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Mayweather and Larry Merchant: Does Floyd Have a Point?

Credit: UStream Coverage

Leave it to Floyd Mayweather to find a way to tarnish a shocking 4th Round knockout of a young lion like Victor Ortiz. When 80 year old Larry Merchant climbed through the ropes to briefly interview Floyd Mayweather after the fight, just as he has done many, many since the late 1970s, Mayweather castigated him with an obscene tirade.

Mayweather declared to Merchant, “You know what I’m gonna do cause you never give me a fair shake, you know that? So I’m gonna let you talk to Victor Ortiz. I’m through. Put someone else here to give me an interview. Talk to Victor Ortiz!”

Merchant replied, “What are you talking about?” Mayweather said, “You never give me a fair shake. HBO needs to fire you. You don’t know shit about boxing! You ain’t shit! You’re not shit!”

Credit: UStream Coverage

Mayweather’s verbal assault on Merchant is now at least as well-reported as his knockout of Ortiz. Merchant responded by telling Mayweather that if he were fifty years younger (i.e. 30 instead of 80) that he would have kicked Pretty Boy’s ass.

By treating Merchant in such a fashion, Floyd Mayweather has once again displayed his utter lack of class to world, to say nothing of plain manners or sportsmanship. Furthermore, Mayweather has also displayed his complete contempt for the sport that has made him a (supposedly) wealthy man. If Mayweather does not want to talk to Larry Merchant, that is his right. However, he could have quietly informed HBO of his desire, who no doubt would have responded by sending Max Kellerman instead. If Mayweather wanted to make a public issue of the matter, he could have brought it up in a dignified manner at a press conference. Instead, he made a petulant public tantrum with the intent of humiliating a very elderly man.

I am left wondering if Mayweather really has a beef with Merchant in the first place. Merchant has never been a Floyd Mayweather booster, but like so many of Pretty Boy’s stunts, this smacks of a grandstanding publicity stunt, meant to bolster his bad guy image. Even so, I can only say Mayweather did not choose a more dignified path for the rather obvious reason that he lacks any real dignity.

Yet Does Mayweather Have a Point?

Despite the sheer crudity of Mayweather’s actions, I cannot escape the fact that Mayweather is off-base only by a matter of degree (albeit several degrees). HBO shouldn’t sack Merchant, but they should have forced him to retire years ago.

Larry Merchant has a reputation for being the guy who tells it the way that it is, and the man has earned that reputation. However, it is my opinion that Merchant’s commentary has been sliding for at least the last 15 years. In recent years, I have found his offerings inane as often as they were sagacious. For every witty moment, like telling Vernon Forrest in 2006 that he should thank the judges for his controversial win over Ike Quartey, there has been a verbal blunder, such as saying that Oscar de la Hoya’s marachi band accompaniment “stunk” in 1997. Many times I have found myself listening to Larry Merchant and wondering whether he was senile or merely drunk.

HBO initially attempted to allow Merchant’s long tenure as the co-host of their boxing events come to a close in 2007, but he was retained after an outcry from both boxers and boxing fans. They extended his contract again in 2009. If only other sectors, like insurance or politics, were so receptive to the public will. Still, in this instance I think HBO was listening to a minority of loud fans or the partisan interests of particular boxers (the late Arturo Gatti in particular spoke out for Merchant) rather than to any detailed market study. If Merchant was consistently sharp and coherent, I would want him to continue in his present role indefinitely, but he has not been, and I know I’m not the only person who has noticed.

So does Floyd Mayweather have a point about Larry Merchant? Actually, no he does not. Mayweather’s self-serving and classless point is that anyone who does not kiss Mayweather’s ass doesn’t “know shit about boxing.”

My point about Larry Merchant is completely different. While the man knows a lot about boxing, he is not good at expressing it anymore. Frankly, Larry Merchant should have retired in 2007, if not a couple of years before.