HBO’s Larry Merchant will end an unprecedented 35-year run as a ringside boxing commentator with the World Championship Boxing season finale featuring RING junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire‘s title defense against Jorge Arce on Saturday in Houston.
Merchant, 81, had one of the best seats in the house for three-plus decades, sharing his insights and observations on Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Pernell Whitaker, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Arturo Gatti, Roy Jones Jr., Lennox Lewis, Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and others as they built their careers on HBO.
Merchant had covered great boxing matches dating back to the 1960s as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and the New York Post. He joined HBO Sports in 1978.
“Starting in January, I will become a Tom Brokaw-like senior kibbitzer on major news and events in boxing. I was extraordinarily lucky to land with HBO when it was just a startup,” said Merchant, in a prepared statement from HBO.
“I’m proud to be associated with so many talented people who made us into a groundbreaking network. I’m looking forward now to my new role and to new adventures in television, writing and the expanding media universe.”
Merchant worked side by side with Jim Lampley since 1988. Max Kellerman, who joined HBO Sports in 2005 and has alternated with Merchant the past few years, will now be the full-time HBO ringside boxing commentator and post-fight interviewer.
Merchant also was part of the original correspondent teams for HBO’s Real Sports and Wimbledon coverage. He wrote the Emmy-winning documentary series “Legendary Nights” that aired in 2003.
“It is extraordinary to reflect on all that Larry Merchant accomplished at HBO Sports during the past 35 years,” said Ken Hershman, president of HBO sports. “We’ve been honored to have him as a colleague and he’ll always be a member of the HBO family.”
The fiesty Merchant shared his thoughts with RingTV.com on last September’s blistering post-fight exchange between himself and Mayweather Jr. after Mayweather had dethroned WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz by fourth-round knockout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Before HBO, Merchant was a reporter-commentator-producer with NBC Sports and the host of an award-winning panel show on USA Network. Previously he was a sports editor-columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News and a columnist for the New York Post.
The Boxing Writers Association of America honored Merchant for excellence in broadcast journalism in 1985 and with the A.J. Liebling Writing Award in 2009. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009 as well.
Merchant was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Oklahoma University.
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ TO MEET MEXICO’S PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PENA NIETO
The telecast of Donaire-Arce will begin at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT, opening with the rebroadcast of Juan Manuel Marquez’s shocking sixth-round knockout of welterweight rival Manny Pacquiao that occurred last Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
On Friday, Marquez is slated to meet Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City, matchmaker, Sean Gibbons, of Zanfer Promotions, informed RingTV.com.
DEVON ALEXANDER EYES PAULIE MALIGNAGGI, SHANE MOSLEY AFTER KELL BROOK
Southpaw IBF titleholder Devon Alexander’s bout with unbeaten English welterweight rival Kell Brook was originally scheduled for Jan. 19 before Brook’s apparent ankle injury pushed it back to either Feb. 23 or March 2 at a site to be determined on Showtime.
But the delay has only served to embolden Alexander (24-1, 13 knockouts), a 25-year-old former IBF and WBC 140-pound beltholder, according to trainer Kevin Cunningham.
“We got the call that Brook has come up with some type of ankle injury. S–t happens, and, we’ll just have to deal with it,” said Cunningham of Brook, a 26-year-old with a record of 29-0 that includes 19 knockouts.
“But we’re staying focused on preparing for the fight, and if it takes place a month later or so, no problem, because camp has been going tremendously.”
Cunningham said Alexander is working with a new strength and conditioning coach
“We’ve added Jason Barbour, who is a strength and conditioning guru,” said Cunningham. “So giving us another three or four weeks to prepare is a good thing as far as we’re concerned, because Devon is only going to get stronger, faster and sharper.”
Alexander-Brook could to be complimented by an IBF junior middleweight title defense by Cornelius Bundrage against veteran Ishe Smith, as well as a third fight intended to match newly-crowned WBA interim junior welterweight beltholder Khabib Allakhverdiev against an opponent to be determined, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.
Schaefer also said that three-division titleholder Shane Mosley, who is 41, could return to the ring opposite WBA welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi at Barclays Center on April 27, this, for the first time since losing by unanimous decision to unbeaten WBC junior middleweight beltholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in May, and to the 147-pound division for the first time since falling the same way to Manny Pacquiao in May of last year.
“We’ve heard where there’s a possibility that Paulie Malignaggi could be fighting Shane Mosley, and I think that’s an interesting fight. They’re two of the more recognized names in the game, with Shane being a future Hall of Famer,” said Cunningham.
“Once we take care of Kell Brook, we would love to get the winner of that fight if it happens. We would love to unify with the winner of that fight if it happens.”
Malignaggi, for his part, appears to be on board for a clash with Alexander should he get beyond Mosley.
“Seems like that’s the plan,” said Malignaggi, referring to a match with Mosley. “I inquired about Alexander as soon as I heard about Brook pulling out, but they said it couldn’t be made and that fight [Alexander-Brook] would just get rescheduled. Looks like Mosley for now. No done deal yet though.”
