Mayweather vs Merchant: Who Is Wrong and Who Is Right?

September 19, 2011  |  

I just knew the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz was going to be garbage. That’s why I had already made plans to miss it. It was pretty obvious (at least to me) that Mayweather was going to make short business of Ortiz and since this wasn’t the Pacquiao/Mayweather card we’ve all been waiting on, there was no need in wasting money during a recession trying to find a fight party. So instead, I stayed home that nigh,  painted my toenails and watched documentaries on Netflix.

Boy did I miss out.

First there was the 4th round head-butt from Ortiz, which caused a momentarily pause in the fight.  Then as Ortiz approached Mayweather, gloves lowered, to apologize for head butting him; Mayweather snuck him with a quick left and knocked him out. It was a perfectly legal but kind of calculated move which resulted in cries of poor sportsmanship and straight up shadiness.  But the highlight of the fight actually occurred after the matchup when 80-year old HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant climbed into the ring to briefly interview Mayweather and the two engaged in a bit of verbal sparring of their own on live TV.

After being hounded by Merchant to answer, over and over again, if he felt that controversial sucker punch was fair, Mayweather spazzed out on Merchant and said, “You never give me a fair shake. HBO needs to fire you” and “You don’t know Isht about boxing. You ain’t Isht.” To which Merchant replied, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your A$$.” And there you have it folks, the next title fight will be Merchant vs. Mayweather, live in 1961 coming to an old-timey radio near you.

For the record, I have no intention in addressing whether the 4th-round KO deserves an asterisk as that question will be debated for many years to come, but will address if Mayweather was right in going off on Merchant like he had.  When I had first saw the clips of the interview, which had been posted online within an hour of the fight, I just knew that the press would hype this up as another example of an overly-antagonistic man, in this case Mayweather, taking his aggression out on someone weaker than him.  And without fail, we were treated to headlines such as “Boxer curses out 80 year old man.” Yeah on the surface it sounds bad.  And if you are not a fan of boxing, particularly the HBO-style, which includes commentary that embraces more personal bias than actual analysis, then the minute and a half video clip, might have you a bit appalled. But despite the sheer crudity of Mayweather’s words, true boxing fans cannot escape the fact that Merchant had it coming.

For those, who think that I am just trying to defend Mayweather, let me get one thing straight: I am not a big fan of Mayweather and in fact, he is my least favorite boxer.  Not that he is not talented but his hyper-masculine, boastful, money flaunting and egotistical role he plays tends to overshadows his talent as a fighter.

This isn’t the first clash these two have had and I think it is safe to say that there isn’t any love lost between them. A couple of years ago, Mayweather criticized HBO Sports for the treatment of him and other fighters by some of its announcers including Merchant, whose no holds barred critiques have raised the eyebrows of many fans of the sport. Likewise, many other fighters and promoters have tried in vain for years to get Merchant, who has never fought professionally a day in his life, fired from future telecast.

Examples of this includes Merchant’s commentary of former Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson when he made a questionable joke about the fighter’s sexuality and how he has taken pride in denigrating the fighting style of Light Heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins with remarks that he is a boring and unexciting fighter. And then there was the verbal desecration of the Oscar de la Hoya’s 1997 Mariachi band entrance, which he said “sucks in this setting.” The little statement received the ire of the Hispanic community and forced HBO Sports execs to issue an apology.

Yet Merchant still remains on the air. The only conclusion is that his constant barrage of insults, quips and fruitless line of questioning smacks of a grandstanding publicity stunt, which is just as attention-seeking as those put on by the bigheaded boxers, whom he takes pride in ridiculing.  And that has to go over well with HBO’s bottom line. So yeah, when all is said and done, Mayweather is a bit – okay a lot – overconfident, and could use a lesson in humility and Merchant is in all honestly a disrespectful pundit, whose time may have come and gone many, many moons ago. Anyway you cut it, they were hot-heads that night, pandering to the cameras. At best, all we can do is to call their little squirmish a draw.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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