As you may have heard late last week, the venerable Larry Merchant was hospitalized. Well, I'm glad to report that he has been released, and the 93 year old legend texted me that this was a ''false alarm''. So with that said, we will be meeting for our regular lunch this week.
Our usual group consists of Alan and Gary (whose last names will not be revealed to protect the innocent), and we get together every few weeks to really, just talk about boxing, for the most part. Even a full decade removed from his duties at HBO Sports, Larry, still has a very keen interest in the sport.
And fans still are interested in what he has to say about boxing. So the last time we met on December 1st at the Water Grill in Santa Monica, I asked if fans on Twitter had any questions for Mr. Merchant, and they came streaming in. So here are some I picked out. Enjoy.....
Larry: Probably not, but they're arent very many fighters today that you could say that about.
Larry: I think (Usyk) should be the favorite in that fight, because he's a skilled guy who's younger than Fury, who's only hanging on into the business for the huge purses he can make.'
Larry: Well, the first fight I ever covered was a Sugar Ray Robinsion fight, and Robinson was a god who had earned that. Certainly, he was one of them. As a kid, I loved watched Joe Louis on television. Louis had this long reign as heavyweight champion, and in my mind he was the first black hero in the history of America
Ray Leonard is surely one of the best fighters, ever. He was a boxer who would bang and box. He'd come from behind and do whatever was necessary to win a fight. And how can I forget Muhammad Ali? The all-time best thing that ever happened to boxing. He came along at a time when the networks were giving up on the sport. He revived it, and he was an extraordinary personality whose showmanship translated to athletes of every sport. He was a hero, and in some sense a god."
(Editors note, Larry later mentioned the likes of Archie Moore and Marco Antonio Barrera as two of his other personal favorites)
Larry: The secret to a long life is smiling a lot.
Larry: Well, when I was young I used to listen to 'the Hit Parade' every Saturday night on the radio to find out which song was number one. In the modern era I can't tell you, but I did love Nat King Cole. He's one of my favorites. And I love Bruce Springsteinn. Im a Springstrein guy, and I'm a Willie Nelson guy
Larry: Well, ESPN is there, pay-per-view is there. The question is whether American athletes who are big enough to play football and basketball will ever find someone who comes out of the gym, who doesn't. We need an American heavyweight to revive the game here in America.
Larry: Sometimes, but no. I had a good run. I watch the fights, I want to make sure in my mind that the announcers aren't hanging with the favorite too long, trying to make excuses for a champion. But I think by and large they do a pretty good job.
Larry: I think they're both terrific fighters, and we can only hope that since they're in their 30's that they have the kind of wanting to be great that keeps them going for another few years, and capture some headlines.
Larry: The only thing I can think off that would be beneficial to the fans is that they get fighters that they attach themselves to and want to cheer for -- and can't eat for two days if they lose.
Larry: No, because I'm a knucklehead. But there was stuff flying around, and it was just an eruption that I had seen some form of in my days as a young journalist. Once in Madison Square Garden, and once in a club show in Philadelphia. So I had seen it, but it didn't register that, 'Oh, this is like that other thing.' But I felt that if I just hold my ground, and keep m y eyes up from flying bottles, I'd make it out OK.
Larry: I'm not as sure about it as I was when I said that(chuckles). But history tells us that there are many era's in boxing that you can pronounce 'dead', and somebody will come along to revive it.
Larry: I'm not good at making lists of all-times, and I'm not sure what the modern era is. Certainly guys like Ali and Leonard were all-times.
But Canelo is one of the superstars of the modern era. I think he'll be remembered for a long time. I underestimated Crawford but what he did to Spence confirmed whatever people were saying. I can say a (Manny) Pacquiaod is among my favorites. I used to love watching Oscar (De La Hoya) fight because he always fought elite fighters.
That's what missing today, but things change. They're aren't as many American's that you can cite. If the game is not reviving in America, it still works abroad. So it depends on where the death is occurring.
Larry: I don't know. Maybe (Jared) Anderson will get his act together and become a heavyweight champion, and fight all the guys from Australia, and South Africa and Europe, and gain a following. But I'm not sure of the modern crop, the younger fighters. I just don't know them. Maybe they're out there.
Larry: No, I couldn't have.
On the final '3 Knockdown Rule' of 2023, Mario Lopez and I give a full review of the 'Day of Reckoning' in Saudi Arabia and discuss Naoya Inoue-Marlon Tapales:
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