View Full Version : Larry's Marbles..

Roberto Aqui
03-20-2006, 12:29 PM
I'm sure most of you saw the HBO gaffes last night.

First Lampley referred to "Sergio Valuev" and then Merchant got stuck in what many would call a senior moment where he completely lost his train of though and started flopping around like a landed fish on the deck.

I've always been a critic of Merchant because of his negative "Jim Gray" style and his tendency to ramble on about nothing to make some kind of metaphor that apparently only means something to himself.

I'm not a good public speaker and have found myself suddenly losing my train of thought when talking in a public forum. Usually I have enough skill to bluff the few moments away with some verbiage and recover the thought, but I really related to Merchant for the first time last night as I've had a couple of moments, maybe not as bad, but they sure feel bad when you have them.

Think there are many repercussions from Merchant's snafu last night? Lots of viewers are younger and don't like him and he does dodder a bit.

03-20-2006, 12:42 PM
He also referred to Hasim Rahman as "Rock Newman" during his inside-the-ring, post-fight reflections.

03-20-2006, 12:42 PM
I noticed it quite a bit with Larry as well. No question that he's not as sharp as he once was and the old mind is slowing down. Merchant is nearing 75 years old so that's understandable.

Most of what they do is ad-lib and unscripted so I can understand where Merchant would get a little flubbed up now and then.

However, it is happening with more frequency. The other thing you may notice with Merchant is that he speaks very little now during the course of a fight. It's pretty much all Lampley and Steward who do the talking. Merchant only pipes in every now and then.

03-20-2006, 01:04 PM
I'm a huge Larry Merchant fan and think what he has added to HBO telecast over the years is truly going to be missed when he's gone.

I have no problem with his challenging the interviewee when they are being evasive and I certainly have no issues with him challenging dolts like Foreman who TRULY did ramble.

That said, he certainly has gotten a bit more crotchety in the past few years. And some of the ctitisms he's had with say Floyd Mayweather's legal issues, while I don't disagree with WHAT he said, I agree that they didn't need to be the entire focus of his post fight interviews or his prefight monolouges. Larry, we get it. Let it go.

If you listen to many of the early telecast of Merchant with Tompkins and Leonard, you will see that Merchant would only lend in form time to time during a round and limited much of his commentary to between rounds. Alot of this illustrates the strength of Barry Tompkins who is truly missed by me. Ray I felt was adequate but far too often felt the need to comapre a bout to his career. But he didn't say complete nonsense like Foreman did and he didn't turn every moment into "how great am I" moments like Jones did. Thus Larry didn't really challenge or ask for clarification from SRL the way he did with Foreman or Jones.

Listen to when Clancy or even briefly when Kevin Rooney were the third man in the booth. Larry limited his moments quite a bit. I think with Steward, Merchant doesn't feel the need to clarify for the audience what exactly Manny is saying the way he did for Foreman and Jones.

Heck watch Holmes Weaver. Merchant did the call with Dunphy and Ryan O'Neal. Larry only chimed in like once a round and a bit between rounds and let Dunphy carry the telecast with O'Neal, who while an arrogant pr*ck did have enough boxing knowledge to pull it off. He was better than Foreman for whatever that was worth.

All of this aside, I do think Larry is winding down. As much as Lampley continually talks now, Larry doesn't have muhc room to speak. And While Steward is celarly better than Foreman and Jones (and SRL too), he talks way too much as well. Guys this isn;t radio. Shut up. But when Larry does talk, he definitely is not as sharp anymore. Whihc to me is sad.

When Larry hangs them up, which maybe sooner than we realize, they probably won't replace him and they''ll stick with a two man booth. Which will give Lampley even more time to hear himself talk.

And only then, will folks realize how much they miss Larry.


03-20-2006, 03:05 PM
Merchant also referred to someone as "Cotto" recently.

Jim Lampley, I can't even tell if that guy is serious anymore, or whether he's doing a Daily Show version of how they'd do up a boxing commentator. I laugh at him more than Mechant, because the latter is kind of sad when he screws up since it's age related.

03-20-2006, 04:03 PM
Yes, Lampley has slipped as well. Seems to me that the guys are too comfortable and not at the top of their game anymore.