ORLANDO SALIDO-MIKEY GARCIA TO HEADLINE TOP RANK’S JAN. 19 MSG CARD
Featherweight contender Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia (30-0, 26 KOs) will challenge Mexican WBO beltholder Orlando Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) in the main event, Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOS) will defend against rising Philadelphia junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs), and Puerto Rican WBO junior lightweight titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez (26-1-1, 16 KOs) takes on Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KOs) on Jan. 19 from New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The HBO-televised triple-header is being handled by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, K2 Promotions and Russell Peltz Promotions, respectively.
“The triple-header, which Top Rank is promoting in conjunction with K2 Promotions, is worthy of being at the Mecca of Boxing Madison Square Garden,” said Arum. “This spectacular event will be staged at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. Each bout figures to be a real barn burner.”
Garcia, 24, of Oxnard, Calif., flattened Argentina’s rugged, former titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros in the eighth round last month for his eighth straight knockout victory and his 14th stoppage in his past 15 fights.
Barros was knocked out for the first time in his career, had split route-going bouts with former beltholder Celestino Caballero and gone the distance with unbeaten former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Cuban Olympic gold medalist.
Trained by his Mexican-born father, Eduardo Garcia as well as his older brother, ex-titleholder Robert Garcia, Mikey returns for only his second fight at The Garden, where his debut at the venue was a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Carlos Martinez in October of last year.
“This is going to be a lot more exciting. The spotlight will be on us this time around. It’s going to be on me and Salido,” said Mikey Garcia. “But inside of the ring, it’s just me and my opponent. I’m focused on my fight, and that’s how I’ve treated every fight.”
Garcia will face his most difficult task in Salido, who has stopped his past five opponents, including knockouts of southpaw ex-titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez in the eighth and 10th rounds in April of last year and March, respectively.
“I don’t feel any pressure, but I just know that he’s the champion to beat in our division. There’s a lot of hope and future plans for me and a lot of big expectations on my part of myself,” said Garcia. “Everybody believes in me and is expecting big things from me, so I have to do my thing in the ring to show them. I’m confident in myself and in my abilities, and I think that I’ll do just fine.”
Golovkin has contractually agreed to “come down to 158 to make this fight” with Rosado, said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions, whose fighter has a rematch clause with Rosado.
“Gennady Golovkin has become one of the hottest fighters since making his debut on HBO. Defending his middleweight titles against an exciting fighter like Gabriel Rosado will only bring more fireworks. Fighting at ‘The Mecca of Boxing’ is every fighters’ dream, and Gennady looks forward to performing on the world’s greatest stage,” said Loeffler.
“While others have avoided a fight with Golovkin at all costs, Rosado jumped at the chance. Both fighters think they are going to win and neither is going to go backwards, that is what makes this such a great fight. GGG at MSG on HBO is an exciting combination.”
The hammer-fisted Golovkin will be after his 12th straight stoppage victory against Rosado, who, himself, has won seven straight fights, five of those by knockout.
Golovkin is coming off a fifth-round knockout of Grzegorz Proksa in September, and will be making the sixth defense of his belt against Rosado, 26, a Puerto Rican descendant with whom he shares a common opponent in former beltholder Kassim Ouma.
In pursuit of his fourth straight stoppage victory, Rosado defeated Ouma by split-decision in April of 2009, and Golovkin stopped him in the 10th round in June of last year.
In September, Rosado scored four knockdowns in a 10th-round stoppage of Charles Whittaker, ending the 38-year-old fighter’s 14-fight winning streak that had included eight stoppages. Rosado also stopped Jesus Soto Karrass and Sechew Powell in the fifth and ninth rounds, respectively.
Rosado passed up an opportunity to face 154-pound IBF beltholder Cornelius “K9” Bundrage as the organization’s mandatory challenger, a status that would not become a reality until March of next year.
Rosado said he has spent time being mentored by former undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, who is a Philadelphia native, and claims to be a different fighter than the one whose last loss was in July of 2010 by majority decision to Derek Ennis, and who previously was stopped in the second round by Alfredo Angulo and fell by unanimous decision to Fernando Guerrero.
Ayala is riding a six-bout winning streak, three of which have come by knockout.
“I feel good. Curtis Stevens is a big name. A lot of people know who he is. They say he’s a beast, and I like that,” said Ayala. “I feel good about being back on TV. I’m definitely coming to make a statement. I’m training hard for it.”
Stevens is equally confident.
“I’m from a place where I used to fight on the roof….the loser had to jump,” said Stevens. “It’s time for me to shine, and that’s what I’m going to do come Jan. 19 on NBC Sports Network Fight Night.”
PAUL MENDEZ RETURNS AGAINST LESTER GONZALEZ
Super middleweight Paul Mendez (10-2-1, 4 KOs) will try to follow up on September’s seventh-round knockout of DonYil Livingston in pursuit of his fourth straight victory against Cuban Lester Gonzalez (12-7-4, 6 KOs) in Saturday night’s main event of TeleFutura’s “Solo Boxeo Tecate” from the Salinas Storm Housein Salinas, Calif.
Presented by Golden Boy and Don Chargin Productions in association with Paco Presents, the co-main event features junior welterweights Jonathan Garcia (9-0, 7 KOs) and Rodolfo Armenta (12-8-1, 9 KOs) in a match up.
Photo by Rich Kane, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Will Hart
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com