Jimmy Lennon Jr.

Jimmy Lennon Jr.

Post by Paul Dalrympl » Mon, 07 Jun 1999 04:00:00

Sunday, June 6, 1999

From kid gloves to boxing gloves

 When he's not working as a West Los Angeles school principal, Jimmy Lennon
Jr. follows in his father's footsteps as a boxing announcer

By CORY FISHER, L.A. Times

WEST LOS ANGELES -- As the soft-spoken principal of West Los Angeles Baptist
School, Jimmy Lennon Jr. spends most of his time working quietly at his
desk, framed between a quote from the Bible*** on the wall and a
peaceful fl***print by Claude Monet.

     But anyone who assumes the Christian administrator likes the quiet life
would only be half right.

     On May 29, a tuxedo-clad Lennon was standing in the middle of a Puerto
Rico boxing ring, announcing a fight to a crowd of about 12,000 fans.
Promoted by Don King, the Felix Trinidad vs. Hugo Pineda match was televised
on HBO.

     As he has done throughout the world for more than 18 years, Lennon's
voice echoed throughout the giant auditorium: "Laaadieees aaaand
geeentlemen!" With a face known to anyone even remotely familiar with
professional boxing, Lennon has announced more than 10,000 bouts, 350 of
them world-title fights.

     If it was a memorable fight, chances are Lennon was there: Mike Tyson
vs. Evander Holyfield I, "the big upset;" Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield
II, "the ear bite;" Evander Holyfield vs. Lennox Lewis, "the controversial
draw;" and Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas, "the big upset." Lennon was
inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in October and was named Ring
Announcer of the Year by the World Boxing Association in 1992, 1994, 1996,
1997 and 1998.

     His distinguished announcing career has only been exceeded by his
father, Jimmy Lennon Sr., also a Hall of Famer. The senior Lennon was a ring
announcer for nearly 45 years before he died in 1992 at age 79.

     A 40-year-old Brentwood resident, Lennon grew up in Santa Monica
watching his father on television.

     "I thought everyone's dad was on TV -- sometimes I'd turn the channel,"
he said, laughing. Now Lennon's 2 1/2-year-old son, Jimmy Lennon III, also
is known to mimic his father's television persona.

     "Old-timers tell me, 'When I close my eyes, I hear your dad.' That
means a lot to me," Lennon said. "My dad started the trend of wearing a tux
in the ring. I think it brings class to the event." Despite the fact that
Lennon's ring-announcing career has given him the opportunity to travel the
world, meet celebrities and create a comfortable nest egg, he views it
purely as entertainment.

     "For some, fame can be a drug, but I don't count on it and I don't sell
my soul to it. You can get spoiled and out of balance," he said.

     "My life is more about helping young people. I want to be in the real
world. I [work at the school] to serve. I really don't need the money." Two
days after announcing the Mike Tyson vs. Razor Ruddock fight that attracted
an estimated 2 billion viewers, Lennon was back at school wiping off tables,
cleaning up after his students.

     "That Jimmy is willing to serve as principal is a gift to us. He's a
gifted educator," said Jim Leonard, executive pastor of the First Baptist
Church of West Los Angeles.

     "He lives in two worlds and has been very effective in both of them. He
bridges them well. I'm very impressed by that." Lennon began teaching at the
seventh through 12th grade school in 1981 and became principal last fall.

     "Mr. Lennon gives everyone the feeling that he cares. He's the heart of
the school," said 10th-grader Jenny Hafenberg, who was in Lennon's world
history class last year. "As a teacher, he was strict but he treated
everyone the same way. He was very fair." Not everyone in the church-school
complex is a fan of boxing, and for that reason he has not introduced the
sport to his students, Lennon said.

     "There are valid arguments against the sport of boxing and I respect
those. But I tend to see it as a battle of strategy and skill that generally
promotes self-discipline and good sportsmanship," he said.

     "But keeping the two worlds separate adds balance to my life. Here at
school I'm appreciated for my service and academics -- you know, real-life
issues."