Lampley is a nice guy and all, and he means well, but he talks to much and says nothing. He erupts in fits of rapture when he calls punches that land - when they have in fact missed! Lampley also quotes the Compubox numbers too much and relies on them for a large part of his commentary.

If Lampley would simply stick to calling the fight, who is landing left and rights and feed softballs to Steward and Merchant it would make for a much more pleasing telecast.

03-20-2006, 04:16 PM
Slipped is kind. He wasn't there so to speak to begin with. His lack of any obvious qualities have been mistaken for talent. His cultivated "erudite man of letters" thing I guess is confused for being smooth. In case one was confused, I think he is failry close to a fraud. A muppet. Kind of as has been written in Shawn's post, with the distinction that I don't think caring would matter. It's not an effort thing, it's a HIM thing.

I think he stinks. Has stunk. Being better than an assorted Albert to me doesn't make one good.

That said, and I think he stinks, he WAS better for Tyson-Tubbs...Tyson-Douglas...because, ready for this: he didn't act like Jim Lampley. You know, the preening guy who did figure-skating for eons and focused on diction and pronunciation and looking down in timed intervals while doing on-scene sports reporting. It wasn't that THAT is how he used to be..he is now what he used to be.

Did I mention I think he stinks?

Larry Merchant is still fine. He lost himself in many a word maze with Tompkins but Barry was a fast-talker and Larry had to be ready to keep up the energy. As the others have said he needs to be set up..not Andy Rooneyized. Hell, he used to do some of the intros for the fighter bio pieces. Introducing a look at Bonecrusher Smith, he preceded it with this: "Bonecrusher Smith likes the idea of making a million dollars. Let's see what he can do."

Tell me, is this something to get worse from? But it was genius of a sort because it was after all James Smith. Build up a guy who really couldn't fight? Larry Merchant? Why?

Always liked Larry. Sure he is losing his sharpness, but who wouldn't glaze over with Steward and Lampley?

03-20-2006, 04:22 PM
As an aside, any thread on a boxing site entitled "Larry's Marbles" disappoints when it doesn't either:

a) discuss Holmes' lucidity after needless punches from Maurice Harris and butterbean.


b) tackle the correct message board spelling of words when replicating Larry Holmes' speech pattern.

Holmes was my favorite fighter of my time. His appearance with Diann Carroll(?)on Greatest Sports Legends(again?) didn't hurt. Who knew he had a 'thwiming pool the shape of a BAH-thin glub'?

03-20-2006, 04:48 PM
Jane Kennedy. How can you forget Jane Kennedy!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!

And Holmes was MY favorite fighter. Not Sharkey's. (greedy ain't I?)

And besides, I think it's wrong to question judges. I think they always get it right. Holmes Harris is no exception.

And Larry's speech pattern always was that way! ANd stop picking on him about his thwimin' pool!

Aback to Lampley. ANyone ever see that episode of Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic in whihc they showed the Baton Twirling championships that had Calvin Murphy (yes THAT Calvin Murphy) in it? Lamps was the announcer for that one and they showed Jimmy boy in his prime doing those Great Wild World of Sports quality shows. The man sported a KILLER unibrow at the time.

Friggen Sweet.


Ron Lipton
03-20-2006, 07:43 PM
I read all the posts and think they were excellent observations by some real boxing fans.

I have had some behind the scenes and on camera moments with Larry and then got home and heard some things I did not hear of course in the ring, once I listened to the tape of the fights.

He has like all of us have experienced, father time tapping us all on the shoulder. At moments when he waxes nostalgic and makes boxing history sub references, they have added to the banquet eloqently and skillfully.
His metaphors have been crafted skillfully with analogy and to me his participation was at a level of HBO eloquence for these boxing affairs.

I admire that kind of creativity and Larry is a brilliant man. He also can be very gracious and is a presence and a wise old sage who has been rumbling a long time from his Philly boxing days, when he covered prize fighting with enthusiasm.

He has had his moments which tore a Klingon laugh out of me, when he viciously shoves or snarls at some jerkoff out of the audience who comes into the ring and sandwiches his way into the interview.

He also handled Foreman's out of the Galaxy off the wall scmuckity schmuck comments by questioning his bizzare comments, middle of the fence postions, and worked hard to make Big George committ himself with an honest answer once in awhile.

Then when old John Barley Corn became a factor we saw the man slip a bit and some of his commentary can be some nasty and inaccurate stuff.

