He remains skeptical, does Larry Merchant, that MayPac gets made. But, he admitted to me, his main source of lowdown on whether Money-Manny gets made is Dan Rafael. In other words, he’s as beholden to sources who are either slightly in the dark about what might go down, or not inclined to share their true leanings, as the rest of us…
The former keyboard tapper who became a fixture in the A analyst seat at HBO told me that he thinks it a real possibility that The Fight turns out to be an anti-climax, and thinks it possible that we’ll have spent all these years obsessing about something which turns out to be something not so special. The back and forth, the showmanship, the speculation and subterfuge, all that stuff is basically posturing, he told me, some of it bragging, in a “mine is bigger than yours” way, and proving, on the part of Mayweather, that he’s so the A side that he can dictate most all terms.
Merchant admitted that he’s of late been more focused on the 25th anniversary of the Tyson-Douglas shocker, when a man assumed to be a speedbump on the Tyson road to all-time invincibility shredded the script, and beat down the bully. He talked about a charity event to take place in Columbus, Ohio, Douglas’ old stomping grounds, and doing a video hit for HBO to reminisce about the shocker scrap.
I wished Merchant a happy birthday, his 84, on Feb. 11, and then we talked some about the Haymon takeover. I asked if he thought the “boxing is back” narrative has merit, or is being force fed on us…
He’s open to that plotline, he said, but the proof will come when we learn how many eyeballs are being drawn to those NBC shows, and how many sponsors and revenue sources Haymon can lure to keep the massive roster of boxers and growing infrastructure afloat.
“If Deontay Wilder and one or two others can get to a point where they are building up American fighters, that could be a component of success,” he said. A solid rumble could be a potent attraction on a Saturday night, which is sort of a TV wasteland on the nets, and Haymon could be hitting on the right time to build buzz, Merchant said.
Can he market boxing as a “special event,” Merchant wondered, and if yes, he could capture those casuals that we haven’t been getting as we’ve been hiding all the quality tangles behind premium cable and PPV pay wall for the last couple decades.
“I’m as curious as the next guy to see how it turns out,” the Brooklyn native told me.
Merchant said boxing’s down period came about partially at least because many folks didn’t trust the integrity of the product. Don King was seen by so many as a malevolent marionette, “pulling strings,” and thus sponsors didn’t shy away from boxing, they sprinted.
“They didn’t want to be associated with it,” he said.
In my mind, heck, with all the bad ink NFLers get, should it be that hard to build up our brand by focusing on the majesty of the action, and the sturdy bodies and souls of the athletes who engage in the most difficult sport known to man?
“I assume Al Haymon is smart, and has tested his concept,” the analyst finished. Me too..I don’t assume that because others couldn’t or wouldn’t attract sponsors to the product, that that will always be the case. I can find a hundred men and women of integrity and heart and immense soul to help build a brand in the sweet science, and we in the sport have shot ourselves in both feet for too long by tearing down, and dissecting the evils and ills in the sport, instead of building up and sharing the obvious upsides to the sport and its practitioners.
Larry fans should keep an eye out for cruise ship listings. What? Why? Because, he told me, he’s set to maybe do a lecture series on a cruise, talk sports, talk Muhammad Ali, share his love and passion for this theater of the unexpected we all hold so dear.
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