By: Ronald Cameron (RC)
Usually after watching a welterweight championship fight, boxing fans talk about how each fighter’s performance. Sometimes we criticize the referee for missing a low blow or not counting a knockdown. But after watching the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz, the history of boxing took a turn and instead of talking about an all-time great fighter coming back after a 16-month layoff, most of the talk had to do with how the fight ended and what happened after the fight. I won’t go into detail about how the fight and how it ended, my buddy Anthony “Zute” George, who also writes for BoxingIQ.com, wrote a great article about the fight and he covered all of the bases. What I want to talk about is the other big subject…the infamous post-fight interview between the world’s best fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr. and HBO’s legendary boxing announcer Larry Merchant.
To many casual boxing fans, seeing Floyd and Larry trade insults in that manner was a huge shock. Fans were outraged by how Floyd cursed Merchant out and how he got in the 80 year old Merchant’s face and some fans were appalled by Floyd’s behavior. But to the surprise of many boxing fans, the history of boxing shows when it comes to these two men is that their little back and forth verbal sparring match is nothing new. Now before I begin, let me preface this by saying that I’m not a huge Larry Merchant fan. For many years, he has took unnecessary shots at fighters such as Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins and others in post fight interviews and in many cases, those guys all fired back at Merchant, but not in the same manner that Floyd displayed this weekend. Now with all that being said, Larry Merchant did NOTHING wrong after the fight and I do not condone Floyd’s actions. There are some who believe that Floyd should be reprimanded for his actions, but currently there is no commissioner in place that could levy a fine.
But there are others who believe Merchant was out of line and believe that he should be replaced for his comments and for the way he has treated other fighters in the past. UFC President Dana White (Who is not a Floyd fan by any means) ripped Larry Merchant for how he handled the interview with Floyd after the fight. Here is a clip of Dana White speaking his mind about the Mayweather/Ortiz fight and Larry Merchant. For those that don’t want to watch the full video, White starts talking about Merchant right at the 11-minute mark.
The Mayweather vs. Merchant feud started 5 years ago after Floyd’s win over Carlos Baldomir.
As for their longtime beef, the first time those two publicly aired their differences was 5 years ago after Floyd’s world welterweight title win over Carlos Baldomir. Even though Floyd won every round against Baldomir, Merchant was very critical of Floyd’s performance and after the fight, Larry asked Floyd if he thought that fight was “entertaining” because people were leaving after the 10th round and there were people booing. That seemed to bother Floyd because he went into a mini-tirade and he responded by telling Merchant that he never gives him the “Credit he deserves”, that Merchant “Doesn’t know nothing about boxing” and that he should “Stick to commentating”. If you compare Floyd’s comments to Merchant in this interview and the latest comments, Floyd’s comments were somewhat similar, but that was the G rated version as opposed to last weekend’s rant. Here is a clip of their argument that took place 5 years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYA49V_P4qs&feature=related
The tension between the two continued leading up to Floyd’s next fight against Oscar De La Hoya as Merchant threw another shot at Floyd before the showdown. When asked who he thought would win the fight, Merchant replied, “If I were a betting man… Mayweather, but if I lost my money, I wouldn’t be unhappy!” Hardly an objective view from someone who is paid to call it down the middle, yet one would assume Merchant was still miffed about Floyd’s comments after the Baldomir fight based on his comments. And during that showdown, I felt Merchant was very anti-Floyd in that fight. For example, in the 9th round he asked Emanuel Steward, “How can a fighter (Floyd) get to be considered a great fighter when basically only throws one punch at a time?” And ironically enough, as he was talking to Steward, Floyd was working Oscar over, throwing and landing several shots at a time. And then right after Floyd started landing several shots on Oscar, then Merchant finally gave Floyd some credit, admitting that Floyd just had one of his best moments in the fight. It was evident to many boxing fans who saw that fight and heard the HBO broadcast that Merchant was not a fan of Floyd’s and one would have to believe that Floyd watched the replay of the fight and thought the same thing.
But things seem to improve between the two as Floyd’s interview with Merchant after the Hatton fight was done without conflict, in fact, Floyd came down to talk to the HBO crew minutes after his interview with Merchant and they all seemed to get along great. Here is a clip of Floyd, Larry and Jim Lampley talking after the Hatton fight and acting like old pals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPomwXiRl8Q&feature=related
And in their next post-fight interview, after Floyd dismantled the WBA Welterweight Champion Shane Mosley last year, things went well. Merchant gave Floyd credit for beating Mosley and then the attention shifted to the thought of him fighting the current pound for pound king, Manny Pacquiao. Floyd has reiterated that if Manny takes the test, he will fight him and if he doesn’t, there will not be a fight. Larry didn’t press the issue and the interview came to an end.
