We know the job makes no sense. Kody knows it too.

A ring announcer is one of the many moving parts of fight night. It’s part of the atmosphere we accept upon arrival - even though it seems silly in theory. A man stands between four corners and shouts information into a microphone that we already know. But imagine a fight night without one? An audience needs guidance. Each person’s cheers and chants and claps are like little instruments, looking to be composed. Kody ‘Big Mo’ Mommarerts is BOXXER’s great composer. He sets the tone for their nights. Without him, we’d be sitting on our hands looking for signals. The crowd’s music would never play.

Throughout boxing history, ring announcers have been as constant as the fighters themselves. The modern day is no different. But with the rise of social media, and the ability to market oneself online - ring announcers now have the chance to take some of that spotlight. Kody knows this – in fact, he’s a master of it. The ‘Big Mo’ brand is his brilliant creation. He’s built an easily identifiable image: a tight tux, against slicked back blonde hair. Think Sinatra meets Superman, without the cape. It’s timeless.

But that’s just the character he’s created. So who is the man behind the mask? We sat down with Kody to discuss his quick come up to the top of the fight industry, his beginnings, and what he plans to do next.

SquareMile: Tell me about your voice when you were little: was the talent always there?

Kody 'Big Mo' Mommaerts: I used to be quiet, I was pretty socially awkward growing up, which, looking at the job I do now – you would never think that. But I was introverted. I was raised by a single father, and he was an attorney so I was around adults a lot. I would go with him to meetings and sit with him at the adults table. I never sat at the kids table. I was always comfortable having my voice heard with adults. My ability to do it was there, but my willingness to do it wasn’t. When it comes to the actual sound of my voice, I figured it out eventually. I wish I could say there was a discovery one day, but there wasn’t.

SM: You say you were socially awkward, but you could crush it with adults, where did the awkwardness show up?

KM: My dad was born in 1945, so I have an older father. I don’t ever want to sound ungrateful to my dad - but I took longer to acclimate socially because of that. Then you factor in the fact that I was taller than everybody else: I was 6’4 when I was twelve years old. I got made fun of for my height. It was a variety of factors. I was a tall, lanky, goofy kid with acne. That didn’t lend itself to having self confidence, but for some reason, around adults I did.

SM: When did the height change from something awkward, to something cool?

KM: When I started playing sports - which was the one saving grace of my social life when I was young. I played sports always, I was always into it. My height made me better. My father actually got me into combat sports, I did Shūdōkan karate when I was very young cause I struggled with balance, knowing my range, and working with how big I was. I was going through crazy growth spurts where I’d grow 5 or 6 inches in a year. My height didn’t register to me as cool until I signed to play football in college.When you’re young, you’re figuring yourself out so much: who you are, what you want to do, where you want to leave your impact. I didn’t appreciate my size until later in life.

SM: You speak about not knowing who you were: what did you spend your time doing growing up?

KM: When I was young, I wanted to do everything. I played sports, I was in the band - I played saxophone, I was a closeted nerd - my favourite film is Lord of the Rings - so I got to hang out in that community. I loved school. I was a better student than I was football player. I liked being part of different groups, because internally that made me feel like a more complete person. Now looking back, I’m happy I approached life that way. Especially in context of my job: I’m always travelling, meeting different people. I can always find common ground with someone, or a similar interest with someone which makes connection and human interaction much easier.

SM: Your job: what do you think is the least understood aspect about what you do?

KM: The importance behind it. At face value, my job is crazy. When you think about it, I climb into a ring, wear a tuxedo, and yell information into a microphone that you probably already know.

But when you step back: the only person during a broadcast that talks to both the live audience and the audience at home - who’s given the task of narrating, and setting the stage for an event that a thousand, or tens of thousands have paid to see, that hundreds of thousands if not millions are taking time to watch from home, boxers who have dedicated weeks of training camp or years to build a career in the sport, a sports commission that have invested money and time to structure a ranking system, commissions that oversee the sport, governments that oversee those commissions, and local economies that are benefiting from the show happening.

When you factor in all those stakeholders, and you hand me a microphone to control and carry a pace of a broadcast, I’d like to maintain it’s pretty damn important. You never appreciate the importance of your job until you get to see it first hand.

I’ve made decisions to represent people’s cultures when I announced, and those clips have gone viral on the internet. I’ve gotten messages from people thanking me for representing their culture. When you get reciprocation from people that watch it, who see it and appreciate it, it makes the job even more important.

SM: What the best message you’ve ever received because of your work?

KM: I announced a boxer named Joseph Parker, who just beat Deontay Wilder. He’s from Auckland, New Zealand, which has a heavy Māori population, Polynesian culture etc. I remember looking at his bio and doing some research, and I was like: I wonder if he has a chief or tribal name that he goes by. I don’t think Joseph Parker is his cultural name. I figured out his real name was Lupesoliai La’auliolemalietoa and I decided to introduce him by it.

