One-on-One with HBO’s Larry Merchant

imageBy: Jerome Souza (@Jerome510)

In one of boxing’s busiest and biggest months of the year, was able to sit down with ledgendary HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant and get his take on potential a clash between Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao, the possible rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao, and the current state of the heavyweight division.

Merchant told that he is in favor of a possible matchup between undefeated Junior Lightweight Terence Craword and the future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao, “I would like to see that fight because I want to see Crawford get a chance to be seen by a larger audience because I think he’s the best young American fighter.”

Merchant is very bullish on Crawford’s skill and ability to capture titles but he seemed adamant in Crawford’s ability to become a full-fledged star in boxing, “I don’t know if [Crawford] has it in him or if it’s possible for him to become a star. A star is somebody who transcends just prizefighting, a star is somebody who the casual fan, the sports fan who isn’t a serious boxing degenerate like me, hears about, wants to know what all the talk is about and I’d like to see that with Crawford, I don’t know if Crawford wants to see that with Crawford”.

Could it be Merchant motivating Crawford to push harder for more quality opponents or go for the knockout with facing likes of Viktor Postol or the upcoming defense against John Molina? We don’t know. But in the end, Merchant believes a super fight rests in the hands of Pacquiao, “if the risk-reward factor is something that Pacquiao is willing to do, whether if he sees the risks too high for the potential reward, but I’d sure like to see that”.

When asked about Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao II, Merchant wasn’t thrilled about the idea but in the end he admits he would still watch it, “to me that’s a dead fish in the room, but being a boxing degenerate means there’s some cynicism in the mix and cynically you say ‘yeah sure’. If it does a third of what the first one did it will be a big event”.

With the idea of a rematch quietly looming, even if it comes to fruition, Merchant doesn’t foresee an outcome different from the first meeting, “I think the old saying fool me once it’s on you fool me twice it’s on me is in effect here because I don’t see any reason for there to be anything but a variation of the first fight”.  

Merchant told that he firmly believes that Pacquiao was injured leading up to the Mayweather fight and that if anything the injury became worse during the fight, “[Pacquiao] couldn’t spar several weeks before and I’m sure that everyone around him convinced him that he could still go and blah, blah, blah and because of all the money”. Merchant was also asked if an injury-free Pacquiao would have made for a different fight, “[Pacquiao] would’ve made it a better fight, I think, absolutely and maybe he would of brought something out in Mayweather that would’ve been better […] Mayweather did what Mayweather does but for Pacquiao to fight injured is unforgivable, to me”.

Merchant reminisced that it was not uncommon for major bouts in boxing history to become postponed due to an injury of one of the fighters, “I go back far enough to know that Ali-Liston II was postponed because Ali had an injury and that Ali-Foreman was postponed because Foreman had an injury and life went on and so did the fights. You don’t fight when you’re injured”.

Merchant now feels that Pacquiao entering the mega-fight injured and causing it to become a one that lacked action, was the primary reason that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a huge letdown. Even though it made the most money out of any fight in the sport’s history, Merchant believes that it had a negative impact on boxing’s future, “boxing had a chance, because people came to that fight that don’t come to fights. They came to that fight because they onced watched the fights with their fathers or grandfathers and there’s some muscle memory in our culture about big fights and that one caught fire and went crazy. And so it was a chance, but it was a missed chance because it turned out to be an anti-climax”. asked Merchant’s take on the current state of the Heavyweight division,

“I was very excited in my own unexcited way when [Tyson] Fury won, I thought wow, we got this extraordinary personality, big, plain-spoken, crazy guy, with a background nobody really understood existed, coming from an Irish gypsy culture”. Unfortunately Tyson Fury succumbed to substance abuse and he wasn’t able to defend his titles against Wladimir Klitschko.

Taking Klitschko’s age into consideration and the uncertainty of Fury’s personal situation Merchant believes at this point it’s up to the new faces in the division such as Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, “right now it’s again influx and we’ll see who steps and gets a chance to show his stuff’’.

Merchant sees the undefeated British Heavyweight as an early frontrunner for the future of the division, “Joshua certainly looks the part of a potential star particularly in Britain where boxing is still so big”. Merchant went on to add, “I think if [Joshua’s] as good a fighter as he looks we’ll find out when someone hits him on the chin. Then it will energize the boxing scene. Whether it translates in America is problematic. But it would be a good thing for boxing overall”

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