WAIL! The CyberBoxingZone Journal
October 2000 issue

"Major Dad" is a Major Boxing Fan: An Interview with Television Star Gerald McRaney

By Barry Lindenman



Just as a boxer pays his dues in small club fights before hitting the big time and winning world titles, actor Gerald McRaney paid his dues in small acting roles before becoming a bona fide television star. The native Mississippian first turned to acting when in his teens, a knee injury prevented him from playing football. McRaney went on to major in drama while attending the University of Mississippi. McRaney was a veteran of numerous television acting roles on such series as “Gunsmoke,” “Night Gallery” and “The Incredible Hulk,” among others before landing his first starring role. That occurred in 1981, when along with actor Jameson Parker, McRaney starred in the long running popular detective series, “Simon & Simon.” The series ran for eight years on CBS. During a guest appearance on the comedy “Designing Women” in the late ‘80’s, McRaney met and fell in love with his future wife, actress Delta Burke. McRaney followed the success of “Simon & Simon” with another hit series, “Major Dad.” A successful sitcom on CBS, “Major Dad” ran from 1989 to 1993. McRaney thus performed a rare feat: back-to-back hit television series. But he wasn’t through yet. McRaney returned to television in 1996 starring in the critically acclaimed, “Promised Land,” a spin-off of  “Touched By An Angel.” That series aired for three years on CBS. Having recently returned from an African safari trip that he had promised himself for a long time, Gerald McRaney currently has several projects in the development stage.

BL:         You’re originally from Mississippi, not exactly known as a hotbed for boxing. How did you become a boxing fan?

GM:        My dad and I would always watch the “Gillette Friday Night Fights” together. I’ve been a boxing fan since I’ve been old enough to be a fan of anything. Boxing to me is the purest of all sports. Maybe because it is so basic and primal. You have two people put into a confined space and basically, whoever’s left standing at the end, wins. I haven’t followed boxing as closely the last few years as I did in the past. Probably the best time for me was in the ‘80’s when you had Hagler and Hearns and all those guys who were all in there at the same time. Along with the heavyweight period during the Ali and Frazier era, that was probably the finest that boxing has been.

BL:         Who would you say are some of your favorite fighters to watch?

 GM:       I always thought Ali was head and shoulders above everybody. I liked Sugar Ray Leonard and his namesake Sugar Ray Robinson. God, I go back to people like Ralph Dupas.

BL:         Do you ever attend fights live in places like Vegas and Atlantic City or are you more of a TV fan?

GM:        No. It’s too much of a circus. I have attended fights at local clubs and places like that.

BL:         What’s your opinion about the current popularity of women’s boxing?

GM:        I think they should be given a legitimate chance and then we’ll see whether it’s a sideshow or not. If it is a sideshow, people won’t keep paying to see it. I think everybody ought to be allowed to be engaged in athletics at whatever level the audience will accept.

BL:         Ever do any actual boxing yourself?

GM:        I was proof positive that not every young man should learn how to box. It was a waste of time for me. If I get into a fight, there better be firearms involved or it won’t be interesting at all!

BL:         If you could mix it up with another celebrity in a charity boxing match, who would you like to fight?

GM:        I’ll tell you who I would NOT like to tangle with and that’s my old co-star on “Simon & Simon,” Jameson Parker. He used to box all the time. He was good too. In his late 30’s, he could still go 15 rounds, no kidding.

BL:         If you could play the part of a boxer in a film about his life, who would you like to portray?

GM:                Probably somebody like John L. Sullivan or Gentleman Jim Corbett.

BL:         Is your wife Delta Burke a boxing fan as well?

GM:        No. It bores her to tears.

BL:         Ever hear stories of any fists flying on the set of “Designing Women?

GM:        Never. She’d have kicked all their asses anyway.

BL:         Does the thought of seeing Mike Tyson fight again still intrigue you or are you fed up with all his antics and abnormal behavior?

GM:        Having been somewhat in the public eye myself, I’m not sure whether he has engaged in any abnormal behavior. What I know about Mike Tyson, I see in the boxing ring. As far as all of the gossip stuff that I hear about him, I know first hand to take that with a grain of salt.

BL:         Many people enter the professions of acting and boxing for the same reasons: the hope of achieving money and fame. However, it’s only a rare few who actually achieve their goal. Which field do you think is tougher to achieve great success in, acting or boxing?

GM:        Boxing. When it comes time to really get your ass thumped in my business, they call in the stuntman!  Boxing is a good sport but you shouldn’t engage in it unless you’re passionate about it and you love it for the sport itself. Much like my profession too, if you get in it for the fame and the money, you’re probably gonna get your heart broken. If you would be just as content winning a local Golden Gloves fight as you would making a pile of money as a professional, then fine, go become a boxer. But if the whole idea is for you to get rich, my God, stay in school and learn a profession.

BL:         Boxing is increasingly becoming more and more “Hollywood” with all the lights and laser shows during the fighter’s long, grandiose entrances into the ring. Do you think this trend is serving to help or hurt the sport?

GM:        I don’t think it lends anything to the sport. As far as I’m concerned, the sport of boxing begins when the bell rings. I’ll tell you the thing that bothers me most about boxing is all the “spin” that happens after a fight. We seem to have gotten worse and worse about it. I mean fighters have always complained about “being robbed” but the bad decisions that have come about lately seem to have gotten worse. As far as all the pre-fight hoopla is concerned, I think that anything that sells tickets is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with what goes on inside the ring. One other thing that bothers me is that all too often, we’re seeing fighters brought along too quickly for championship fights. They’re in the ring sometimes with people that they have no business being in the ring with and they’re gonna get hurt. That is simply bad management. No fighter worth his salt is gonna say that he doesn’t want to fight someone because he’s scared of him. That’s up to the manager. You and I both know that one of the worst things that can happen to boxing is people getting seriously hurt or killed in the ring. Then once again, we’ll hear the calls to ban boxing. It’s a brutal sport but it’s something that grown people get involved in. As long as it’s a fair competition, I still maintain that it’s a good and decent sport.

BL:         Ever experienced frustrations on a set that made you feel like hitting someone?

GM:        I haven’t really felt like hitting somebody since I was a teenager. But in those days, if I felt like hitting somebody, I’d hit him.

BL:         Are any other of your celebrity pals also big boxing fans like yourself?

GM:        As I said earlier, Jameson Parker (“Simon & Simon” co-star) is big time. I think Bruce Boxleitner is a boxing fan. Tom Selleck is a bit of a fan. There are quite a few actually.

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