By Chris Robinson
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was again the talk of the town on Saturday night as his presence was felt heavily on the first 24/7 Mayweather-Cotto episode on HBO. Mayweather faces Miguel Cotto on May 5th inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada and anyone wanting an intimate look at each man’s camp can tune-in to the upcoming 24/7 episodes during their scheduled times.
Saturday’s 24/7 also highlighted the strenuous relationship between Mayweather Jr. and HBO color commentator Larry Merchant. The two men traded words with one another in the aftermath of Floyd’s victory over Victor Ortiz last September in an exchange that saw Mayweather insist that the network should fire Merchant while Larry fired back by claiming ‘If I was fifty years younger, I’d kick your ass!’
Obviously not too keen on Merchant these days, Mayweather pointed out that he has no plans on speaking with him after the Cotto fight and that he instead plans on instantly making his way backstage to celebrate with his team.
Curious for Merchant’s thoughts on Mayweather’s foreboding, I touched bases with him on Monday night. Before prodding Larry for some kind of response, I had to ask him about the 24/7 series as a whole and the role Mayweather has played on the series.
“I think he’s brilliantly used it as a reality series to promote himself,” stated Merchant, who said he watched the first 24/7 Mayweather-Cotto episode. “I think it’s been a very positive way to see fighters in their element and to show who they are as people as well as fighters. As a marketing device for pay-per-views, it’s been very successful. They’ve executed it beautifully. It gives the impression of catching combatants as they are.”
As for Mayweather’s insistence that he won’t be speaking after the fight, Merchant seemed to prefer otherwise.
“I would hope that everybody would act professionally, I’ll put it that way,” Merchant continued. “There have been a few occasions over the decades where one fighter might be upset and for one reason or another didn’t want to be interviewed. I hope he has a good night and feels good about it and hopefully he’ll be there to be interviewed. The fighters use interviews to communicate with their fans and that would be a good thing for him to do.”
Merchant is a straight-forward type of guy and he has rubbed some people the wrong way during his thirty-plus years in the sport because of his upfront nature. Asked if he purposely tries to prod fighters with hard questions after their bouts, Merchant explained his stance.
“From an educated fan, I’m trying not to just get the fighter’s thoughts on the fight but his personal reaction and to give him an opportunity to show who he is and get some information,” said Merchant. “I think it’s part of the experience of watching an event, particularly an event between two people, two guys, to find out, someway, what we’ve all just seen. To me, there are no tough questions if you have the answers. I don’t classify questions in that way. It’s not personal and it’s not a popularity contest.”
When all is said and done, Merchant realizes the mental and physical toll that comes with lacing up the gloves and putting one’s health at risk yet he also feels that some kind of obligation is in order given the tremendous perks that come along with the job.
“I respect the fact that they’re fighters; I respect the fact that they’re coming off of the hardest thing there is to do, hitting and being hit for an hour so,” added Merchant. “But they’re professionals who get paid a lot of money and attract a lot of fans. They should be willing to communicate with them. I’m trying to be as professional as I can be and I hope they can be professional as they are. And I’m still there to get them to be the stars of the show. They are the stars of the show.”
Before parting, Merchant confirmed that he will be calling the action from ringside on May 5th during the highly-anticipated Mayweather-Cotto fight and knows that a lot of eyes will be fixated on what will be going down.
“It’s true and I’m looking forward to it,” Merchant confirmed. “I’m looking forward to it as a fan and as a commentator. If I wasn’t doing the fight I’d be watching the fight at home. It’s a fight I want to see and I understand there will be certain people interested in what happens not only during the fight but after the fight.”