Lem Satterfield

Q&A with Merchant on Pacquiao, the verbal sparring with Mayweather

HBO’s Larry Merchant recently shared his thoughts with RingTV.com on Saturday night’s post-fight exchange between himself and unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. after Mayweather dethroned WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz by fourth-round knockout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

In victory, the 34-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr. earned his seventh belt and improved to 42-0 with his 26th knockout, dropping the 24-year-old Ortiz to 29-3-2, 22 KOs.

The 80-year-old Merchant has been covering historical bouts as far back as Muhammad Ali’s “Rope-A-Dope” triumph over George Foreman — the 1974 “Rumble In The Jungle” — as a columnist for The New York Post.

Merchant and the five-division beltwinner Mayweathrer have had an adversarial relationship for a long time, much of it playing out in their post-fight interviews on HBO. Merchant gives his thoughts on Mayweather as well as eight-division and WBO welterweight beltwinner Manny Pacquiao below:

RingTV.com: First of all, how are you doing?

Larry Merchant: I’m doing fine. No one has laid a glove on me yet. [Laughs.]

RingTV.com: Can you address the post-fight verbal sparring that took place between you and Mayweather?

LM: My basic feeling is that the crowd was so volatile and in such an uproar, that he understood that he was not going to get all of the props and all of the love that he deserved. And, I was just asking him questions to that he could give his side of the story. I was not doing anything else.

But there is an undercurrent of animosity between him and some members of the media who are not worshipful enough of him, and you know, who think that he ducked some fighters and blah, blah, blah, and fights defensively, and, blah, blah, blah.

But in a moment when he fought so well and aggressively and was about to be given full credit, I guess that he feels that there was nothing that he could do. But the personal thing with me, you know, what he said about getting me fired and things that HBO should do, that’s something that he can explain.

But, you know, sometimes these guys feel that, “Well, we’re in business with HBO, why are they saying these things about us?” and, “Why aren’t they just 100 percent behind us?”

And, they have their own programs and we have our own questions to be asked and answers to be questioned, and sometimes the nature of reporting is to have to piss off the guy that you’re reporting about.

Even if you like him and enjoy his work and so on. So now, what I’m telling people is that he wants to fight me, but only if I take a blood test. And, I’ll have to talk to my cardiologist, and my urologist, and the other team of doctors to see if I’m good to go.

RingTV.com: Did his obscenities get a rise out of you and make you angry or were you simply being facetious with your response that you would kick his butt?

LM: No, I was being angrily facetious, I’ll put it that way. As I said afterwards, I couldn’t have kicked his ass, but I would have tried. In further hindsight, I could have kicked his ass, but only if I had slipped up behind him and kicked him in the a–.

RingTV.com: What are your thoughts on what Sugar Ray Leonard told me during an interview last week, that Mayweather has not had an opponent who has forced him to display versatility in a fight, similarly to, for example, how Leonard had to transform from being a boxer to a puncher against Tommy Hearns?

LM: I think that it’s a fair assessment, and that it’s an interesting insight. Because when Mayweather has gotten in trouble a few times, his response is to go into his defensive posture. He’s a winner with that.

You can’t hit him on the chin very much, and that’s his way of dealing with it. He feels a great necessity to be in control and not to lose it.  And he’s very effective at that. It’s a good point, and it says something about the opposition.

But maybe if he would have fought guys like Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito in their prime, or a few others that I can name, like Miguel Cotto, when he was a top 147-pounder or Vernon Forrest, he might have had to learn about changing up in a fight and that you can’t control everything.

I don’t know. That’s why he’s had such a spiky relationship with some of the media members who have questions about this.

RingTV.com: Could Mayweather have fought and been successful against welterweights such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez?

LM: Here’s what I think. Basically, it’s unfair to Mayweather to make the comparison, because they were naturally bigger men than he is as well as gifted men.

RingTV.com: How about Mayweather against Duran as a lightweight?

LM: I think that would been a real test. He wasn’t interested in fighting Mosley as a lightweight, whether or not their paths crossed or their agendas changed. But he’s always been very prudent about his matchmaking.

But when you’re as successful as he is, most people don’t care. And that’s only for the inside guys to know, and we express appreciation for how well he’s doing and how he’s pulled it off.

RingTV.com: Could Pacquiao compete against Leonard, Hearns and those guys as welterweights, or with Duran as a lightweight?

LM: No, I don’t think he could have competed against the Leonards, Hearns and those guys as a welterweight. As a lightweight, as he has evolved as a well-rounded, two-handed puncher with a great fiery-ness and one of the best left hands we’ve ever seen?

Look, Duran’s regarded as the best lightweight certainly of modern times, and you never know how that would have turned out. But you know, fighting Duran and losing to Duran ain’t no bad thing. I would have to pick Duran. But you know, I don’t know that he ever faced anything like Manny either, and, that kind of speculation, I don’t know.

All that I do know is that he fought the best of his time — Erik Morales three times, he’ll fight Juan Manuel Marquez three times, Marco Antonio Barrera.  He never ducked anybody, and he looked for the best fighters and fought the hell out of them. He lost once among those guys, and that’s how you judge a fighter. Not by his record.


Lem Satterfield can be reached at lem.satterfield@gmail.com

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