He fouled up so badly with Lampley on camera when I did the DeLahoya v Leija fight, Ross Greenberg was man enough to apologize to me later in the week and I appreciated it very much. Also Larry retrieved it on camera once he realized he made a mistake.

They could not figure why I did not wait a full minute between rounds to let a doctor look at Leija, give him a minutes rest and then maybe he would have come around, rather than wave a stoppage after he got up at 9, and as I walked him back to the corner, I as the ref, called it off then and there.

He went on and on watching the frigging tape without seeing the forerst for the trees saying over and over they could not figure why I did that.
It embarrassed the hell out of me watching their commentary at home after the fight, knowing they were not seeing what everyone else knew.

As Leija arose, and I walked him back he told me he had enough and wanted it stopped, then simultaneously to him saying that, Rich Giachetti came onto the ring apron and is clearly seen to be waving his arms asking me as his chief cornerman to stop the slaughter then and there. Thus, I did so.

A couple of more behind the scenes things but what the hell, Larry was entertaining to me for many years and it was an honor to work with him for about 6 HBO fights.


03-21-2006, 01:16 AM
Great thread, great posts, lol. Merchant and Lampley look like those 2 guys from the muppet show up in the balcony, too bad their not as funny. They really don't bother me much, I have to say I have grown used to them over the years, it will be odd when they leave. But I really enjoy Manny, I take a lot away from his commentary in terms of his insight into the technical aspect of the fighters. He has a great eye for details with individual fighters, and I learn a lot from his observations. As a fairly young guy (30) I've always liked boxing, but I really didnt become a student of the game untill 3 or 4 years ago, and Manny helps me to understand the more subtle aspects of the science of fighting that I didnt know, the training aspects, the gym knowledge that I dont have much first hand experiance with, and he has a real understated approach that agrees with me.
Just as a side question, anyone have any opinions of Lennox's apperance pre-fight? An omen of things to come? interesting.....

03-21-2006, 12:13 PM
I'm sorry, but I never could stomach Merchant......too cosellesque or something, I just can't put my finger on it....he rambles, doesn't seem to know a hell of a lot about the sport and always tries to inject crap that has nothing to do with what's going on...like he's the only one smart enough to see or deduce the truth....he always sounds drunk. Only now with the age catching up does he have an excuse.

Unlike Foreman who just was George and talked like he thought...SRL always tried to come off as something beyond a fighter....he sucked as an announcer, as do many former fighters, not all but many.

Lampley just plain sucks.

I'll take Tompkins....and I mentioned before I think Don Criqui would be a good boxing announcer with the right partner delivering the color.

I miss Dunphy.............

03-21-2006, 02:20 PM
Lampley in my mind is just a bad fight announcer, plain and simple. He always has his favorites and is biased towards one fighter over another. But worst is he just calls punches that do not land, and makes bad calls on what each fighter is actually doing. A lot of times he sounds like someone who just started calling boxing a few weeks ago, not for many many years.

Merchant I like. He's old and senile but I think his slips are part of his charm to be honest, they are always good for a laugh if nothing else. He also tries to call it as he sees it, and doesn't let Lampley and some others get away with their cheerleading as much as they'd want to. Seems like a good man but soon he may just be too old.

I liked SRL as a fight announcer. Don't get why lots of people had problems with him. A lot of times he'd call and predict things to happen and boom they happened. Pretty astute fight caller in my opinion.

03-21-2006, 02:21 PM
were the scant few times that he ceased talking. Don seemed to forget that with a television set, viewers could actually see what was going on. Dunphy may very well have been good at what he did on radio, but on the tube he rarely if ever shut up.

I absolutely love Merchant and will miss him when he's gone. I don't think any exscuses need to be made for him when he was at the top of his game. I guess he wasn't everyone's cup of tea. But he certainly knows the sport and covering Boxing since the late 50's either in print Philly Daily News or New York Post or on the air (with HBO since 1978), is evidence of that.

I'm not getting the Cosell comparison with Merchant. Cosell has always been more of a play by play or blow by blow guy and Merchant was an analyst. But then agian, I never had huge issues with Cosell either. Could he be annoyin and leave you scratching your head? Absolutely. But When Howard called a fight, the fight had a "BIG FIGHT" feel to it. No announcer today lends you that same feeling.

