Lunch with Larry: Part two
So what does Larry Merchant think of the new streaming platforms that are becoming so prevalent in boxing? There used to be a time when this business was ruled by premium cable networks.
But it’s clear we are now in the Netflix era with the new availability of ESPN+ and DAZN (which will start up its boxing program in September in the States).
“In part it’s hard for me to see clearly because I think that’s the line of separation, for me being a luddite. I’m not the kind of person that’s going to go out and watch an event on a phone. They’re not trying to get me,” said Merchant, with a laugh.
(For the record, the definition of “luddite” is “a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology.”)
Merchant, who, for the record, has a modern smartphone, continued, “If there are folks out there that will stop their hanging out on a beach to watch fights, then good on them and let’s go. But there are always folks out there – this is a good thing – who see an opportunity in boxing. Particularly in how it’s globalized today and how communications are to make a buck or a billion. As long as they’re out there and as long as the game is compelling and brings in marginal sports fans and fans to just watch that kinda competition and drama, then hey, I don’t care where it happens.”
However the question becomes, with these platforms being so closely aligned with individual promoters (ESPN with Top Rank and DAZN with Matchroom Boxing), will this actually create more division within the sport? Merchant points out, “That’s been going on for a good while. It’s always the equation of risk-and-reward and, if there’s enough money in making a major fight, presumably a pay-per-view fight, fighters and promoters will cross the line. They’ll make it work somehow.”
Merchant has seen a lot during his years, first as a newspaper guy in both Philadelphia and New York and then in his days for HBO Sports. From the legendary Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I to the forgettable Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao event a few years ago, he was there. But what’s the best pure fight he attended at ringside?
After thinking about it for a few seconds, Merchant answered, “Of course there’s been a lot of ’em but I can’t get away from eight minutes of (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler-(Thomas) Hearns. Two elite athletes who had boxing skills and if either one decided they wanted to go the distance, it would’ve gone the distance – and they just threw down.
“And I remember thinking, within the first minute – if not the first 30 seconds – Hearns hit Hagler with a clean right hand and Hagler, it sort of made him blink and he kept coming forward and I said, ‘This is over.'” This memorable battle took place on April 15, 1985 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with Hagler scoring a career-defining, third round stoppage of the “Hitman.”
“Everybody held their breath for at least eight minutes of that time frame. So that is compelling to me but I’ve seen a lot of great, crowd-pleasing fights,” said Merchant.
A question posed from the Twitterverse is: Could Larry have really kicked Floyd Mayweather’s ass if he was 50 years younger? C’mon, this was unforgettable:
“I still get that four, five times a week and when I’m asked about what would’ve happened, I say, ‘Well, if I would’ve snuck up behind him, I may have been able to kick his ass,” he cracked, chuckling, “but I knew, when I left the ring that night, that (that line) would be no lower than the second paragraph of my obituary.”
Long ago Merchant authored a book, “Ringside Seat at the Circus,” and he still goes to the occasional fight when warranted. But does he miss the racket, being there on a regular basis?
After contemplating this question for a few seconds, Merchant states, “I guess in a way, I enjoyed the fights. I enjoyed babbling about them, having fun and trying to add something that wasn’t there. But hey, I had a great, long career. I have no complaints with just being a fan – but I’ll always be a fan.”
WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko underwent successful surgery to his right shoulder on Wednesday at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. He was operated on by Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache.
In a press release from Top Rank, Dr. ElAttrache said, “Vasiliy had the anticipated injuries in his right shoulder, resulting from a dislocation event that he sustained during his fight on May 12. In particular, he had an extensive labral tear, approximately 270 degrees with a small amount of cartilage damage and a bone impaction injury, all resulting in instability of the shoulder. He underwent an arthroscopic repair of the labrum as anticipated with no complications. Based on the result of the surgical repair, we are optimistic for an excellent prognosis and for him to return to competition at his previous level of performance.”
The hope is Lomachenko will be able to return to the ring before the end of 2018. Back on May 12, he stopped Jorge Linares at the Madison Square Garden in New York.
Merchant wanted to note, after reading Part One, that two other young fighters he is really interested in seeing moving forward are IBF/WBA junior middleweight beltholder Jarrett Hurd and WBC junior welterweight titlist Jose Ramirez…Looking ahead, the June boxing schedule isn’t all that great…So how many other NBA generalm managers have a burner account on Twitter?…Still seems to be a stalemate, as it relates to the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez rematch situation…Javier Molina vs. Jessie Roman headline the latest edition of the “L.A. Fight Club” at the Belasco Theater…Featherweight hopeful Toka Khan Clary fights in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on a Real Deal Sports & Entertainment card that will be streamed on the CBS Sports Network website…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.