The Magic Words that made Michael Buffer a Millionaire

The world’s top ring announcer celebrated his 75th birthday on November 2. Michael Buffer has been in the business for nearly 40 years. There’s little that Buffer hasn’t done in his 75 years.  He’s been a soldier, car salesman, model, actor and having his voice featured on a top slot game. It’s for his ring announcing and a certain phrase that the is most famous and it’s made him a multi-millionaire.

He has his eldest son to thank for getting into the ring announcing business. One night they were watching boxing and the announcer was making a terrible mess of his job. His sibling suggested that Michael could do a better job and the rest is history.

He admits that the CV used wasn’t entirely accurate regarding his experience, but he still got the job. In 1983 he began working for top boxing promoter Bob Arum, who owned Top Rank. His boxing events were shown on ESPN so there were plenty watching the fights. Little did he guess that his ring announcer would become so famous. 

It was in 1984 though that he took everything up to another level when he started using what has become his catchphrase. Just like stand-up comedians and television presenters, a catchphrase can be so important. It’s something you use and when it’s mentioned, people instantly think of you.

So, 35 years ago, Buffer began using the phrase ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ as he geed up the crowd for the upcoming contest. It could have been different though as he also used ‘Man your battle stations’ and ‘Fasten your seatbelts.’ The one he finally became famous for was a slight changing of the ‘I’m ready to rumble’ comment often made by Muhammad Ali.

Such was the success of his new catchphrase; he began the long process of getting a federal trademark for it. That didn’t come overnight, and it wasn’t until 1992 that it was finally acquired. That was an important step to take as he has earned over $400m with the license for his trademark. As you will read, that catchphrase has been used in one form or another here, there and everywhere.

His career continued to blossom in the 1980s. Fans loved watching the fights, but they also wanted to see Buffer in action and of course hear that famous catchphrase. By the time the 1980s ended, Buffer was also the only ring announcer used for the fights held at casinos owned by a certain Donald Trump. Buffer has visited and worked in hundreds of casinos across the globe and has seen his fair share of casino action. Attendances to watch fights in casinos have not dwindled despite the huge amount of online casinos that now offer some of the best online slots available. Even places like the MGM in Vegas can’t compare to the choice available online.

The ring announcer was popular with boxers too, with Sugar Ray Leonard (whose fights he regularly announced) summing up how they felt about him. “When you introduce a fighter, it makes him want to fight,’ he declared. Buffer has announced some of the top fights held over the past few decades

World Championship Wrestling (WCW) saw the potential in using him. When they held PPV events, they used Buffer to introduce the main events. Matches such as Hulk Hogan v Ric Flair would see Buffer making the announcements and of course, he used that catchphrase of his. 

Buffer has continued to be in great demand from other sports too. When a big occasion comes along, the organisers are quick to get on the phone and try to sign him up. Whether it’s the NBA Finals, NFL Play-off games, US Grand Prix or the World Series, Buffer has appeared as a ring announcer. He even announced the 2008 World Series of Poker final table, though he needed to make a bit of a change to that catchphrase of his. On that occasion it was turned into ‘Let’s get ready to shuffle up and deal.”

This continued until 2001 when WCW closed. He was able to work for them as it was HBO that showed their PPV shows and were owned by Time Warner. That exclusive contract also put a stop to his ring announcing for the UFC. He had started to work for them at UFC 6 and UFC 7 alongside his brother Bruce, who continues to be their ring announcer.

He did eventually appear for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) years after they had mocked him during the TV ratings war with WCW. Buffer was the ring announcer for a match between Evander Holyfield and wrestler Matt Hardy. There was a famous advert for the 2008 Royal Rumble where he’s super kicked by Shawn Michaels just as he’s about to say his famous catchphrase. Buffer also appeared on screen during the show itself as he was the guest ring announcer for the Royal Rumble match.

Those of you who love playing slot games will recognise his voice from the game ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble.’ This boxing related slot was released by Relax Gaming and players can also see Buffer, microphone in hand. The game has plenty of special features aside from Buffer’s voice with several different types of wild symbols and the chance to win big in the free spins round.

The most important comments he has made on television has nothing to do with sport. In 2007, he appeared on the Jay Leno chat show and proposed to his current wife (his third), Christine.

His toughest battle followed a year later. Buffer was treated for throat cancer and had to have tumours removed from both his throat and neck. Doctors told him he might never be able to speak again, but within a month he was making the ring announcements for the Joe Calzaghe v Bernard Hopkins fight.

His career has also seen him appear in a few movies. He played himself in the wrestling movie ‘Ready to Rumble’ (that featured several WCW performers) and ‘Rocky Balboa.’ He also played a Ringmaster in the new version of ‘Dumbo’ as he made the announcement “Let’s get ready for Dumbo!’ It was changed again in an advert for Kraft Cheese becoming ‘Let’s get ready to Crumble!’

You name it, he’s been featured in it. He even announced a cooking competition held between Gordon Ramsay and the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. There’s been plenty of commercials and his voice was sampled on the Ant and Dec single ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble.’

Last year saw Buffer sign another big deal. DAZN signed him up as their ring announcer for all their top fights. If you see Canelo Alvarez have a match, it’ll be Buffer who does the ring announcing. That included his recent World Light Heavyweight title win. Buffer can make as much as £3.5m a week for his announcing and he shows no sign of slowing down.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: [email protected]