For a perfect HBO team, give me Tompkins, Merchant and Clancy. And make it the mid to early 80's as well.

As far as the Merchant letting alcohol affecting work, as many media critics as there have been out there over the years, never once have I read where Larry was Pat Summerall Like. Larry has always talked that way.

Now Ron Lipton certainly would have more insight on this than I would and I have no reason to question his accusations about Larry and the sauce, but I would be interested to hear when Ron beleives this started occurring? The past few years? Just lately? Forever?

I can't imagine this going on in today's tattle-tale media without some Rudy Martzke or Phil Mushnick type critic jumping on it and having a field day.

ROn any insight here?

Hagler04: SRL in my mind was not as bad as many have made him out to be, IMO, but neither was he all that good. He far too often had only one comparison: His career. And the Pryor Dujuan Johnson knockdown aboslutely killed Ray in his "both fighters looks tight, someone will go down" prognostications. PSST Ray. You got it right once. Don't push it.

And whenever he referred to Tyson as "my Man" in the Berbick fight....Objectivity Ray? Neutrality?


Ron Lipton
03-21-2006, 02:35 PM
No real insight into the sauce thing. Just many posters and boxing guys commented on it for years now, and that is the first I heard of it.

The guy is basically ok with me, I always liked and respected him.

He made a few comments now and then which were wrong and did a bit of damage now and then but what the hell, I thought he was a classsy guy.

03-21-2006, 02:38 PM
Hawk took the finger-sweat from out of my typing. Major pet-peeve in any sport is the detailing of that which is ordinary, or happening all the time.

In Basketball, imagine the play-by-play on the radio presented on TV. (nevermind I turn the sound off the TV to listen to the radio for college sports, most people would go insane)

Radio guys doing TV often forget the viewer can see the action. Pair this sort of play-by-play with the color guy that feels the need to interpret every shot as damaging, or potentially devestating and you are caught between seeing the action, hearing it described sort of audio-avl-for-the-seeing as you are seeing it (Toney moves to his left, looking fatigued...throws a jab, a left hook a right, Rahman parries...) and then hearing it interpreted (because you cannot escape the voices) and it becomes bothersome. The play by play of radio-inspiration merely assigns noise to the action and then the color guy blows it to hell by providing the complete other side by asking you to see what ISN'T there.

On another board, there was similar nostalgia for Don Dunphy. He had some signature performances...often because of the greatness of the action. The auctioneer style was something that was more noticeable than annoying per se. As I typed then, I type now. Don't tell me what I am seeing, describe what they are doing. And color guy, don't be second blow-by-blow for 2 minutes and then find ways to spice it up: tell me about the fighters and the strategies..not the 'shots like that hurt, I ought to know'.

Even my favorite, Tompkins, tended to give a strict play-by-play at times, but often at the crescendo of the action...or during the beginning of the end rattling off the shots of a finishing effort. Then, it is drama.

03-23-2006, 01:11 PM
The Value of Larry Merchant

By Matthew Hurley from Boxing Scene

Larry Merchant remains the most compelling and, oftentimes, frustrating “expert analyst” in boxing. His indelible, halting on-mike persona has led many a couch potato to choke on his swig of beer and say to the shlub sitting next to him, “Larry’s at least three Martinis in now.” Indeed, Merchant’s flubs, mixed metaphors and off-the wall asides are as remarkable in their entertainment value as “unofficial” HBO scoring judge Harold Lederman’s shrill histrionics are annoying.

But, Larry is as unique and opinionated in his approach as Howard Cosell, and as refined and eloquent as the legendary announcer Don Dunphy. Still, Merchant, for several years now, has been mired in the negativity that Cosell came to personify rather than the dignified positivity Dunphy always defined.

Larry Merchant has been around forever and anyone who has punched that workman’s time clock for as long as he has deserves respect and can be allowed that certain crankiness to emerge at inopportune moments. Merchant began his career as a newspaper columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, the New York Post and the LA Herald Examiner.

He joined HBO as a boxing analyst in 1978 and has remained the most familiar figure on the broadcast team ever since. He brings a journalistic sensibility to his fight calls. There is, at times, an awkward hesitancy in his delivery; a deliberate mind-search for the right word or phrase that stutters him when speaking into the microphone. It is the columnist in him and it has provided for many malapropisms or on air gaffes that have even “flapped” the “unflappable” host of HBO broadcasts Jim Lampley.

