Larry Merchant in the Doghouse: On Historic Photo, Mayweather, Canelo, Pacquiao, HBO, SHOWTIME and much more
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Larry Merchant in the Doghouse: On Historic Photo, Mayweather, Canelo, Pacquiao, HBO, SHOWTIME and much more
By David Tyler, Doghouse Boxing (June 10, 2013)

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A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the greatest television boxing analyst of all time, the greatest boxing writer of all time. Larry Merchant will best be remembered for one brief moment in time...that moment was captured in a photo. Let's let Larry tell the story as we once again welcome this boxing expert into the doghouse...

David Tyler - Larry how is retirement treating you?

Larry Merchant - I am not exactly retired. When I left HBO I said that I would be here, there, and everywhere but very few people picked up on the fact that I was leaving HBO and not retiring in the traditional sense. I have done three events already this year and just returned from China and I will be back there in July for an event. I also worked the Canelo Alvarez / Austin Trout fight for Golden Boy's international side of the event. I have also done some cameo appearances in I'm still out here doing stuff and we will see what other stuff comes my way.

DT: We miss your ringside work for HBO Boxing...It seems that since your departure the quality of the HBO telecast has gone down while the Showtime Boxing events have improved in agree?

LM: I don't know that any of that would have happen with or without me. Showtime has apparently raised its budget for fights and as a result you are seeing some good fights on Showtime.

DT: Could that be because Showtime is owned by CBS and their big bucks?

LM: Certainly, CBS has Showtime competing with HBO in all areas...movies, concerts, and sporting events with a certain emphasis on boxing.

DT: Is this good for boxing?

LM: Yes, especially for the short term. We are getting better fights and we have three big PPV events in the fall. Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez, Juan Manual Marquez vs. Timothy Bradley, and Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios. At the end of the day or night, the most important thing is the fans are getting good fights. A big part of these great fights would be directly related to the competition between rival networks.

DT: Have you watched a Showtime Boxing event and your thoughts about the changes to the Showtime broadcast team?

LM: Sure I've watched boxing on Showtime. I do love the fact that they have added Brian Kenny who I think is a terrific boxing broadcaster. Paulie Malignaggi also does a very nice job. A few years ago when HBO had an open spot for a commentator I suggested Malignaggi but they went in another direction. To me it seems that the Showtime Boxing telecasts have about five or six people talking while two guys are fighting, but if it's a good fight, who cares?

DT: Larry, how big was it for Showtime to land Floyd Mayweather Jr. and did HBO participate in the negotiations?

LM: I'm certain that HBO tried to get him. Sometimes the number two guy wants to make a statement regardless if the economics work out or not. For their viewers it's great...they got the number one fighter. The network is paying heavily in terms of dollars and airtime but sometimes you have to take the risk of losing money to make money.

DT: From a layman's viewpoint, it would appear that when Ken Hershman was the man at Showtime Boxing, HBO was producing the better fights. Now Ken Hershman is the man at HBO and Showtime has taken over producing better fights. Is this merely a coincidence?

LM: I will let you comment on that.......

DT: I don't think it's a good thing for boxing to have barriers between promoters and networks. Agree or disagree?

LM: I agree in general but I believe so far it hasn't mattered that much. Also, it's the nature of the business. I understand that if one promoter has a fighter that he wants to push up the ladder then he could set him up against another of his fighters knowing that the odds are good that the fighter he believes is more promotable, has a good chance to win. You can also say that in some strange way it works out for the betterment of boxing. Golden Boy has a stable of fighters at 140 pounds and could easily promote a tournament at this weight. We all remember when Showtime promoted a Super Middleweight was in their best interest to have the best fight the best and the most exciting guy would walk out with the championship. So in an odd sort of way these are examples where the current situation in boxing could help a network bring the fans the best fights. In general, it could hurt the sport and a good example is that you will not likely see Tim Bradley fight Mayweather if he beats Marquez in the fall and Mayweather beats Alvarez. A Bradley / Mayweather bout would have a lot of appeal for the fans. This is not likely because Bradley and Mayweather are not with the same promoter.

DT: On that note, September 14th of this year is a very big day for boxing. Canelo Alvarez has a date in Vegas with Floyd Mayweather Jr. What's your thoughts about this fight?

LM: I haven't given any serious thought yet. I think the fact that Mayweather has been established as a two and a half to one favorite reflects the feeling that Canelo will be one of the most serious challenges that he has had in a long time.

DT: You have seen many great fighters from a ringside perspective, where would you rank Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

LM: I have never been good at rating fighters against competitors from different eras. I know that the readers and viewers have fun with ranking all time fighters and it seems that everyone has a top ten list but I believe that fighters have to be compared against fighters of their time. Using that guideline, it's fair to say that Mayweather is one of the best fighters of his time. For me, that's high praise because there has been some very good fighters during his time. I will make an exception to my earlier statement and say that I agree with everyone who saw Sugar Ray Robinson during his prime and believes he is the best of all time.

DT: Let's discuss Manny Pacquiao. Will Pacquiao be able to climb back up the ladder and position himself for a fight with Floyd?

