Larry Merchant has rightfully taken a lot of heat for his comments and behavior during his interview with Floyd Mayweather after the Mayweather/Ortiz debacle from two weeks ago.
For those who need a refresher:
Say what you want about Floyd being overly emotional or overreacting, but as a member of the media, it’s on Merchant to retain and maintain the higher ground. His actions and comments were not only uncalled for, they were unprofessional and unbecoming of a broadcast journalist. There’s no excuse for them and there’s been nothing I’ve seen that indicates he regrets or even understands the breach that occurred that evening.
Dana White, the head of the UFC and a former boxing manager himself, expressed his outrage over not only the hypothetical threat Merchant made towards Mayweather, but the line of questioning:
(starting at the 7:00 mark)
“And then Larry Merchant…this guy always jumps in there and always saying bad stuff about people. And he’s attacking Floyd about the punch! Well how about the headbutt? If you want to ask Floyd a question right off the bat, ask him about the headbutt. This guy always—it’s my big beef with, uh–with Merchant for years. These guys get done fighting and he jumps in the ring and just starts saying off the wall, weird, rude shit to these guys. Who the Hell would want to do an interview with him? Probably the thing they dread worse than training, cutting weight, and everything, is their interview with Larry Merchant. It’s ridiculous.”
“I actually thought that that was very embarrassing for HBO. That guy is senile, he’s out of his mind, you know—he’s up there berating Floyd, you know. Floyd can’t say anything back to you? You’ve been disrespecting guys your whole career, and guess what? You can go back sixty years. You’re not kicking Floyd’s ass, okay? And what’s Floyd gonna do? A 102-year-old guy just said that to him, you know? And I’m the first one to go out and smash Floyd. Because I think Floyd should take this fight [against Manny Pacquaio]. Manny Pacquaio’s never tested positive for anything, okay? You’re not the Athletic Commission, Floyd. Who are you to be demanding all this other stuff, right? But I gotta be honest, I think Floyd handled himself very well that night, you know? It’s just so easy to hate him that everybody wants to blame Floyd.”
Larry Merchant, naturally, fired back in an interview with Boxing Scene’s Chris Robinson with statements dripping with sarcasm that insulted not only White, the sport of MMA as a whole, and, in turn, its fans:
“Let’s see, anyone who can make a multi-million dollar business out of street fighting has to be respected. My opinion is that anyone is allowed to put up a tent, put on a show and invite people to come. And obviously he’s had a lot of success. Good for him.”
“I don’t watch it. I don’t get a so-called sport in which you can have a 6-2 record and be called a world champion. I just don’t appreciate the finer points of MMA.”
Shockingly, Robinson says that he’s “surprised” that Merchant appears “unfazed” by the criticism. To which I can only say that if Robinson thinks getting overly defensive and insulting in response to a statement is “unfazed,” I’d hate to see what he thinks Merchant would have done if he were actually fazed by the remarks. Maybe threaten to kick White’s ass if he were thirty or forty years younger?
Look, I’m gonna take the Dana approach here and note that I’m the first to criticize him when it’s due, and I will in this instance as well: I actually don’t think that Floyd was totally in the right with how he conducted himself after the fight, but more importantly White’s comments about Merchants age are unnecessary and wholly uncalled for.
That said, Merchant was still wrong to do what he did and if it were anybody else, he would have been fired for it. Merchant does have a bad rep in circles for his post-fight line of questioning, which is a touchy subject because it asks broadcasters and reporters to traverse that precarious high-wire that separates being respectful and doing your job. Still, though, the line is there, and as a professional Merchant didn’t just wobble, he jumped off it with a smile on his face.
As for his comments about MMA? Firstly, I’ve always respected boxing and through personal exposure and training, I’m growing to love it for its finer points and especially the integrity of so many I know in the business. You won’t mean nicer guys than the Miller Brothers, for instance, who run NY Boxing in nearby Cohoes, NY. That said, nobody in the boxing industry is in any position to favorably compare all the ridiculously padded records in boxing with those of any other sport, whether it be team or combat. Brock Lesnar, to whom Merchant is referring, became champion by beating the undeniably best heavyweights in the world, until he ran into another guy who got his shot and proved he was better. Of course there are fighters who have padded records in MMA, but they’re constantly scrutinized and quickly exposed once they reach a higher level. The quality of a fighter’s record, whether it be MMA or boxing, does not lie simply in quantity.
I’m sure Merchant knows this already. He’s just “unfazed” by it.