Count me among those that weren't pleased to see Larry Merchant get handed a diminished role at HBO last year. I understand that programmers like to play to the more youthful demographic, and I like Max Kellerman, and look forward to seeing him grow and coalesce with Jim Lampley. It's more the Lennox Lewis Experiment..I mean, Experience, that I don't embrace fully. I mean, is there a rulebook somewhere that says there has to be a former fighter in the broadcast booth? Or that there can't be four people in the booth at the same time? Wouldn't you like to hear a clash of eras, and hear Larry, the wizened elder, try and take down brash Max?
As we get older, many of us resist change. Much of the time, it's because change sends a message to us that we are getting older, and thus, getting closer to the grave. Losing Larry means that an era has passed, and that makes some of us sad.
The late Jerry Garcia fronted a bluegrass group called “Old and in the Way” in the 1970s and I've always liked that name, and feel like that's the way our society treats the elders too often.
As we veer deeper into becoming Botox Nation, and prize the superficial more and more, those that recognize that we are on a slippery slope must work to counter our ascent into a more frivolous existence. Here's my contribution. Semi-regularly, we're going to run a column called “More Merchant,” in which we'll touch base with the 70-something Merchant, get his take on recent happenings. Because at TSS, we value the wisdom that comes from generations other than X and under.
Here's “More Merchant,” Larry telling TSS Universe what he thought of Quintana's exposition of Long Tall Paul, and Andre Berto's performance against an overmatched German.
“The headline would be, 'Well Schooled Vet Took Young Fighter To School,'” Merchant said. “Virtually every Puerto Rican fighter I've seen is well schooled in his style. Quintana's a southpaw boxer, well disciplined, poised, a good mover. Williams is an athlete, but not as well schooled, whose idea of defense is offense. He throws more than 100 punches a round, and that's good form, unless your opponent only lets you throw about 50. He's a tall, aggressive, fighter and those guys I've found are often vulnerable defensively. Quintana was the guy able to exploit that. I don't recall a 6-2 welterweight before. Hearns was well schooled before he became known for punching. My judgement would be that Williams should move to a higher weight class, sooner rather than later. He walked in in the 160s, dry, which indicates he had to dehydrate to make weight. A young guy can get away with that, you saw that with Diego Corrales, but when you get to the later 20s you can't. I think his best chance to get a big fight now is a year away. At a higher weight, his foes will be bigger, but slower. He doesn't have a lot of pop, he's an arm puncher. Maybe he's a tweener. The junior middleweight division is waiting for someone to stand out. He got exposed a little.”
So, Larry, is Quintana really all that, or was his success a result mostly because of what Williams can't do?
“Quintana showed how good he was, he got exposed before, by Miguel Cotto,” Merchant said. “Cotto was stronger than he, and even more well schooled in his style. Quintana's a good fighter, but we may have seen his upside against Williams.”
Williams does hold an option to fight Quintana again, Merchant said, but Quintana is allowed to have a fight before the rematch.
As for the up 'n comer Berto, Merchant thought his outing against the listless Michel Trabant, who looked like he really missed his steroids, was useful.
“I like Berto,” Merchant said. “I wouldn't say he's a can't miss prospect. The last couple of fights, he shown he's intelligent and patient, to go with his strength and pop. Trabant had no strength. But as an experience fight, it wasn't a bad fight. My concern is that they try to finesse Berto into a title shot before he's ready.”
Somehow, the WBC sees Berto, the 24-year-old Floridian, as the No. 1 contender to Floyd Mayweather, the belt holder in that organization, so Merchant's worry may become reality.
My guess is that Berto would get some step aside money for as long as a year, while he tales on a couple more stiffer tests before he plays the Mayweather lottery ticket…
Merchant referred to the ranking as “sanctioning body ineptitude, if not worse.”
“How can that be?” he asked. “I don't think that's the best thing for him. I don't think he's ready for real elite competition. I'd like to see him fight Joshua Clottey. I wouldn't put him in with Quintana. That could turn into a disaster, like when Quintana exposed Joel Julio. A title fight would be crazy, the kid hasn't fought anyone above a 'B', barely at that.”
And that's why society should treasure, rather than marginalize those that are longer in the tooth. They've seen more, and have a wealth of experience to draw comparisons and contrast, and because they are secure in their own skin, and they tell it like it is.