I do believe I won a fan for life when I told George Foreman that I was pretty sure he'd be the junior partner in the booth when he, Larry Merchant and Tim Ryan call boxing action from Macau for HBO2 on April 6.
Foreman, age 64, will reunite with old HBO partner Merchant, age 82, and ex CBS blow-by-blow caller Ryan, age 73. Filipino-born Brian Viloria defends his flyweight crowns against Juan Francisco Estrada and Puerto Rico's Rocky Martinez defends his junior lightweight belt against Diego Magdaleno on that card. Much of the focus will be on flyweight Zou Shiming, the two-time gold medallist from China who will make his pro debut.
Merchant ended a 35 year run with HBO in December 2012. Foreman called fights with HBO from 1992-2005.
So, I think you're the junior man on that crew, I told Foreman.
He laughed. "I needed that," he said. "Can't wait to renew old arguments with Larry again! Happy days are here again!"
I wondered if George had ever worked with Ryan, who hasn't called boxing in a long spell. "Never," Foreman said. "Looking forward to it. He'll be a good referee," he said, laughing.
Foreman noted that he and Merchant used to spar on air, as when they fought over whether or not the various sanctioning bodies whose belts Roy Jones held should be recognized. "Then we'd be eating out at dinner together," he said. "I love the guy.
Yes, Larry has always had some Brooklyn in him, I told George, and the Texas is strong in you.
"True. I found this out in the Jobs Corps," he said. "Guys would tease me, and I'd want to fight. They'd say, 'What's your problem, country boy?"
Confession: I'm probably in the deep minority, but I will be tuning in more to hear these vets call the action than to see the fights lol.
I checked in with Top Rank president Todd DuBoef to see how this all came together.
It turns out this isn't a nostalgia play, there is some solid reasoning for getting these sages together for another limited run, DuBoef said. "We realized in Chinese culture, they are very brand oriented, and we wanted the highest level brands for them to associate with. We felt if we could get both of them, George and Larry, we could really anchor that boxing brand, to the highest level of the last 30 years."
Also, he said, "Bob (Arum) went way back with Tim, to a special time when it was Tim and Gil (Clancy)(on CBS). "This wasn't about trying to get publicity, but trying to present the product the best possible way in a new market."
Shiming is, obviously, a kep component to getting off to a strong start and attract mass eyeballs in Asia. "It would be like is Michael Phelps went pro swimming," DuBoef said with a small chuckle when I asked how popular Zou is in his home nation.
DuBoef sees Asia as a new frontier, which can be tapped like Latin America, Mexico, Puerto Rico. "They are incredible consumers," he said, so it will be a work in progress to see what works for them. He said that no expense will be spared in the production, which will be of a caliber associated with a Pacquiao pay-per-view. And, speaking of, if this works, might we see Manny fight in Macau? "We're not just looking at Macau," he said, "we're looking at Signapore, they're both viable markets, incredible growing markets. We're starting to dip our toes in there, hopefully we can bring products and attract to the Asian consumers."
Would you pay to see Manny Pacquiao vs Saul Alvarez?