LM: The first obstacle is the fact that the two networks and two promoters are not talking to each other much less negotiating fights with each other. Now that's one factor but experience tells us that the pie is big enough that they can make it happen. Right now Pacquiao is coming off two losses and he will have to restore himself and he does have an opponent in Brandon Rios who will be his truth machine. We will see if Manny Pacquiao wants it bad enough and willing to give it his full time and energy, even though he has another full time job as a congressman, the Rios fight will answer some of these questions. Rios looks like a good opponent for Pacquiao because he keeps coming, however if Pacquiao is not physically and mentally in top condition, then the dream becomes a nightmare. Again, we will have to see the results of the three PPV events and then see who fights who down the road.

DT: I agree that Pacman must look very good in his next couple of fights to earn a shot against the "pound for pound" king.

LM: Anytime you set a high standard you will be judged not by winning or losing but by that standard. We have a certain image of him that was created and we will see how much of that image can be restored.

DT: Larry, after several viewings of the Pacquiao/ Marquez fourth fight, I still get the feeling it was one of the best ever. Do you agree?

LM: The fight should be on every list of great fights. It was as good as it gets because it wasn't as if nothing was happening and then there was a knockout....everything was happening then there was a knockout. It's one of those fights that will live on forever.

DT: Where is the next generation of great fighters?

LM: Well it could be Canelo Alvarez and Adrien Broner. Boxing is no longer a mainstream sport. Things change, horse racing is no longer mainstream, tennis and golf have lost popularity, but all of these events have grand slam type attraction. These sports become mainstream when one of their big events is taking place and that's the same with boxing. On September 14th, the sport will be mainstream. The sport of boxing has its fans namely the Mexican Americans and all Latino communities, which are growing. There are literally hundreds of live boxing telecasts every year. Somebody is watching, somebody is making money off the sport. In the fall with the three PPV events, probably have upwards of 3 million viewers pay for these prize fights. Some young guy that can't dunk a basketball or play quarterback will decided that boxing is the kind of sport where he can attain success and that translates into money.

DT: Let's change directions. How do we fix the American Heavyweight situation?

LM: How about another Evander Holyfield? Riddick Bowe, Holyfield, and Tyson was a rich time for American Heavyweights. I have said for a long time that boxing needs a heavyweight version of Oscar De La Hoya or a Tiger Woods. I have also said for a long time that there are dozens of them out there but they are all playing football at the linebacker position. It's just a matter of time before an American Heavyweight will materialize. Imagine if the Klitschkos were from New York? There would be a total different perspective of these two heavyweight champions. I had a lot of hope for Chris Areola but that hope has not blossomed into a heavyweight championship.

DT: Speaking of heavyweights, my favorite HBO telecasts were the ones that featured you and George Foreman as the expert analysts. You both brought different perspectives to the viewers and it worked out great. Do you miss any of that time period?

LM: I had a lot of fun with George. Way back in the day I covered his bouts when he was a prize fighter. His perspective was one of a prize fighter where I saw fights through the prism of a journalist and commentator. Of course we would sometimes have differences of opinion due to our background. Sometimes it probably seemed combative to the viewers of the telecast. I never saw anything wrong with that...we should be allowed to disagree. It was all very good, lots of fun with no bad intentions and I am glad to hear that so many fight fans enjoyed those times. I worked with George on the last fight from China which was on HBO2 and we are teaming up again in late July.

DT: What are some of your most memorable fights that you have witnessed from ringside at HBO?

LM: It's very hard to pick out a fight...Haggler/ Hearns, Tyson/ Douglass, Morales/ Barrera, Pryor/ Arguello...of course in 35 or 40 years I have seen a lot of good fights and a lot of good fighters.

DT: Why have we not seen a five or six part documentary about the history of boxing?

LM: We had a very successful series on HBO called boxing's legendary nights. I understand that there is a documentary on the Gatti/ Ward fights coming to HBO this fall. Why there hasn't been a comprehensive documentary on the history of the sport, I do not know. I would assume the marketing people would know something if the public was interested in this type of documentary. Certainly the history of boxing would be more than a one hour show.

DT: I would love to see a Ken Burns type documentary and use some boxing historians like Mike Silver to tell the story of boxing. You would be perfect for the documentary because your presence at so many big boxing bouts, ensures that you will live on forever.

Muhammad Ali's Legs, Larry Merchant mouth open in the middle, Sonny Liston lays on canvas. LM: That's the last thing you think about. If I live on forever it will be because my mouth was wide open and seen through Ali's legs standing over Sonny Liston with his arm across his chest. If I discovered a cure for cancer and other diseases but that one photo would out live anything I do.

DT: Larry we all miss your work on HBO and wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Thank you for the interview.

LM: Your very welcome and thank you for the kind comments.

Readers: Thanks for visiting and reading the interview. Did you spot Larry in boxing's most famous photograph?

***David Tyler replies to all his e-mails and loves to hear from the readers. Comments, Questions, Suggestions, E-mail David now at:
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