So what caused Floyd to go ballistic on Merchant last weekend? No one except Floyd knows for sure but if I had to guess, I believe Floyd finally had enough of Merchant always finding ways to criticize him even after such an amazing performance. Maybe Floyd believes that Merchant simply does not like him and he wanted to let it be known to the public that the feeling was mutual. Was Floyd within his rights to go off on Merchant in that manner? That’s up for fans to decide, but what may have softened the blow was Merchant’s response to Floyd’s expletive-laced tirade. Larry Merchant is getting so much attention right now (some would argue too much) for someone who was not fighting, but after hearing Merchant’s infamous response (If I was 50 years younger, I would kick your ass!!) and also remembering Merchant’s subliminal barbs towards Floyd over the last 5 years, it seemed as if Merchant was holding onto that response for many years and the right opportunity presented itself for him to fire back at Floyd, and he took it.
For those that haven’t seen the infamous interview, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mryFz8C9AHk
And things didn’t stop there. A day after the fight, TMZ caught up to the 80 year old Hall of Fame boxing announcer and asked him about the fight and about their altercation. When asked if Floyd was an “oversized brat”, Merchant replied, “He’s a prima-donna, an outstanding fighter… He always has to be in control of everything…. He’s a modern…. reality show.” Here is the TMZ interview with Merchant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVcG0i0riLw
This may have added more fuel to the fire, but one thing is for sure, Larry Merchant will not back down from Floyd, or anyone else. Back in the early 1990’s, Mike Tyson and Don King tried to convince HBO to remove and HBO made it clear that Larry isn’t going anywhere. And to those who believe Merchant is a coward, HBO’s lead announcer Jim Lampley recently revealed on the Dan Le Batard radio show that Larry Merchant once got in Bernard Hopkins face and got in his chest because Hopkins made some disparaging remarks about Emanuel Steward. Like him or not, Larry Merchant doesn’t need anyone’s approval and this will not be the last time (unless he retires) he will be overly critical of a fighter in a post-fight interview.
Ironically enough, some of the same things I said about Merchant can be said about Floyd Mayweather: He is in position of power and he doesn’t have to answer to a promoter. Much like Merchant, Floyd has his share of fans and just as many cynics who want to see him lose, or retire. Maybe this is why they sometimes clash, the two are somewhat alike. Could Floyd Mayweather and Larry Merchant be fooling all of us who believe they hate each other? I mentioned how they got along well after Floyd’s fight with Ricky Hatton. Do they have a Muhammad Ali/Howard Cosell type of friendship behind the scenes? Based on their history, I don’t believe so. With Floyd and Larry, I believe their authentic, meaning that I don’t believe either one of them are phony or fake.
I believe Max Kellerman should eventually replace Merchant, but not before Floyd fights Manny Pacquiao.
As bad (Or as great, it depends on how you look at it) as things got last Saturday night, could you imagine how things would go if Floyd were to somehow lose a fight? But unfortunately for Floyd-haters who want to see that happen, Floyd didn’t show any signs of slowing down and he is still in my opinion the most skilled, most accurate, best defensive/counter-puncher in the game. No one is on Floyd’s level: Not Sergio Martinez, not Nonito Donaire (but he could come close in time), no one. There are many boxing fans and experts who believe there is one fighter who is better: Current pound for pound king, Manny Pacquiao. Hopefully we will finally get to see this highly anticipated MEGA fight between the two best fighters in the world in what could be the biggest fight in the history of boxing. And while many boxing fans (including myself) believe Merchant has seen better days as an announcer and should eventually be replaced by Max Kellerman, Larry Merchant HAS to be the one who interviews Floyd after this mega-fight, win or lose. Let’s just hope we will finally get to see it because as crazy as things got last weekend with those two in the post fight interview, it could be even more explosive after this big fight… win or lose.
Friday, September 30, 2011: “The Boxing Prophet” Rich Solomon comes out with his latest pieces that pits Boxing VS. MMA
Monday, October 3, 2011: Boxing blogs come out as Go Inside The Mind of The Mad Boxing Genius & Punches “N” Bunches set to take the stage.