Kellerman’s work as a sports analyst is infused with his belief in using sabermetrics, the empirical analysis of baseball statistics to collect, summarize, and measure relevant in-game activities data. The conversation-provoking Kellerman comes from a family of thinkers, talkers, and achievers. Max has an avid interest in hip-hop and was a rapper himself, signed to Columbia Records along with his brother Sam in 1994. His passion for music, literature, and boxing have melded together to create a particularly insightful sports commentator. A Reddit Fan posted it well, when using the nickname “Max “Thesaurus” Kellerman to describe the way he “spins yarns about boxing” and “simply breathes the sport”. Rap fans described Kellerman as “spitting hot fire over hard beats” before he ever began to “ask the tough questions in the ring”.
1. Max’s first job in the public eye was with public-access TV.
He was right out of college, and he’s the first to mention that he “took seven years to get ‘outta’ college.” He’s quick to quip that “lots of guys take seven years to get out of college- they’re called doctors.” His first job was ESPN right out of school; doing Friday night fights. He said that as he was graduating school, he looked around at his friends from New York and realized that he had friends in every different career imaginable. He looked at the ones who were successful, and he analyzed what they did. He decided the successful ones were the ones who sent out 50 resumes, followed by 50 letters, 50 phone calls, and they took their job hunts seriously. He was doing the public access show at the time and figured that he should do the same. His three younger brothers, Sam, Harry, and Jack helped him put together a press kit and promotional video for a potential “Max on Boxing” show. He sent these out to a lot of spots, and very quickly, he had an offer from ESPN.
2. Max bumped into Steve Lott (CEO of Boxing Hall of Fame and Mike Tyson's closest friend) on the street in New York.
Max was on his way to a screening of the RFK documentary that Jack Newfield had made. Steve Lott told Max that Friday Night Fights was up for relaunch, and that the production was ready for a new voice. Lott asked Max if he had a tape. Max had the promotional materials his brothers made with him, and he promised to send it to Lott. Once the materials arrived, ESPN sent Mat to audition, and that’s how he ended up with Friday Night Fights.
3. Max struggled terribly with the loss of his brother Sam in 2004.
He said that it’s a terrible club to be in along with others who have lost siblings. He said that everyone who loses one’s closest family member, or anyone in the family first faces what he terms subjective loss. But he said there is also objective loss. He viewed his brother Sam as a genius and they were always together. His brother was killed by James Butler, a manic-depressive nicked-named The Hammer. Butler used a hammer to pound Sam’s head 32 times. The saddest thing is that Sam was trying to help Butler. Butler had even been part of the cast in Max and Sam’s rap video “Young Man Rumble”. Max says nothing will erase his memories of Sam, and it took him 5 years before he could function like a regular human being. Even a decade or more later, he still struggles with the loss.
4. Max was suspended by ESPN for a short time in 2014.
The suspension took place after he admitted that he had hit his wife. It happened before they were married and at a college party. She slapped him and he slapped her back. His co-host Stephen A. Smith, was also suspended for a time after he made remarks about domestic violence.
5. Max said that the only thing he cares about in the world is his three kids.
Interviewing on Hot 97, he talked about the complexity of his schedule, which involved juggling three jobs as a sports commentator. It was 2016 and he was involved with HBO Boxing, the daily ESPN TV show, and the daily ESPN radio show. He said it was tough being married with three kids and pairing that with is three-show career. He said he loved is wife dearly and that she felt the same way about their focus on their three children. His wife sent him video of his youngest child, Mira, walking for the first time. Mira was about 1 year old at the time, and Max had to content himself with seeing video of the cherished event because he was on the road with his work. His children were 7, 4, and 1 that year. The oldest were already in school, but he wasn’t at home from 8:30 to 7:30 every day, and that made it difficult to connect with his children.
6. Max has had a bad back, so he has exercised with Pilates.
As a middle-aged man, aged 42, he said that he was “at the beginning of old”. He didn’t consider himself to be in the 30s “sweet spot” but emerging into the more difficult part of middle life.
7. The slight scar on the left corner of Max’s mouth was when Max bit a clock wire and electrocuted his lips.
He and his brother Sam were playing Batman and Robin. They started the game when Max was three and Sam was two. They played the Dynamic Duo for years. The clock was their father’s gift to their mother. Max, as Batman, convinced Sam, as Robin, that the clock was the enemy. Max convinced Sam to bite the wire first, but nothing happened until Max bit it, too. The wire zapped Max’s skin, and he needed three surgeries to separate the left side of his lips.
8. Max was eight when his father took him to a gym for boxing lessons.
The pair had watched Muhammad Ali on TV one night and Max had recited Ali’s poetry. His lessons didn’t last long, however, because his mother and grandmother took him out of lessons one year later when Boom Boom Mancini killed Duk Koo Kim on national TV.
9. Max on Boxing became a Manhattan phenomenon.
When his own boxing lessons ended, Max satisfied his passion for boxing by learning everything about it that he could. His father took him to the Manhattan Neighborhood Network studio and paid for a half-hour recording slot. His first studio session was a hit, as people from all over phoned the studio. Max’s weekly show, Max on Boxing, lasted for nine years. He was invited to be on the David Letterman show, and Dustin Hoffman invited him to his home for dinner.
10. Max believes that the most important core of himself as an intellectual, secular Jew, is Yiddish.
He said that Yiddish was the tradition most important to his Bubba, his father, and therefore, to him in terms of how he wants his children to be like him in some way is to carry on the tradition of Yiddish. While the issue of Jewish identity is nebulous, he said that Yiddish is an experience of tradition that comes before you and which you can carry on in some way is Yiddish. He said that it is at the core of Jewish identity, regardless of which Jewish community you belong to. Max was interviewed as part of the Wexler Oral History Project with the Yiddish Book Center when he discussed what it meant to him to grow up in a home which was conservative, committed to leftist causes, and focused on transmitting the values which secular Jews share through generations in their families.
Written by Garrett Parker
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