And it is great live television.

“This is an abortion,” Larry whined during the Derrick Gainer – Juan Manuel Marquez featherweight bout. His disgust was palpable. Granted it was a horrible fight, but Larry’s tone had taken on the irritating sting of the curmudgeon. Nothing was good enough. Unless of course it was a Hagler – Hearns shootout or an Arturo Gatti – Micky Ward war. His annoyance with any fight that doesn’t reach his standards of excellence becomes a chore for not only him but for his audience.

His criticisms of the second match between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera were so off the mark that one could only assume that a tactical boxing match between two great fighters was not to his liking and therefore the audience should be bored. His tirades in that fight and in many others that followed made many an HBO subscriber turn the sound off.

Not only was the Barrera – Morales rematch a good scrap, it showed off different aspects and strategies both men were capable of pulling off. It made their third bout even more compelling. But Merchant was having none of it and he has been harshly vocal in criticizing any bout, or fighter, who doesn’t run headlong into a fist.

It’s no secret that HBO heavily promotes who is under contract and the broadcast often reflects that, regardless of what Larry or Jim Lampley says in his defense. It is so obvious it’s laughable. Was there ever a more egregious on air partisanship than HBO’s love affair with Jermain Taylor? The suits at HBO hated then middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. And quite frankly, the former champion was a thorn in everyone’s side because he wouldn’t protect anyone but himself.

Protect yourself at all times, the referee says to the fighter before the opening bell and Bernard took that to heart. He wouldn’t play ball with anyone because it was his ball and he was taking it home with him. The antagonism between Hopkins and Merchant was so thick they both seemed to sweat when in each others company. But a good broadcaster doesn’t bring that to the mike.

Larry did.

Lampley did.

Hell, Lampley was so enamored by Oscar De La Hoya, an HBO fighter, you would think that the “Golden Boy” was the reincarnated version of Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep and Henry Armstrong combined. Even Emanuel Steward gets in on the act. One round he’ll say a fighter is all done and then the next he completely changes his mind and tries to justify himself. Manny’s developed himself a new catchphrase without even realizing it – “I really don’t think he’s going to weather this storm…”

And yet, it makes for good television. It’s easy to get angry or annoyed with these guys but there’s something about them that just works. They’re the Cosell, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith of boxing. That’s what chemistry is all about.

Don Dunphy was the last truly great boxing announcer. He was the patriarchal figure who gently described what was going on. When his voice rose your sense of excitement rose because if the sedate, professional Dunphy could be thrilled you, the listener, must be thrilled.

Howard Cosell meandered onto the scene with his nasal voice from a different herd of broadcasters. He made sure that the event would not overwhelm his own presence. Whether it was boxing, baseball or Monday Night Football, Cosell was all ego and whatever was going on was no more important than what he had to say. There was no grey area with “The Mouth”. You either liked it, and no one loved it, or you hated it.

Larry Merchant falls somewhere in the middle, though closer to Dunphy. Merchant doesn’t say things to force himself into the spotlight as Cosell did. But because he’s a man of such fierce opinions he sometimes loses that Dunphy eloquence when he gets bored or annoyed. In that sense he can become oppressive. Yet an HBO broadcast wouldn’t be the same without him.

Whether he’s dressed in a tux with his white hair slightly askew, or in a Polo shirt with a mysterious grin on his face Larry Merchant has come to define the fights on Saturday night. He’s that familiar figure that is comforting even if you want to throw your beer can at the screen the first time you see him.

03-23-2006, 02:25 PM
Very Nice write up re Lar. I still don't like the Cosell comparison, although if the point is, both have annoyed their listeners, then i guess it is valid.

The one thing I do take exception to about the writer is his criticsm of Larry's criticism of Barrera Morales II. Who WASN;T thinking what Larry was during the first half of that bout. It was almost dreadful. Yes we saw Barrera box (Merchant never criticised Marco for boxing Hamed and his affection and appreciation for Pernell Whitaker over the years CLEARLy showed he enjoyed the sweeter side of the science.) and no Not every bout has to have the warfare of Barrera Morales I, but the first half of that bout sucked.

