By Alex P. Vidal
HOLLYWOOD, California – Now that they have buried their hatchet, WBA junior middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and HBO senior commentator Larry Merchant are expected to step into the ring together again in the future for a post-fight interview in Mayweather’s next fight as they used to do prior to their verbal joust that grabbed headlines last year.
If Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) would fight again after completing his jail sentence which commences on June1, it could be against Manny Pacquiao (54-3, 38 KOs), who is favored to put away Timothy Ray Bradley Jr. (28-0, 11 KOs) on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mayweather, 35, had called for Merchant to be fired due to Merchant declaring that Mayweather cheated in his WBC welterweight fourth round KO win against Victor Ortiz (29-3, 22 KOs) on September 17, 2011. Mayweather then offered “free advice” to HBO that it should fire Merchant. The unbeaten boxer told the analyst, “You don’t know shit about boxing.”
Mayweather grew irritated by Merchant’s questioning and interrupted Merchant by saying “You never give me a fair shake…They can put somebody else up here to give me an interview. HBO need to fire you. You don’t know shit about boxing. You ain’t shit…All of these boxing experts – how can you be a boxing expert if you never had a fight before?” Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s outburst led to Merchant responding: “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your ass.” Later Mayweather defended his outburst by saying that “Everybody is tired of Larry Merchant.”
After Mayweather whipped Cotto for the WBA diadem on May 5, 2012, Merchant, 81, admitted that Mayweather had apologized the night before the bout and accepted the apology.
Merchant has told USA TODAY Sports he didn’t think the brouhaha was hype. “His September thing was spontaneous. And I just responded spontaneously because I wasn’t smart to think that up,” he said. “If I was smart enough to figure out something that would go around the world three times before I left the ring, I’d be doing something else. … He’s the star. He made a big gesture. We’ll move on.”
But Mayweather was all smiles on-air with Merchant and told HBO’s JimLampley that he was wrong about Merchant.
“His September thing was spontaneous. And I just responded spontaneously because I wasn’t smart to think that up,” Merchant said. “If I was smart enough to figure out something that would go around the world three times before I left the ring, I’d be doing something else. … He’s the star. He made a big gesture. We’ll move on.”
An Army radio operator, Merchant said the Mayweather flap was sort of an old story. “Athletes, like all of us, want love,” he said. “They think you’re great and know everything when you give them love. Once you don’t, they’re not so enamored.”
Famous boxers who have clashed with Merchant include Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya. The De La Hoya incident came during his fight with Pernell Whitaker. When De la Hoya entered the ring to Mariachi music, Merchant stated that while he loved Mariachi music, he felt that it “stunk” in this particular situation. Merchant would later apologize on the air after De La Hoya tried to have him removed from HBO.
Merchant is well known for his postfight interviews which feature his hard hitting, blunt questions and confrontational interview style. These have drawn both praise and ire in the past. Fans have claimed them to be candid and honest while detractors consider them to be purposely agitational and insensitive at times. An example of this occurred when Vernon Forrest won a controversial decision in 2006 over Ike Quartey. When Forrest thanked those close to him, Merchant quipped, “Would you also like to thank the judges?”
In 1985, Merchant received the Sam Taub Award for Boxing Broadcast Journalism presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He is also the author of three books. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. In October 2002, he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.