'Let's Get Ready to Rumble' Worth $400M

Sports announcer Michael Buffer has built his lucrative career on five words.

ByABC News via logo
November 7, 2009, 9:46 AM

Nov. 9, 2009— -- When Hollywood producers cast a ring announcer in a boxing scene, they know there's only one man who can properly play the role: Michael Buffer.

Cast in more than 20 movies and television shows, from "Rocky" to "South Park" to the new movie "2012," Buffer, 65, gives the scene an authenticity viewers demand.

His booming voice, dashing good looks and natural charisma demand attention, while his catchphrase 'Let's Get Ready to Rumble,' makes him unforgettable.

Those five words -- 'Let's Get Ready to Rumble' -- have made Buffer the undisputed king of boxing ring announcers and a hugely successful entrepreneur.

By trademarking his catchphrase, Buffer has generated over $400 million in revenue, selling the rights to music, video games, merchandise and while making personal appearances. His business venture is so successful, Buffer doesn't even have to say his catchphrase to make money. He makes more from the trademark than he does announcing in the ring.

His catchphrase has brought Buffer more than just fame and fortune. It's also brought him family.

Raised by foster parents in Philadelphia, Buffer was re-united with his biological father and half-brothers in 1989 after his father saw him announcing on television. Buffer's half-brother Bruce is now his business partner and the announcer for the Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts series.

But last year it nearly all came crashing down.

Buffer was diagnosed with throat cancer, the worst kind of disease imaginable for an announcer. His initial diagnosis required aggressive surgery and chemotherapy, which would almost certainly end his announcing career.

Buffer, however, got a reprieve. A second diagnosis called for a less invasive surgery that could potentially save his throat.

The surgery was a success, and today, Buffer is traveling the world again with his great voice and gangbuster trademark.

ABC's John Berman recently sat down with the iconic announcer at his home near Los Angeles to discuss Buffer's legendary career.

Berman: When someone says, 'Michael Buffer, what do you do for a living?,' how do you respond to that?

Buffer: I usually say sports announcer. Not broadcaster, but sports announcer.

Berman: And what does that mean exactly?

Buffer: Well, primarily, of course, boxing ring announcer. But, you know, I've been blessed with -- that being parleyed into doing the introductions for World Series and NBA playoffs and Stanley Cup games and home openers of major sports and colleges. So, you know, I got to introduce a lot of guys.

Berman: When you were growing up in, in Philadelphia, you said, 'I want to be the world's best-known introducer?'

Buffer: I had no clue that this would ever happen. I would watch the fights with my kids back in the early '80s, and a ring announcer in a fight announced the split decision. And he did it without the proper sequence, to give you the dramatic effect of -- 'and the winner by split decision,' pause, everybody waits and he gave away this -- the winner after two judges. And my oldest son said, 'Dad, you could do that.' And, and I thought, 'Well, yeah, OK. I'm a big fan. I can't afford a ticket, so maybe I could just get my way in to the ring that way.' And I came up with a sort of enhanced resume that said I had experience, and got my foot in the door and was quite terrible the first time. But I got another shot and it just took off, the power of television.