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Merchant on Mayweather's Antics, a Pacquiao Fight, More

By Chris Robinson

HBO color analyst Larry Merchant has arrived in Las Vegas for this Saturday's anticipated Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz pay-per-view melee at the MGM Grand. Having been with the network for over thirty years and countless Mayweather showcases, Merchant was still quick to show his enthusiasm towards the fight and the drama that is expected to emerge from it.

Merchant is the type of personality that you either love or hate because of his blunt nature and penchant for calling things as he sees them. And while a character like Mayweather, braggadocios and flaunting in his ways, can often leave Merchant a bit perplexed, he still finds a way to take Floyd as he is.
 
At this point a victory over Ortiz could lead to greater things for the 34-year old Mayweather, particularly a long-awaited duel with eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, but it’s a scenario that has been talked to death at this point. And as I found myself in conversation with Merchant he revealed to me why he feels that the fight may not be happening anytime soon, if ever.
 
Read on for more of Merchant’s thoughts on Mayweather Jr., including the intrigue in a fight with Ortiz, why he never expected Floyd to become such a huge star, Mayweather’s persona in front of the camera, and what makes him good for the sport of boxing…
 
Looking forward to Mayweather-Ortiz…
“It’s the drama, the expectations, what you are going to learn about these two guys; everything that lead them to this match, their backstories, which are particularly fascinating in this instance, and whether the younger guy has a serious chance to be competitive or whether the older guy is just on another skill-level. Or whether the younger guy has it in him to expose some of the natural directions of nature, which is that you don’t get better with age. So all those questions that have to be answered and all the answers that will have to be questioned.”
 
Mayweather’s nature as a champion…
“Well, his history is that he is a brilliant matchmaker. He’s smart enough to pick who he has picked to fight and picked who he shouldn’t take any risks against. Then, the assumption is, he believes this is not a high-risk endeavor. But it’s in the nature of a champion to think and believe that until someone comes along who changes the message that is supposedly chiseled in stone.”
 
Seeing the steps towards Mayweather’s superstardom…
“It was unexpected that he would become a star. For a long time he couldn’t sell tickets in Las Vegas. It’s not that long ago that he was fighting in the Interlands, back in Michigan, up in Fresno in California, and so on. It changed when he fought Gatti and De La Hoya. And when he turned 24/7 into a personal reality show to market himself. So, no, I don’t think anyone, up until that time, foresaw that he would be this big of an attraction, especially given his defense style. Fighters with defense styles rarely become attractions. So, I don’t think many people foresaw that. And now, look, he’s fought twice in almost four years. He’s off the radar but he’s on the radar.”
 
Mayweather’s outlandish demeanor in front of the camera…
“My thoughts are, for one, I don’t think he can make that stuff up. I think that what’s unusual is that he’s willing to display himself and that’s he extremely clever in turning himself into a villain. One of the interesting things about this particular fight, as for example against Marquez, is that he hasn’t vilified his opponent. He doesn’t want to, in this case, to say that the other guy can’t fight or some variation would only confirm fans’ thoughts. So that he’s smart enough not to belittle guys who fans aren’t absolutely sure belong in the same ring with him. So he’s really smart about how he does it.”
 
Why a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is no longer in the forefront…
“What’s happened between now and then, in terms of everyone wanting to see that kind of showdown, the longer you wait, the more the chance something will happen in or out of the ring, that diminishes or lowers the heat on it, I should say. It’s not the narrative of the fight anymore; it’s in the background. It’s not in the foreground.”
 
The incentive for Floyd Mayweather to face Manny Pacquiao…
“One of the things we’ve learned is that both fighters are such big attractions that lesser opponents are willing to take relatively small amounts of money relative to the amounts that are generated, so that they make so much money without fighting each other, that there is no great financial incentive to finally make it happen. If you are making twenty, thirty, forty million dollars for guys you think are relatively manageable opponents, there’s nothing but competitive desire, which I don’t dismiss for athletes who have achieved what they have achieved, to meet each other. There’s no financial motivation even though they would theoretically make more money than they’ve ever made before. It’s relative to how much can you spend, how much can you give away. All I’m saying is, for them to get together, there has to be some incentive. What is it? The only incentive is to find out who the better man is and they are at a stage of their career where that may not be their first priority.”
 
Why it’s good to have Mayweather in the sport of boxing…
“Right now he’s the best-known American fighter in a time when there aren’t many well-known American fighters. For that, I mean beyond the hardcore fans. And arguably the best American fighter, although when you fight only twice in almost four years, then how can you make that claim? But, he’s made himself known, whether it’s famous or infamous, beyond the hardcore boxing fan. And that’s generally a good thing that people know your name and they want to see you win or they want to see you lose. I don’t know that you could say that about any other American fighter right now.”

Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. An archive of his work can be found here, and he can be reached at [email protected]
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by lebrick on 09-22-2011

[QUOTE=Medved;11145957]I could be 41-0 too if I never fought the best people in Boxing and took 3 year vacations and came back to fight 1 bum before retiring again. There are some Mexican bums currently like 49-0 I think 49-0…

Comment by LeadUppercut on 09-22-2011

[QUOTE=Pullcounter;11146882]to paraphrase larry: 1) larry has fallen for the pre-fight build up... but he knows ortiz doesn't really have a chance 2) wifebeater is a cherrypicker... hence ortiz has no real chance to win 3) wifebeater is boring to watch…

Comment by TheMexHurricane on 09-16-2011

[SIZE="4"][COLOR="Red"]Merchant the Mexiphobic Pacturd doesn't call it like it is vs Pacquiao. Pacquiao is the Mexiphobe Mafia's Primo Carnera and the HBO Mexiphobic commentators are like yesteryear's racist boxing writers. Larry Merchant's grandchildren will pay for their idiot granddaddy's plotting…

Comment by spoonwars on 09-16-2011

[QUOTE=Ko King 212;11145434]Sh1t if Floyd is picking opponents WTF is pacq doing?[/QUOTE] Floyd had to sh!t talk to be an attraction, and it fits him well, while Pacquiao fought anybody to make a name for himself. Currently, they both cherry…

Comment by STFU!! on 09-16-2011

[QUOTE=The Noose;11146231]He was being asked about Floyd. And what he said is true. If Floyd says he is the GOAT, then he should prove it by fighting opponents that people actually think have a chance of winning. Doing the unthinkable.…

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