NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Business is about to pick up for “Good Ol’ J.R.”
Jim Ross, best known as a longtime play-by-play voice for World Wrestling Entertainment, has signed on to be a boxing announcer for CBS Sports. His debut will be March 12, the first of eight scheduled monthly events at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center called “Knockout Night at the D.” It will be Ross’ first regular broadcasting gig since he filled in on WWE broadcasts following Jerry Lawler’s heart attack in 2012.
Ross, 64, is still quite popular. He has 1.4 million followers on Twitter, and his Ross Report podcast averages more than 750,000 weekly listeners. His catchphrases from his wrestling days can still be recited on demand by his fans — “Business is about to pick up,” ”Good God almighty” and “It’s gonna be a slobberknocker” are among the most famous. Ross said he is excited to transfer his energy and style to a different ring.
“I can’t overnight become a boxing expert,” Ross told The Associated Press. “There will be learned boxing fans, longtime fans, that are going know infinitely more about boxing than I do, and I have no problem with that. My strengths are storytelling and getting you to know the fighter, and then bringing that spontaneity, that voice that cuts through the clutter.”
Ross will work with veteran color commentator Al Bernstein, who liked Ross’ work when he called some fights on Fox Sports in 2014.
“Jim is an iconic broadcaster who comes from a different kind of telecast, but has already shown in brief forays into boxing that he is well studied and very respectful of the sport,” Bernstein said. “And, he brings to boxing the same wit and larger than life personality that has endeared him to wrestling viewers. It will be great fun to work with him.”
The main event on March 12 will pit Zab Judah against Josh Torres in a 10-round junior welterweight fight. Ross looks forward to calling it his way.
“I’ll probably be a little more irreverent than the traditional stoic old-school boxing guy, but I’m not going to disrespect the fighters,” Ross said. “They’re going to be put on a pedestal where they belong.”
The deal with CBS is just one of many new ventures Ross is involved with these days. He will be an adviser and spokesman for FITE TV, an app that will be a one-stop shop for viewing MMA, pro wrestling, traditional martial arts and other combat sports. It will offer some free and some pay-per-view events. Ross said it will be good for small promotions, including some that aren’t on cable.
It fills a need for Ross, a former WWE senior vice president for talent relations who signed “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle, among others. Ross, who lives in Norman and has long had Oklahoma ties through his family, likes to see the talent before it becomes big-time.
“I love the opportunity that we can help facilitate the discovery of the next big things, whether it be in MMA, boxing, pro wrestling — doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think that’s what drew me to it.”
Ross also is doing voiceover work for New Japan Pro Wrestling shows on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. The first episode with Ross’ voice will air March 4. He said at this point in his life, he’s being really selective with what he takes on.
“I never said I was retired,” he said. “I never found the gig that fit what I needed. The need wasn’t just the money. It wasn’t the money. The need was, can I do something that I feel at this stage of my life, at 64 — what can I do that, I’m motivated to get up and go to work, get on that plane again, pack the bag again, check in the hotel again? It’s got to be a fun project.”
Ross said he’ll lean heavily on Bernstein as he reinvents himself.
“I’m excited because I’ll know about the fighters, I’ll know why you should like this guy, why he’s here, what it means to them — the story behind the fight,” Ross said. “And when the bell rings, I’ll call what I see, describe what I feel, and defer to my expert color analyst for the intricacies.”