About three weeks away from the skirmish with Floyd Mayweather which will stand as a healthy portion of his legacy, Larry Merchant is making no apologies for his conduct. In fact, the octogenarian HBO analyst termed the kerfuffle “a giggle” when he spoke to TSS Friday afternoon.
“Normally, I’m on the sidelines and this time, I was in the middle,” he said.
The tsunami of dissemination meant that video of the near tussle between Mayweather and intermittent nemesis Merchant spread worldwide within hours. And that Merchant quickly was getting congratulatory emails from the world over, and hearing from old buddies from decades past. He isn’t displeased with the response to the tense standoff, nor does he seek to shape or spin his involvement. “It was a giggle, to have this kind of spontaneous combustion catch fire at this stage of my life.”
As for his legacy, he told TSS, “I have no control over that. I never worry about things I can’t control.”
He said that many a writer and broadcaster has weighed in, and patted him on the back, for having scored with a counterpunch to an athlete who may not know how good he has it.
He said his wife Patricia thought the back and forth between her guy and Floyd was a hoot. In fact, she purchased a “I Wish I Was 50 years Younger, And I’d Kick Your Ass” t-shirt, and wears it when she’s working out, at their home. “Sometimes she’ll watch the shows, and I’ll say something on the air, and she may shudder and wonder why I had to be the one to say it. This time she got it. She knows me better than anyone, and if it brought that out in her, that’s a bonus.”
I Tweeted after the skirmish that we just saw Merchant call his last Mayweather fight. He indicated otherwise, alluding to the fact that many would like to see “a rematch,” though he craftily hedged when I asked whether he meant him and Floyd, or Floyd and Ortiz. But no, there was no blowback from bosses, he told me.
I asked him the last time he’d been in a fistfight. Merchant had to travel back to when he was 7. Some kids were giving him the business, so he called up to his mama, in their Manhattan apartment. “Fight your own battles,” she yelled back to him. He had some scraps, he said, but mostly on the football field.
Merchant isn’t in minimizing mode, seeking to smooth things over with Mayweather. When alerted to the fact that Floyd was still calling for a change at HBO, for the network to install boxers or ex boxers to call the action, he dismissed Mayweather’s reasoning. “It’s like saying because you haven’t milked a cow, you don’t know what milk tastes like,” Merchant said. “And if he thinks he knows more than Emanuel Steward, that speaks for itself.”
He sums up his current attitude towards Mayweather like this: “Many athletes are used to total worship, and unconditional love, I get that. Some need it more than others. That’s all I’m saying.”