I listened to a local radio show with a Polynesian host: heard him say it, practiced it, got it phonetically down with pronunciation and phonetics. That clip went out, and I got a ton of messages from the Samoan and Polynesian community thanking me for putting their culture on a pedestal. Initially, I thought the name sounded great - I didn’t know the cultural impact that would come from it. If that small decision can affect that many people, then my job carries a bit of importance, and I should take it more seriously that just shouting into a microphone.

Kody "Big MO" Mommaerts

SM: Here’s something I have no idea about: How much of the script on a fight night is up to you vs BOXXER or SKY?

KM: I represent Boxxer and Sky, so I’m never going to fly off the cuff. But in terms of the little words: it’s me and how I want to do it. Every boxer has a bio - there’s traditional parts of the bio that get talked into an intro: height, weight, pro record, where they’re from, and potentially a nickname. Those are the standards. Anything I want to add is up to me. In terms of structure and how I say things: it’s up to me.

SM: When it comes to phonetics and pronunciation - what does that preparation look like before a fight?

KM: On a given night, say a standard card has 10 fights, so 20 fighters. Sometimes there’s nothing tricky at all, standard names. But when you dive into different cultures, you start to have to listen. I’ve learned to never try to pronounce something based on hot it’s spelt, 98% of the time it will lead you astray. Especially when you come from America: we don’t speak English, we speak American. When I get bios, or see something unique, I try to find clips of someone saying it.

For example: I did a show in Poland and the city in Poland was called Rzeszów, but it’s pronounced ZHESH-oof. The only way I’d know that is because I found commentators from that part of the world. I have to hear it first. I don’t like to reference my cards. I like to focus on the entertainment side, rather than just reading. In the event that I need to check a note, I will write it phonetically on my cards.

SM: Tell me about your vocal warm up - what do you do?

KM: It’s funny you ask that because I just went to an ear, nose and throat specialist about a year and a half ago to get my vocal cords looked at. I look at my career as an athlete. If I was still playing football and I was using my knees a lot - I would make sure my knees were in good shape. Same goes for my voice. So I went to this specialist and they’d never had a ring announcer come into their office. They thought it was a cool way to experiment with stuff. So they set up a camera and put it down my throat to look at my vocal cords. Most vocal cords close flush, mine are unique in the sense that they overlap a little bit - which is how I can get a growl tone in my voice. But because of that: I have to warm up a lot. Hydration is the most important. I don’t do anything crazy but I have to make sure I’m warm. I have a whole pre-fight ritual. I’m in my hotel room, I get dressed, I listen to music, I get fired up and ready for it like I’m fighting.

SM: What do you listen to?

KM: High energy stuff. I’m a huge rap fan. It could be EDM, it could be classic rock. I love all music. Something to get the juices flowing before I step in front of a whole hell of a lot of people. But warm ups are important, because I do have mutant vocal cords. Maybe I’m sent from somewhere else to come ring announce for a living.

SM: Did they have any information on how it happened - were you born with it or did it develop?

KM: I played the saxophone when I was young, and you can growl with a saxophone. You can control the air that goes through the instrument. So I think I subconsciously learned it there. But I’m also 99% sure it’s genetics.

SM: Why the saxophone?

KM: In the fifth grade, you had to either learn an instrument or join the band. I initially wanted to do the orchestra cause there was a girl I had a crush on who was playing the violin. So I wanted to play the violin - you know how it goes in the fifth grade. When I came to my senses, I realised I liked the saxophone, and the lung capacity came easy for me because I was a lot bigger than everyone else. I got to play a much bigger saxophone than everyone else.

SM: Tell me about the beginning of ring announcing: what was the first opportunity that came to you?

KM: I was a good public speaker in college. I spoke in business classes a lot, I did competitions. I was always very comfortable doing it. At the end of my college career, our athletic department had an award show like the ESPY’s. Every year I went in like damn, I want to host this. But every year the department turned me down. They weren’t going to let a current student do it. Eventually, I helped the AD move on a weekend. He was like, ‘hey, I can’t pay you but I can buy you lunch or something - how can I repay you?’ I said: ‘Let me host the award show.’ He let me do it.

I gave the whole monologue, I wore a tux, I cracked jokes - the whole nine yards. I was 21 at that point, and it came pretty naturally to me. My friends told me I should pursue commentary. But I was so tired of football and basketball. So I looked at combat sports.

I know sales. I know business. I’m not afraid to be told no. So I just started trying to find opportunities. I found a local regional promotion in Denver called Sparta. I called and said, ‘hey, I don’t have any experience, but I’ve got good energy and I can talk well.’ They ended up making me a color commentator. Small shows, small crowds. I did a few, and I remember watching the ring announcer and I was like that’s more my speed and eventually they let me do it.

