABC’s studio show for college football, he drew the attention of Globe sports media columnist Jack Craig, who marveled at how many scores Lampley could deliver in 3½ minutes.
“We were pushing the envelope every week in terms of how many scores I could do,” said Lampley. “OK, you did 44 scores last week. Are we going to try for 45? No, 47. And every week, we were expanding the number of scores that I could deliver in a 3½-minute period, and it was overwhelming fun.”
Although he did not call Marvin Hagler’s split-decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987, that has not stopped fans for asking his opinion on what he thought of the Brockton middleweight’s defeat, even to this day.
“Probably the single most controversial decision of my lifetime,” said Lampley. “If you were to say what is the one fight that more people will buttonhole you in an elevator or a hotel lobby or a shopping center and say, hey, who do you think was the actual winner, that’s No. 1.”
It’s been a while since Lampley, 74, has worked ringside — almost five years, in fact, when he signed off HBO’s final boxing broadcast on Dec. 8, 2018, with an emotional farewell.
He had signed a contract with Triller to call the Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos Jr. fight in June 2021, but Lopez tested positive for COVID, putting the fight in limbo. Triller eventually lost the rights before DAZN landed a deal to carry the fight on Nov. 27, 2021, and Lampley was left out.
During that time, he stayed busy by returning to his alma mater 50 years after leaving graduate school at North Carolina to teach a course titled “Evolution of Storytelling in American Electronic News Media” and take in some Tar Heels basketball.
“It’s been a fabulous ego trip,” he said. “I’m back here teaching graduate students and undergraduate students and enjoying Chapel Hill and assessing, as everyone does, the location of my tickets for basketball and where they placed me in the social hierarchy of the town.”
This Saturday, Lampley finally returns to boxing, when he will cohost a viewer chat alongside former Los Angeles Times reporter Lance Pugmire for the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo fight at T-Mobile Arena on PPV.com. As part of the deal, Lampley is providing daily on-site commentary and reports from Las Vegas during fight week for the website and its social media platforms.
The International Boxing Hall of Famer is looking forward to reconnecting with friends and embracing the new role.
“I’m excited on a sort of sensory-involvement level that I’ll be going back to observe at close range the sport for which I have such enormous passion and tangible devotion over all of the years that I put into it,” he said.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a new communications medium, which to me promises the possibility of developing editorial overview and something like expert insight and expressing it in a different kind of relation to the event than was the case when I was doing blow-by-blow.”
Both fighters turned 33 this year. Canelo (59-2-2, 35 KOs) is the undisputed super middleweight champion, while Charlo (35-1-1, 18 KOs), is the undisputed junior middleweight champion.
It would appear to be a tall order for Charlo, who is moving up two weight classes in his quest for a bigger payday as well as Canelo’s belts.
“An exceptionally tall order,” Lampley concurred. “But we’ve seen instances in the history of the sport, and the not-too-distant history of sport, where guys have been able to do that jump up in weight, and score effective wins.
“It could be very interesting. If Jermell is brave enough to step inside of Canelo’s counter punches and try to counter him hard to the body, something could happen. We’ll see.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney @GlobeMahoney.