Many residents of the Duluth, Minnesota area can identify the voice of Jason Manning when they hear him on the radio. As program director and top-rated morning show host at Duluth’s KQDS radio, Manning is broadcast to thousands of cars and homes on a regular basis. His smooth radio voice and outgoing personality made him a natural choice when Chuck Horton was looking for a ring announcer for an event in September of 2006.
Horton contacted KQDS in hopes of putting together a promotional package. The station sent Manning and previous co-host Bill Jones. Manning said he had a little stage fright, not really knowing what all was entailed, but he decided to punt and never looked back. Eight years later he has settled nicely into the role of ring announcer and loves it.
When asked about his early experiences with boxing, Manning said he watched with his dad when he was growing up. One match that really got to him was watching the CBS feed of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and South Korea’s Duk Koo Kim in 1982. Mancini was defending his WBA Lightweight title and Kim was virtually an unknown in the U.S. Both men fought hard and it was never one-sided. Kim collapsed in his corner after a knock out in the 14th round. He was rushed to the hospital for surgery on his swelling brain, but he died just days later. Manning said that death really emphasized the dangerousness of the sport and he began watching more frequently.
One thing he needed to work on was his knowledge of the rules and scoring of the sport. Manning recalls one match where he announced that the winner was by knock out. He was quickly approached by the fighter, and confrontationally corrected, that the victory was a TKO. Lesson learned; Manning became a student of the sport.
Having been around a while, Manning was also there when Chuck Horton handed the reins to Zach Walters. Since Walters
was on the card when Manning started announcing, it was almost like watching things go full circle. He considers Walters a friend and credits him and Horton with running top-notch boxing events. He acknowledges that crowds are growing and believes pro fighter Al Sands is a big part of that draw.
His favorite part of being a Main Event ring announcer is the build-up. “The boxers have their respective posses with them”, there’s the pre-match hype, and his role of whipping the crowd into a frenzy before it even starts. And although it is difficult to remain impartial and carry on when someone you consider a friend loses, Manning feels there is “absolute electricity” in the air at the matches.
He’s learned a few other things along the way. For example, when a ref trips coming out of the ropes, you never laugh because that could be you next time. When you hear the muffled exchanges of two athletes talking trash between punches, you are in very select company. And when you see a boxer in a corner, anxious and crying before a match, you remember the physical dangers of the sport.
Will Manning continue his position as ring announcer? Absolutely. “Chuck and Zach are loyal people who care about boxing and I care very much about them. Besides, I’ve got the best seat in the house.” And he’s already learned the biggest lesson: “Keep your glass covered. There’s sweat and blood flying when you’re that close!”