SM: What was the first one you ever did?

KM: It was a regional boxing show at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. There were about 150 people there, and I was 23. I started announcing and managers and coaches started to see there was something was. I had no idea where my voice was, I was over the top, I sounded like shit - but something was there. At that point, I was like, if I’m going to go after this then I want to be the best at it.

So I branded myself as “Big Mo” to keep my career separate as I pursued ring announcing. It’s short and not my scrambled crossword puzzle of a last name. I wanted something easy. No one’s ever going to forget it. I started wearing sunglasses which were goofy as hell - I looked like an idiot but it was a visual aesthetic that people remembered. My height didn’t translate on screen, I wanted a visual cue for people to lock into. That quickly worked, and then I ended up doing a fight in Dubai between Hafthor Bjornsson and Eddie Hall. Hafthor played the mountain in Game of Thrones. They did their giant titan fight in Dubai and Sky found me to doing that, and now I’m talking to SquareMile.

SM: Alongside this whole journey, you’re also helping build a tech company? Can you tell me about that?

KM: My freshman year of college, I was nineteen. I was in my dorm with my roommate and he was like, ‘hey, my brother has an idea for a company.’ I was like alright, what are we doing here? What’s the idea? Are we going to write something up on the window? Turns out it was legit. Now, six years later, I’m the COO of Sports Thread. We’ve build a full SAAS software service and social media platform for the youth sports community. We’re got about 150-200 partners that utilise our software. I run the advertisement side of what we do - we service about 300 advertising clients that reaches roughly 4 to 5 million people. So I do that as my day to day and I moonlight as this tuxedo clad ring announcer in other countries. When you have those careers going simultaneously, you learn a lot from both. I built a brand like I built a business: remove the personal, build a community, keep people interacting, how to engage with a market, how to publicise yourself.

SM: You get the best of both worlds. You’re like Spiderman, ring announcing is your costume.

KM: The goal long term is to transition to entertainment full time. As much as I love business, I love entertaining people more. I get a crazy sense of euphoria when I do what I do. At minimum what I do is content, yes it’s boxing and sports, but it’s something someone sits down to enjoy on TV. We live in a world with so much tension and problems, whatever you’re dealing with during the day, people love to end the day and watch something that lets them enjoy something. I’m part of a production for people to enjoy. When people tell me they had fun, that makes me feel full because I’ve contributed to them taking a few hours out of their day to enjoy something.

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SM: If you could describe the relationship between the announcer and the audience: how would you do that?

KM: It’s literally everything. At my core, I’m a glorified public speaker. That’s basically what I do. There’s a lot of hurdles that you have to overcome with an audience. The first thing is getting an audience comfortable with what they’re watching, comfortable interacting with what they watch. A lot of people sit on their hands on the start. They don’t know what to do as an audience member. It can be awkward in the start. My interaction with the audience sets the stage and environment for the show. A loud crowd and invigorated crowd will always be better than a dead crowd - period. I love golf, but the crowd don’t do shit on golf.

Where I’m different from a lot of announcers—because a lot of people start at the bottom, and crescendo all the way up to the main event—I prefer to start high, then go back low, and then crescendo to the main event. I’ve broken the ice: yes you can get loud. Yes, you can have energy. Now that everyone knows how to get loud, and have a good time. Now we can continue the show. It’s an intimate relationship with the people there. My job is ridiculous but lets rip the bandaid off cause it’s equally badass.

SM: You’re like boxing’s great composer.

KM: I might steal that.

SM: Steal away.

KM: I fell in love with the entertainment side of combat sports before I fell in love with the sport. I always loved the sport. I lived in a party house in college, and we used to have some soirée’s. I always used to put fights on during the pre-games. None of my friends understood the fights, but they could always relate to one thing: the energy of the show. The fireworks, the walk-outs, the music, the ring announcer. You don’t have to understand fighting to understand atmosphere. If I can help dictate that atmosphere to people, then I’ve won.

SM: I know the dream is to become an actor and eventually a talk show host: in a dream world, what projects would you like to do?

KM: I’ve actually never shared this story. I had a good friend who wanted to be a director, he ended up going to film school at Chapman University in LA. We used to do backyard productions on cheap cameras when I was a kid. But people got their hands on the videos and started bullying us. I suppressed my desire to perform. I always loved it. Now, I want to invest more of my time into it. I know I’m a big guy, so I don’t mind if I’m type cast. I’d love to play a superhero one day. But my ultimate goal is to be the host of The Tonight Show. I shoot for the moon on certain things, and see where I land.

You can watch Kody ‘Big Mo’ Mommaerts in his element at every BOXXER event on Sky Sports.