Here is a tidbit I came away with after talking to Larry Merchant on Monday, and I think this qualifies as a real-deal scoop, and if anyone else prints this, I want full recognition for breaking this news: Larry Merchant is in a book club.
The octogenarian analyst for HBO told me he was sitting in the Santa Monica sun, trying to power his way through Philip Roth's 2010 novel Nemesis, because his book club met that evening. I was able to corner him for a few minutes to get his takeaway thoughts on Saturday's sub-superfight clash between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto.
“Most important, it was a helluva good fight,” he said. “Nobody asked for their money back. It was good for the game.
“That's the primary thought. Other thoughts.. Mayweather, whether it was deliberate or because of how Cotto came to fight, had to fight. And the bloody nose was symbolic of the kind of fight he's rarely been in. That added to the excitement of watching the fight. The blood was not of someone damaged or hurt but the blood of drama.”
Merchant thinks Cotto came away a winner, even though an “L” was added to his ledger. “Cotto fought the way the best professionals have always fought,with every last ounce of effort, energy, ability and strength. He came away from the fight probably as a winner in terms of his outstanding career, in terms of answering questions some of his previous fights have posed. He probably extended his career into some potentially major fights.”
Merchant told me that he was surprised that Floyd approached him after the Friday weigh-in, and apologized for his on air, post-fight rant following his win over Victor Ortiz last year. “To end the suspense,” Merchant said to the viewers, as Floyd stood next to him, face six inches away from the analyst's, “I want to let you all know that Floyd graciously came to me yesterday and apologized for the incident last September and I accepted it and thank you for doing that,” Merchant said, as he looked at Floyd.
“Thank you, thank you Larry,” Floyd said, as the crowd booed, why I am not sure.
I mentioned that I sometimes have a tendency, regarding Floyd and apart from boxing and Floyd, to over-scrutinize situations and behavior; sometimes, I noted, it is best to simply accept, because we are not mind readers, and sometimes it is best to accept face value and move on. Maybe this is the best course regarding the Floyd apology, rather than deliberating on whether he truly meant it or not. It's not the same, but it's like when someone I'd label a rapacious toxic-capitalist sponge, like one of the Koch brothers, donates money to buy build a child cancer wing at a hospital. Is he doing it to get a ticket to heaven? Or is it from the heart? That's debatable; but the good that cancer wing will do isn't.
“If you're curious about everything, a writer wants to parse, that's the way we're made,” he said. “At the same time, we agreed to bury the hatchet, and it should be taken at that fashion. He didn't stalk off when I asked him a question about jail.” Merchant noted that Floyd didn't try and work it so Merchant or any questioner wouldn't ask about jail, something that had floated around the grapevine, that Floyd was making demands on HBO on what could or could not be asked of him, post-fight, and he accepted my props when I told him that his questions to Floyd were appropriately hard-hitting and direct, not an easy hurdle to leap considering what went down in September. Merchant thanked me for the tip 'o the cap.
He did share that he could have and maybe in retrospect would have pushed Floyd on the subject of the Superfight, especially in terms of his continuing fixation on “take the test” when by all appearances, Pacquiao has agreed to the testing protocol Floyd has demanded, as well as Floyd's desired split of revenue.
Merchant said he could have told Floyd that he was “under the impression Manny had already agreed to (Floyd-sanctioned testing protocol) and you had said there would be 50-50 split.” (Refresher: Dan Rafael reported back in early December 2009 that Mayweather had agreed to a 50-50 revenue split, this after Pacquiao had been angling for a 60-40 split in his favor, coming after his beatdown of Miguel Cotto, and after Floyd had taken off all of 2008 and most of 2009. The fight looked like almost a done deal, but within a month, it was off the rails, not because of revenue issues, but because Mayweather wanted more stringent testing than Pacquiao would allow. By February 2010, Mayweather was moving away from agreeing to a 50-50 split, saying that if his May 1, 2010 bout against Shane Mosley did better on PPV than Pacquiao's March 13, 2010 scrap against Joshua Clottey, he'd need $5 or $10 million more than Manny if they faced off.)
In the parsing department, Merchant and me talked a bit about The Fight.He said that what we hear from Floyd moving forward will likely be influenced by how well the PPV did against Cotto, and he basically dismissed any talk of Floyd retiring, after Floyd said, “If this is my last fight” following the Cotto win, and said there was a lack of solid foes for him to meet. “We've been to that movie before,” he said. “Floyd has every right to feel satisfied at giving fans a fight they enjoyed, and making north of $40 million at the same time. Where to go from here? I think there will be a lot of pressure on him to eventually make the fight. But the problem is the longer the wait is, something could happen so it does not happen.”
Merchant noted that all of us spin our wheels somewhat when we spend energy on covering how and why The Fight isn't being made. “I guess we're a little tired of thinking about it,” he said. “There's nothing we can say or can communicate to them how big an event it would be. They know.”