Had the second half of that fight not turned into an excellent scrape, that bout would have been among the most disapointing sequels of all time. Second only to Caddyshack II.

I'm sure another example of Merchant's complaining about a bouts proceedings and lack of action would have been very appropriate. I just feel that that performance crticism of Larry doesn't hold water. becuase for that bout, he was on the mark.


Kid Achilles
03-23-2006, 08:59 PM
I will honestly miss that guy when he's gone.

03-23-2006, 09:19 PM
I can just barely tolerate HBO broadcasts. I'm sure in the near future I will be muting the tv.

Merchant knows boxing and I have heard & read plenty of intelligent things from him off-camera but I am so tired of the broadcast being about his & Lederman's opinion and shtick.

It's hard enough to pay attention and make your own judgement on what you are watching without crabby gramps chiming in and the Harold "The Siren" Lederman's cracked-out-Curly impression.

Showtime's broadcasts are like sitting in a jacuzzi in comparison. Bernstein I will miss.

03-23-2006, 11:48 PM
Merchant can be bad and get too bored with a match but I like him more than dislike him. He tries to be honest and doesn't pander to the HBO fighter like Lampley, who is just awful in my opinion.

I didn't like the way he completly derided Chris Byrd vs Ibeabuchi, who was fighting an excellent fight against a man much bigger naturally than himself, and Merchant said "he should get points taking away for non-performance' . . .even as Byrd was trading shots with Ike against the ropes. And when Byrd got caught with a huge left hook, Merchant belittles Chris for complaining about the stoppage, even though Byrd was clearly out of it.

Times like that I disliked him, but moreso than not he's been a dedicated professional. His occasional verbal spats with George Foreman were classic. I miss those.

03-25-2006, 02:58 PM
You know, I don't like Merchant much. But if I had to take one of the three (Jim, expert boxer, Larry) I would take Larry.

Pro's: Knows boxing history. Is quiet most of the fight. Is alway dead on with his veiw of the fighter or fight. I always listen for his just before the bell statement.

Cons: Mean spirited. Rude. Biased at times.

He is great for boxing because he knows his game, but he gives the guys who bleed for the sport little respect.

HE Grant
03-25-2006, 05:39 PM
Merchant has gotten a bit long in the tooth. His attention is not what it was. At times he appears a bit grouchy, bored or out of touch. It's to be expected at his age. He has been doing it for a long time. However, I feel he has been an outstanding asset for HBO for the most part for a long, long time. He is very bright and put his unusual abilities to use to HBO's benefit for decades. He will be remembered fondly when he finally leaves and will be missed as well.

03-25-2006, 10:19 PM
No disrespect to anyone here, but I have met this man in person like some of you folks here have as well-and he is not a nice guy, IMO.
I met him in Houston before the Juan Diaz-Lakva Sim card which also featured Rocky Juarez vs Zahir Raheem, and Kermit Cintron vs Teddy Reid.
Myself and another boxing writer named Mike Doss approached him for a few quick words at ringside, and I was taken aback by the events that followed.
Merchant is a very frail looking man-about 5 feet 4 inches tall, and shuddered when Mike and I approached him.
We were replete with media credentials and Merchant reluctantly agreed to take photos with us.
Larry was swaying like a seaman on a ship at high sea, and had to hold the ring apron to remain upright.
I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say as some others have that he perhaps was on prescription medication as I did not see him drinking that particular evening.
What made me angry was that he called security right after Mike and I had finished talking to him, and he did seem to be very disoriented when I talked to him.
He reacted as if we were a pair of New York City subway muggers if the truth be told as he was shaking so much and seemed unaware of his surroundings.

Walker Smith
03-26-2006, 12:01 AM
I understand what you're saying Stinger and you're being pretty good about the way you were treated, but you have to remember that these people are human. Larry Merchant is a short, unattractive man whose life was probably boxing. As a boxing commentator, I think he is doing better at his doddering age than most of us would. As a person, you may be able to say the same thing. I'm surprised he hasn't passed away this millenium.

To be honest, I'll miss him. I find it odd that many people are saying the same thing at this point. It seems ominous.

03-26-2006, 11:18 AM
I think Larry Merchant is misunderstood by many within the boxing community. Certainly the writer of the first piece on this thread, Matthew Hurley, missed the boat on him entirely.

