News & Media


Six Pack: Get ready to rumble with Michael Buffer

August 28, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Boxing announcer Michael Buffer gets the crowd fired up prior to the start of the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol (Getty Images).

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Michael Buffer, the ring announcer with the famous signature line who led the introductory ceremonies at last Saturday's IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, answers this week's six questions.

1. How does working at Bristol compare to some other things you've done?

Buffer: This isn't the first time I've done a NASCAR race. I've done driver introductions for the Indianapolis 500, and I did the same thing for NASCAR in Daytona and Las Vegas. It's pretty hard to beat the reaction of the fans in this sport. What's really impressive is just as you drive up [to the track] you see every field and all the churches and every place where you can park a car all filled up at $25 a pop. An event like this takes on a life of its own.

"It's pretty hard to beat the reaction of the fans in this sport. An event like this takes on a life of its own."

--MICHAEL BUFFER

2. And you just try to assist in building the excitement?

Buffer: What's really great about Bristol Motor Speedway is I've done introductions at World Series games and NFL games, and there are 50,000 or 60,000 people around you, going nuts. Here, it's insane when there are 160,000 people out there. It's a special event, especially at night. It's a lot of fun and very exciting.

This is also a place where it's very easy for me. I wish it could be this easy when I introduce fighters in the ring. All I do is present the starting position of each driver and then the driver comes out to a selection of their own music and they introduce themselves. Then the fans select who does the best job and that driver gets to donate $10,000 to his favorite charity [it was Denny Hamlin last Saturday]. That really makes it quite spectacular and also makes it a whole lot easier on me.

3. How did you come up with your signature call?

Buffer: That's a good question, especially being here at an auto race. I wanted something that would be a hook, something that would be comparable to the world-famous, 'Gentleman, start your engines!' ... This started in the late 1960s, early '70s, when all of the sudden there were fights every weekend in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, on Wide World of Sports, and what was happening was the ring announcers were always buddies of guys on the state commissions. So the fighters would come to the ring with music and a great entrance, and then the ring announcer had to kill the crowd -- literally kill the crowd -- by introducing the chairman, the commissioner, the four doctors, the timekeeper, the three judges, the WBC, the WBA, Caesar's Palace. By the time he was done, he had wiped out the electricity that you had. I wanted something that would bring that excitement back.

So what happens when even a little old lady goes up there right before a race and says, 'Gentlemen, start your engines?' The place goes crazy. I tried, 'Man your battle stations for 10 rounds of action!' And it was like hearing crickets from that Bugs Bunny cartoon. It was horrible. I tried, 'Fasten your seatbelts!'

4. So how did you finally get it right?

Buffer: I will do my best Muhammad Ali impression now. He would say, 'I'm so pretty, I'm ready to rumble.' And that phrase was around boxing. So I started to say, 'Let's get ready to rumble.' And after 30 years, I've fine-tuned it to where it's perfect for a NASCAR race, too.

5. What's the strangest thing you've ever seen in the boxing ring?

Buffer: That probably would be the night Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe had their rematch: Holyfield-Bowe II. And this idiot got into one these flying kites with a motor on it and circled the arena. I guess his plan was to swoop down just over the ring, but he crashed into the lighting above the arena and we had a 20-minute delay. Riddick Bowe's cadre of bodyguards immediately began smashing his head as best they could and the guy ended up going out on a stretcher. That was pretty strange.

6. How did you come to be a ring announcer anyway?

Buffer: I was watching a boxing match with my son, who was about 13 at the time, and the ring announcer announced a split decision in a way that he gave away who won before he even announced it. My son was livid. He was like, 'You could do that, dad! You could do better than that guy!' I actually was making my living as a model at the time and that had evolved into doing a few speaking parts in television commercials. I guess my son assumed if you could speak into a microphone, you could do anything. But as a fan, I said, 'Hey, that's not a bad idea.' I was living in Philadelphia and Atlantic City was 90 minutes away. They were having fights three and four times a week at the time, around 1982. So I made up a fake resume and got my foot in the door.