Many of us acquired our jobs through the usual process: by answering want ads or signs in storefront windows, filling out volumes of applications and passing mandatory drug tests. Every once in a while, though, you hear about a unique or specialized way someone earns a living and realize that job is something you could never learn in a school or land by going through the usual channels.
Boise resident John Holsman has such a job. His official title is Professional Fight Announcer. His duties include delivering each fighter's statistics and introducing the officials for each fight, while at the same time keeping the crowd fired up and excited about the ensuing match. "Prepare for battle" is the slogan Holsman uses in his introductions, but it is more than just a catchphrase. It is his mission and his message.
"I grew up a combat athlete," Holsman says. "I was involved in all the contact sports and I was also a competitive bodybuilder for 14 years. I got pretty burned out on the physical side," he explains, adding that he still wished to continue in the sports world. He decided to translate his enthusiasm to another area of sports.
Initially, Holsman began announcing high school sports, and soon realized he had a real knack for keeping a crowd both informed and entertained. "I decided to try and get serious about it, after much prompting from my wife, about 10 or 11 years ago," he adds. He decided to take a chance and announce professionally, and shortly thereafter, a new career materialized and started to take off. For many years Holsman was the live play-by-play announcer at Idaho Steelheads hockey games, although now he focuses mainly on his beloved contact sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts. Currently, Holsman averages three or four major nationwide events per month.
"It's my job to gather information about each fighter," Holsman explains. Then he figures out how to incorporate the data into his pre-fight introductions. "I practice my lines out loud around the house, much to the amusement of my daughters." Holsman laughs.
Sometimes, the introductions are scripted out for him, and while Holsman sticks closely to a script if the promoter wishes, he prefers embellishing a script or making it up from scratch. "I always try to keep it fast and exciting when I announce. I try to keep the energy level high, so that the energy of the crowd stays high as well."
In fact, Holsman says that once he enters the ring and takes the microphone, he doesn't even want the crowd's attention focused on him. Saying the fighters are the main attraction, Holsman believes his introduction serves mainly to complement the main event. "The fight is the sundae, I'm just the cherry on top." His contribution at that point is to the overall presentation of the event, part of the combined sound of the fight. There's the clamoring bell between each round, the shouts from each fighter's coaches and trainers, the shouts of the crowd, and introducing it all is Holsman's booming, authoritative voice and its trademark call: "Prepare for battle!"
Holsman's voice also carries a touch of gruffness, one that speaks of his own athletic experience, as well as his true passion for and love of each of the sports he announces. Underneath his loud and gruff exterior, however, Holsman is a dedicated churchgoer, husband and father of three girls. "I'm never truly alone when I get in a boxing ring. I know my family is right there with me every time."
"When I'm in that ring," he continues, "I'm not just saying my lines. What I want to do is communicate, to get the message out there to each and every member of the crowd."
Likewise, Holsman's Web site, www.prepforbattle.com, is more than just a way to promote upcoming events. "I realize now that when I was an athlete, I missed out on a lot of opportunities," Holsman explains. He describes the sports world of today, with its numerous cable channels and Internet outlets, and says that there are many opportunities today that were not even available to him. "I think I was the right athlete at the wrong time." In the near future, Holsman hopes to incorporate statistics and biographical information for independent fighters, so that many of these lesser-known fighters will be able to share the recognition and limelight usually reserved for established athletes. "These up-and-coming guys are the right fighters, at the right time," he explains.
Holsman's main job duties may be to inspire, excite and entertain both spectator and participant alike, but in the end, it is not just his commanding voice and presence that serve him so well. In one of the more hectic professional weekends of his life, he handled three major events in three days. One of the events alone had 20 fights on the ticket, and when the weekend was over, he was certain his voice would be shot. Not only did he manage to make it home on Sunday, but he got back in time to attend one of his daughter's soccer games and was quite surprised to find his voice was still strong enough to scream and shout and cheer her on like the proud parent he is.
For Holsman, it's not the strength of his voice he relies on. It's the strength of his passion for the sports he announces, as well as the privilege of being able to do something he so deeply loves.
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