To compare Larry Merchant to Don Dunphy or Howard Cosell is laughable. Dunphy and Cosell were blow-by-blow men who called a fight all by themselves. Merchant is a color man who adds some background and analysis to the call of a fight. To say he has a style like Dunphy or Cosell or to compare them in any fashion is ludicrous.

Merchant brings his 40 plus years of journalistic experience to the HBO broadcasts. He was one of the original members of the Cloverlay Group that financed Joe Frazier's early professional career. In the years he has been with HBO, he has been ringside for most of the significant fights of the past three decades.

Merchant was a writer first, fight caller second. I think he's become comfortable on the other end of the camera but I think it has taken a while. I like him and feel that he's vastly more intelligent than the people he has to sit beside and call a fight with - and that's sometimes a problem. He's also far superior cognitively to most of these so-called fight writers that criticize him for being a drinker.

Merchant doesn't drink! He's a man approaching 75 years old! If he's a bit unsteady on his feet or he searches for words on occasion I think it's perfectly justifiable and understandable. How many men his age do you know that criss-cross the country extensively, cover major boxing events, and stay up until all hours of the night in different time zones to call a fight? If he's a bit shaky and bit scared by folks that approach him uninvited at ringside don't you think that's understandable as well?

I'm just here to say that all of the criticism heaped upon Merchant is really unwarranted. I think he's probably still one of the top television analysts in the game. I enjoy his thoughtfulness, introspective analysis and his views on the state of the game today. Any dealings I have had with him over the years have been pleasant and memorable.

Is he crotchety on occasion? Sure he is! But after thirty years at ringside, and now seeing the way boxing is dying in front of his eyes, I imagine he has a right to be!

03-26-2006, 11:26 AM
For the record, Merchant turned 75 in February of this year.

I think he does OK for a guy 10 years past the retirement age.

03-26-2006, 11:30 AM
Agreed, Tom.

Unlike alot of people around these parts, I don't find negativity in everything HBO or boxing itself does. I happen to like Larry, he's an amazing historian being around the sport for so long, and the man is infact "getting up there".

I hope Larry's health is intact, and I hope he continues to be part of HBO. Unlike others, who just can't find a positive light on anything around boxing, Larry is unique, and very special to the sport. He's seen the highs, and he's witnessing the lows, you can't say that about too many people.

03-26-2006, 11:53 AM
Have to counter karl here...I've met Larry a few times in post-fight situations and he's always been a very nice guy. He's serious about what he does and a fountain of information. What's funny is Lampley; that guy is a character. he's a goof-ball off screen.

03-26-2006, 08:57 PM
Have to counter karl here...I've met Larry a few times in post-fight situations and he's always been a very nice guy. He's serious about what he does and a fountain of information. What's funny is Lampley; that guy is a character. he's a goof-ball off screen.

Yeah, like this really surprises me that Cliff and I have a different perspective on things:D.
Bottom Line: this is what happened and anyone can e-mail brother Doss that writes for another website for clarification on this matter.
Brother Merchant was obviously under the influence of something that particular evening.
Again, I did not see him consuming any alcohol, but he had a problem with his balance and he was very disoriented and seemed paranoid to his surroundings.
In other words, he appeared to be stoned.

03-27-2006, 10:17 AM
Based on my personal dealings with Larry as well. I have met him twice and both times he was very cordial and genuinely nice.

I have corresponded with Larry on Multiple occasions. And unlike many (most) in the industry, Larry has ALWAYS responded back either with a hand written note or with a response using what HAS to be the oldest typwriter on the planet. Seriously, If Merchant ever comitted a crime and left a note that was typed on his typewriter, they'd track him down in about 11 mins.

Now I don't agree with much of what we corresponded about (mainly Sonny Liston, whom he does not hold in very high accord), but he never dismissed what I had to say even when we were miles apart in agreeing on issues and always treated me with respect and was never patronizing.

The second time I met Larry, I mentioned that we had exchanged letters on views of Sonny Liston. He recalled our written conversations, asked me a few questions about some things I had written. Asked me if he had changed my mind at all. And then just leaned in and said "No matter what you or I think of Sonny as a fighter, let's be clear on one thing that can not be up for debate: He was the meanest, rudest, Bullying, most unpleasant prick I have ever been around." The he added: "And that says alot as I covered and interviewed Elvin Hayes on multiple occasions when I covered the NBA!" And he laughed pretty hard. But with an inquisitive eye to see if i knew what he meant by that. Which I did.

