Ross Greenburg was vice president and executive producer at HBO, and he was looking for additions to shows, so programming wasn’t the same old-same old.
He can’t recall the first show or when it was broadcast but Greenburg told me on Monday that he does recall that he reached out to judge/pharmacist Harold Lederman.
“I thought there was a broad void there,” the TV production lifer told me, while working on some NHL content for ESPN. His announce team would talk about who won rounds, in their minds, but without as much specificity or clarity as might be possible if more of an expert were brought to the table. “I only had one guy in mind, Harold had a sterling reputation. I had never met or talked to him. Harold was known as the preeminent judge at the time; his record was unmatched in that world. He jumped at the opportunity.”
Now Lederman didn’t probaby know it at the time but his leash was short. If he performed skillfully right from the get-go, Greenburg would not have hesitated to KO his spot. However he did beautifully…if not as concisely as the producer preferred. “The first few times he got on the mic, he’d take off. We had to start a strict control. I told him, ‘Harold, I need 20 seconds to talk about the four axioms of judging.’ We had to hone in and he just nailed it. He was a natural. He was a good communicator and smart as a whip. He was unbelievably honest and that probably separated him from a lot of broadcasters. He called it as he saw it. He was a great judge. He had no favorites among the fighters; he liked them all. He loved the sport so much.”
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I could hear Greenburg’s smile on the phone, as he drifted back to those 1980s, the mid-’80s, before Harold had really become a thing. “At production meetings, he’d be telling me about club fights he saw, from Topeka or Birmingham. Maybe he wanted me to be showcasing the guys. He saw everything! And he went to so many shows. There were Friday shows, especially on ESPN with Top Rank, and he couldn’t wait to get to those. He’d be upset if he missed those. My assistant, at the time, it would be a huge task to track Harold down at whatever pharmacy he was working at. Every six months, he’d be at another one, then the general manager would figure out, I guess, that four days a week he’d go missing, like three times a month. He’d get fired from jobs but he’d always get another one. I guess he was as gifted as a pharmacist as he was at being a judge. Now I never did think he’d become this cult icon.”
I lauded Greenburg, at HBO from 1985 to 2011, and he succeeded Seth Abraham as president of the division, for filling this void, adding something new to the entrenched dynamic. He demurred.
“Don’t give me credit,” he replied. “If he’d have bumbled, he would have been off!”
But he didn’t…and to Harold’s credit, you will notice, the “Harold slot” isn’t so much of a thing in the biz as you might think. That’s because Lederman was a little bit special and had a distinct skill set that turns out is something of a rarity. He will be missed and will not be replaced – anywhere.
Funeral services will take place on Tuesday, May 14th, 11:00 a.m.., at Hellman Memorial Chapels, 15 State Street, Spring Valley, New York 10977.
Follow Michael Woods on Twitter @Woodsy1069.
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