Larry Merchant has been around boxing for a very long time and has been an HBO boxing commentator for as long as many can remember. He has been through the ups and downs of the network. One could say the year 2011 and HBO under the command of former chief Ross Greenburg was a down for the network. Enter in former head of Showtime sports Ken Hershman, who took over the HBO reins this year. When the ThaBoxingvoice.com interviewed Merchant at the beginning of the year, Merchant was optimistic. Now, in November with a busy schedule to close out the last 2 months for the year, Merchant spoke to us about HBO and the year it had.
HBO Year in Review:
I think he’s(Hershman) had issues with commitments that have been made before he’s came on board and also with Golden Boy and with Showtime pouring a lot of money into Golden Boy fights. I think we’ve had some good fights; we had the Ward-Dawson fight. We had Martinez Chavez fight, we got Broner-DeMarco fight up coming, we had Rios-Alvarado, and we have got Pacquiao-Marquez coming up. It’s a pretty solid line up with some young fighters that are starting to develop themselves into formidable fighters and potential attractions. We are seeing the kind of transition in these young fighters.
We have Rios, Broner, and Ward. We’re getting a better end to the year than the beginning. The old saying goes, it’s not how your start it’s how you finish. And we’ll see what evolves from this. There are some really attractive possibilities and we’ll see if someone breaks through as a transitional character that the non boxing fan will have to watch; whether it happens for Ward, Broner, or Rios, or any of the good young fighters that are coming along. While Mayweather and Pacquiao are still guys that generate huge revenues, while there’s no heavyweight champs in America, you’re giving other fighters time to develop and that’s promising.
If the 12th round warrants a Chavez-Martinez rematch:
I don’t think it warrants an immediate rematch, I think that Chavez is suspended and may not be able to fight for a while and Martinez has some injuries to deal with. I think it would be best if both have fights before they fought in a rematch. But I don’t know if that’s what both or either of them wants to do. They may think that they can sell that fight at the same or at another level and it drew close to a half a million buys and sold out the Thomas and Mack center. They may just want to go back to business. As a contest I don’t know, in boxing you can hit a 10 run homerun in the last round and make everything change but Chavez didn’t quite get there. Are fans going to think he’s going to think he’s going to get there earlier? I don’t know.
As for the 12th round, it was a totally one sided fight for 95 percent of the time. Now the public can decide if they want to go into the fight, that there’s some unexpected change with that script because of what happened in the 12th round. Let me see them both after long layoffs fight somebody who is worthy and show us that they really want to test each other again.
Whether Gennady Golovkin would be a viable opponent for either Martinez or Chavez:
Neither guy doesn’t fight Gennady Golovkin. I don’t know that they want to jeopardize a rematch. I think Golovkin has to force the issue, fight whoever would fight him, and look as good as he did last time. I don’t think there is any immediate pressure for either guy to fight him. I think Golovkin has to get better known in America to build that fight up. He’s the type of fighter you want to see him in there anytime he’s out there, so he just has to keep showing is that.
On Andre Ward’s next move:
Given that he’s been willing to fight all the 168lbers and beat them convincingly, I think he deserves to take whatever fight right now that is out there. They talked about Kelly Pavlik which would be a crowd pleasing attraction, whether it’d be a good fight or not, is another question until somebody materializes. I mean I’d love to see him fight Tavoris Cloud but there’s no great demand for that. There are some light heavyweights he could fight because I don’t think he is such a huge attraction that he’s going to get somebody like Martinez to go up and fight him. He’s 28 years old, he’s got time, and I think it’s more likely that he’s going to get competitive fights going up to 175 then getting a guy at 160 to come up.
If Andre Ward’s the Second Best Boxer in the world:
I’m not an expert at pound for pound. I think he’s a hell of a good fighter; I want to see him anytime he fights. I hope from the last fight and the response he got from the last fight, it showed when you close the deal as he did, the reward will come. Whether you want to rank him there or anywhere you want to rank him to me, doesn’t matter to me.
On Broner-Demarco and the star potential of Adrien Broner:
I think this very well could be his toughest test on paper. It’s a fight I want to see. It seems pretty clear; he’s (Broner) got the kind of flame that’s going to move him up into the welterweight divisions eventually. Should he come out this fight with an impressive win without having weight problems, he could fight one or two lightweights or Jr. Welterweights. Eventually as we saw Mayweather Pacquiao, and De La Hoya move up in weight, he will do the same to welterweight. He has the kind of style and ambition; he could be really successful in the higher weight classes.
On Rios-Alvarado and a possible Rios-Pacquiao fight next year:
Rios-Alvarado was one of those rare fights that I called beforehand as Gatti-Ward, and that’s what it turned out to be. Stoppage was a good stoppage .Could it have gone another punch or punch less? I I think Alvarado was hurt and Rios was probably going to knock him out. Some days you got to say you did my best and you fight another day. It’s one of those fights, both fighters were elevated and both fighters will be back in high profile fight.
For Rios, he’ll probably be back in a major event against Manny Pacquiao. If Pacquiao beats Marquez in the 4th fight, I would say Rios is on the short list of opponents if the Mayweather- Pacquiao fight can’t be made.