My two face to face meetings lasted no more that 2 and 5 mins respectively, but I came away thinking: Hey, this is a pretty neat guy. He is, however, realatively small. In a gradnfatherly way.


03-27-2006, 09:47 PM
knows boxing history- the guys a moron- just watch the lame bs remaks he made on the hbo great puchers and other videos- me and my boxing buddies turn the sound off. hes a joke- a tv man not a historian

03-28-2006, 10:39 AM
but he's not a historian?

Hm. And that tv man just happened to follow the sport in print for over 30 years before he went exsclusively to HBO.

I would have thought he could have picked up a few things along the way.

Just what were the moronic things he said on the Great punchers video's? Larry didn't do all of these and many were hosted by Curt Gowdy.

I'd love to hear soem specific examples of what he said that was so off base.

Let's also remember, when Merchant did some of these specials, he was often paired with what was to be considered an expert and Larry played the role of the "interviewer" if you will asking Tyson or whomever THEIR expert advice on what was what.


03-29-2006, 11:43 AM
knows boxing history- the guys a moron- just watch the lame bs remaks he made on the hbo great puchers and other videos- me and my boxing buddies turn the sound off. hes a joke- a tv man not a historian

I agree with Mike here.
During the Mayweather-Gatti telecast, Jim asked him about the last Robinson-LaMotta fight and Larry said that was before his time and he didn't know.
Larry was a sportswriter that covered the Jets and wrote a couple of books about football.
He didn't even know who Danny "Little Red" Lopez was when he was asked to compare Kevin Kelley against other American featherweight champions during an HBO telecast of one of Kevin's fights.

03-29-2006, 01:02 PM
he covered the sport of boxing and covered Liston and Frazier intimately. In New York for the Times and the Post, ALSO covered the sport and rather indepth as well.

Larry Merchant was also one of the original investors in a company called CLOVERLAY that finacially backed Joe Frazier's pro career when he debuted. And he corresponded with Archie Moore on Multiple occasions while he was a young sports writer covering the sport.

Agian, I think he probably picked up a few things along the way with this type of exposure to the sport.

I do question Merchant not knowing who Lopez was and if you have the Kelley telecast in whihc he said this, I'd love to know about it so I can review that segment. I also find it odd considering HBO televised two Salvador Sanchez bouts (Garcia and Cowdell). I highly doubt Merchant did not know who Danny Lopez was.

I also will take a listen to the Gatti Mayweather bout re his comments on Robinson Lamotta, which DID take place in 1951, while Merchant was still in the Army and WAS before he became a sports writer, who covered boxing, Basketball and Football.

Merchant didn't even begin working as a Sports writer until 1953 and didn't hook up with the Philadelphia Daily News until 1954. And he didn't begin his work at the New York Post until 1965. Where yes, one of his duties was covering the Jets. But he was certainly not limited in that capacity.

So Not knowing exactly the question that was asked of Larry re Robby Lamotta VI, if it elicited the response of :"Well I wasn't covering the sport at the time yet", he's not lying. He wasn't.


Roberto Aqui
03-29-2006, 01:57 PM
So Not knowing exactly the question that was asked of Larry re Robby Lamotta VI, if it elicited the response of :"Well I wasn't covering the sport at the time yet", he's not lying. He wasn't.

If I am recalling the same incident, I believe was a couple months back, maybe the Taylor/Hop rematch, and Lampley and Merchant were engaging in a little humorous reparte' about Larry's age, the gist being that not even Merchant was old enough to have covered that bout.

03-29-2006, 02:00 PM
It carries a bit of a different meaning than Merchant not knowing about SRR Lamotta VI.


Cdogg from Fightbeat
03-30-2006, 12:39 PM
When Merchant mentioned that Robinson-LaMotta was "before his time", I always interpreted that as meaning that he didn't see it live or report on it (which is what Lampley was referring to when he asked the question, whether Merchant saw it live among all the other wars he's been present for).

I'm postive that he KNOWS about the fights. Anytime there's a big rivalry fight (Barrera-Morales III, Bowe-Holyfield III, etc.) they always bring up the highlights and discuss it among other great rivalries.